Urban food growing
Growing Communities has pioneered urban food growing as a key part of our efforts to build a more sustainable food system.
We grow salad for the box scheme on our urban market gardens which are located in Clissold Park, Springfield Park and Allens Gardens in Hackney, North London. We also have a Starter Farm in Dagenham, East London. You are welcome to visit the sites - click here for more details. We have recently set up a Patchwork Farm project, where trained apprentices grow salad leaves for the box scheme on even smaller micro-sites around Hackney.
All three of our market gardens are certified by the Soil Association - and were the first organically certified food growing land in London. We specialise in salad leaves and we are the only London box scheme to include organic salad grown in Hackney in our vegetable bags. We employ a part-time grower, Paul Bradbury, and an assistant grower, Sophie Verhagen, who are assisted by apprentice growers and a volunteer workteam.
Why do we grow salad?
Salad production is labour intensive and the end product is nutritious but highly perishable - therefore it makes sense to grow salad as close to where it's consumed as possible. The wide variety of salad leaves we grow enables us to practice crop rotation, just one element of the organic practices we follow on our sites.
Growing and harvesting salad leaves requires more labour than, say, the production of potatoes and does not lend itself to mechanised systems and large machinery. We think it makes more sense to grow potatoes, carrots etc on larger areas of land on to which you can get large machinery. And then use the smaller pockets of land which may be available in urban areas for growing crops which naturally require a more labour intensive approach. For more information on a more sustainable approach to food production see our Manifesto and Food Zone diagram.
Growing a wide variety of salad leaves also means that we can supply box scheme members with a steady supply of something fresh throughout the year, while growing a variety of food groups to help maintain ecological diversity and interest. In addition, salad leaves are a high value crop, so that gives us a greater chance of making the whole thing work on a financial basis.
Growing Communities' urban food growing - facts and figures:
Salad production from all our sites reached more than 80kg per week during the summer in 2011
Yields were the equivalent of 28.1 tonnes per hectare per year
Around 120 volunteers worked with us on the sites