Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Big Dig: Urban Food Growing

Last week I went to our local urban food growers’ event in the Botanical Gardens. There were over 100 people there representing many food-growing and community gardening groups across the city. Noticeably there was a good mix of age groups.

The Big Dig

The meeting was part of The Big Diga campaign run by SustainTheir aim is to get city dwellers to grow their own vegetables in the healthy outdoors. This year the campaign has been extended to include our city of Birmingham.

"What we as community activist or social activists make of The Big Dig," said my neighbour Chris Blythe who was leading the meeting, "is up to us".

The Urban Agricultural Movement

Mike Hardman from Birmingham City University spoke on Food in the City. He talked about the increasing trends of rearing livestock and producing food in the city.

Stars Complex Urban Garden - an urban vegetable garden
 photo by Gabriel Kamener, Sown Together on flickr
He gave the example of Detroit where a whole destitute area was re-energised through food as well as other examples in New York. Guerrilla Gardening started in the States and is now occurring in the UK.

Mike Hardman also mentioned crazy projects such as vertical gardening and cited Carrot City - a project that has catalogued many more examples of urban agriculture.

Birmingham is in fact a very green city and now has a large food growing scene with many Grow Sites such as our own Coplow Street Grow Site.

Community Gardening

Alys Fowler then spoke on community gardening. In community gardening some people the gardening comes second and the sense of community is far more important. I could really identify with this.

Many people may be intimidated by aspects of the actual gardening such as digging but bring other talents to community gardening such as administration.

How can we develop our projects further?  

In groups we discussed how we could grow our urban food growing projects. There were a number of groups there but very similar points came out of each group

1. Education such as
  • up-skilling/sharing skills/knowledge
  • on-line sharing
  • including schools
2. Linking up groups such as
  • better communication between groups
  • sharing resources
  • getting others involved so that everyone can play their part
3. Cultural food events
  • Community lunches were suggested - sharing food of different cultures – growing them, cooking them and then eating them possible at outdoors events where grown.
  • There was a general consensus that social events like this may bring cultures together improving social cohesion, building cross generational links and promoting social inclusion.

What next?

The Big Dig will involve an open garden event on Saturday March 16th to kick off the growing season but there will be a lot to do afterwards. Last year's Big Dig also involved a September event too including open gardens again.

Update: Our open garden event at our Grow Site went well. You can see the photos on facebook here

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