100,000 green-fingered Londoners deliver Mayor’s 2012 food growing target
London Mayor Boris Johnson is joined by Barbara Windsor MBE to help volunteers at a Tower Hamlets community project in London’s East End. The Rocky Park Urban Growers is a local project to plant vegetables and transform a neglected space in the community. Photo by The Big Lunch.
The estimated equivalent of 69 Wembley football pitches or 124 acres of disused land in London now brimming with fruit and veg
By Paola Guzman
Dec 14, 2012
The Mayor of London today announced that the ambitious target to deliver 2012 Capital Growth spaces has been reached, following a four-year scheme to turn disused plots of land into community spaces abundant with fruit and veg. Nearly 100,000 green fingered Londoners have rolled up their sleeves to deliver this leafy Olympic legacy.
The Capital Growth scheme, run by London Food Link, was launched by the Mayor and Rosie Boycott, Chair of London Food, in November 2008. It aimed to create 2,012 growing spaces in London by the end of 2012 with funding from the Mayor and the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food programme. The idea is to bring local neighbourhoods and communities together while giving Londoners a chance to grow their own food and green their local area.
It is also a response to growing allotment waiting lists, particularly in inner London boroughs, which can be decades long. Capital Growth has worked with landowners and local groups to help identify land for growing and then help people get started in creating successful gardens by providing training and tools. There are now Capital Growth spaces in every London borough.
Food gardens signed up to the scheme have flourished in an extraordinarily diverse and creative range of places, covering an estimated 124 acres of previously disused land. Capital Growth plots are now growing on roofs, in donated recycling boxes, in skips, alongside canals and in builders’ bags providing healthy food to a range of places including shops and restaurants. The spaces have supported skills and enterprise training, market gardening initiatives and even the development of 50 community bee hives. Some of the Capital Growth spaces have now scaled up into social enterprises selling produce into cafes, restaurants and market stalls and providing jobs for local people. Other projects that the campaign has supported include larger farms, such as Organic Lea in Waltham Forest that employs 13 full and part time staff doing market gardening under glass houses leased from the local authority. The biggest response to the Capital Growth challenge has come from schools with 687 schools signed up involving 66,000 pupils.
The 2012th space was today announced by the Mayor as St Charles Centre for health and wellbeing in North Kensington. The project, based in a disused courtyard of a hospital, will engage a range of community groups, including youth groups and Age UK, as well as hospital staff to grow their own healthier food.
The Mayor, Boris Johnson, said: ‘I am proud that we have reached this ambitious target to create 2012 edible gardens across London, bringing communities together in a common goal. Vibrant Capital Growth spaces have sprouted up in formerly derelict corners of our city delivering a range of social and environmental benefits for the local communities. Nearly 100,000 Londoners have rolled up their sleeves to achieve this fantastic legacy for the city in this historic year and I’d like to thank everyone for their hard work to make this possible.’
Rosie Boycott said: ‘I want to say a huge thank you to London Food Link, our many sponsors and partners as well as all the wonderful volunteers who have rolled up their sleeves to transform forgotten, unloved spots across the city. There are some truly inspiring stories of communities coming together to green their local spaces reaping a wide range of dividends not least cheaper, healthier food. Capital Growth has played a major role in the revival of urban gardening in London, placing us in the top rank of cities who are seeking to reconnect with the pleasures of food growing.’
Sarah Williams part of the Capital Growth team, based at London Food Link, said: ‘Capital Growth has been able to help so many amazing and inspiring people, across London and from every walk of life, but it is the people running the projects that have made the real difference. We are looking forward to celebrating this huge achievement with them and to building on the success of the network in the New Year.’