Growing food in London

Kale and boots
My boots, favourite socks (thanks, K.) and some kale at Clapham Common Bandstand Beds

I currently live in a flat in London’s Zone 2. I’m well aware that despite the apparent distance between my table and where my food is produced, raised, and grown, whenever I eat I have the opportunity to exercise my convictions about myriad food questions and issues – cross-reference Wendell Berry‘s ‘eating is an agricultural act’.

However, my top-floor flat doesn’t have a garden or a roof terrace or even window sills deep enough for me to pop a couple of pots of herbs on. Fortunately, there is a hugely exciting and inspiring food movement happening right now in the Big Smoke. It’s pretty reassuring to learn that there’s a sizeable group of people right here in London who are also somewhat bewildered about buying (unnecessarily) plastic-packed veg, supplied with careless disregard for the change of the seasons from a faceless yet disconcertingly friendly-seeming supermarket.

I couldn’t begin to name all of the brilliant initiatives, organisations and businesses which have growing good organic food in London as one of their fundamental principles but here’s a few I’ve had the pleasure of having some interaction with:

  • Capital Growth, Londonwide – an invaluable network for growers in London. It’s an initiative co-founded by the London Food Link, the Mayor of London and the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund. Capital Growth offers support (including training and sometimes funding) to those who want to, or already are, growing in the Capital. Their space finder is a super resource for anyone who wants to get involved with growing – just pop in your postcode and find out what’s happening near you.
  • Incredible Edible, nationwide – this brilliant national network is all about promoting community-based sustainable food production. There are currently four Incredible groups in London including Incredible Edible Edmonton, Incredible Edible Greenwich and Incredible Edible Southwark. My local group is Incredible Edible Lambeth. It helps to connect local growers and local eaters, celebrating the link between the Borough’s soil and its residents’ suppers.
  • Clapham Common Bandstand Beds, South West London (aka the kale provider) I recently became a member of Bandstand Beds, a group growing and sharing food across several small sites on Clapham Common and it’s lovely to be a part of. We have frequent Saturday morning sessions for general upkeep and also hold events on the Common throughout the year to share our produce with the local community.
  • Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses, South London – a fantastic charity with lots of exciting on-going projects and education schemes happening at their one acre garden. Volunteers can get involved with growing veg and keeping bees. It’s on my list of growing spaces to visit – everything I’ve heard sounds fantastic.
  • OrganicLea, Lea Valley – a really well-established community food project based in North-East London. OrganicLea provide brilliant support to other growers including training and practical assistance, and also sell their own wares through a box scheme and on market stalls. They run brilliant monthly open days (with excellent food, of course) where you can learn about the organisation and the site, and often attend a workshop or two on growing skills.
  • Growing Communities, Hackney – an excellent example of how much communities can achieve, Growing Communities is a social enterprise which supports small-scale organic food production. It runs a box scheme with produce from local growers, including those on its Patchwork Farms (12 small market gardens). Growing Communities recognises the need to get more people growing and provides extensive support to other initiative as well as running an apprenticeship scheme each year.
  • Loughborough Farm, South London – a community food-growing space with a monthly market stall. The Farm was recently awarded significant funding from the Mayor of London’s Regeneration Fund and I’m really excited to what’s in store for the Farm and its growing over the next few years.

Are you growing your own? Keen to start or get involved? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the soil.

OrganicLea’s permaculture principles
OrganicLea food
Delicious eats at OrganicLea’s November open day

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