London’s food growing gardens and urban farms are producing food worth at least £1.4 million per year, according to a new report published today by Capital Growth, London’s food growing network. Using data collected by a sample of 160 food growing spaces located in community gardens, schools, allotments, parks and farms across the capital, the report shows how veg patches all over London are putting fresh, seasonal and ultra-local food on thousands (and potentially millions) of plates.
The weights of community-grown fruit, vegetables, honey and eggs were recorded by members of the Capital Growth food growing network, which has over 2,000 registered spaces, many based in low-income areas of London. “We know that London can’t feed itself but the aim of this initiative was to see just how much food we can grow, and we have been able to use our innovative online Harvest-ometer tool to record the harvest of a wide range of different growing spaces,” explained Sarah Williams from Capital Growth. “The response has been extremely positive, with about one tenth of our member spaces clocking up over £150,000 of produce during the course of a year, and contributing portions of healthy fruit and veg to over a quarter-of-a-million meals”
The data was used to find out popular crops – which included salad leaves, tomatoes, courgettes, squash, potatoes and onions, as well as the most high-yielding in terms of weight or money, and yield per square metre. It was also used to estimate the potential value – in weight and money – of food produced across the whole of the Capital Growth network, totting up to an estimated £1.4 million worth of fresh produce, grown on our doorsteps.
The estimate is considered conservative, as London is starting to see the re-emergence of urban farms, such as Sutton Community Farm who took part in the project and contributed almost £45 000 towards the total. The last few years have seen development of larger sites including Sutton, OrganicLea in Waltham Forest and Forty Hall Farm in Enfield, who are all growing food to sell at a significant scale.
The work of Capital Growth through the Harvest-ometer, is a first in terms of measuring and valuing what is being grown by London’s communities. “We know that growing food is good for people’s health, community spirit, and for creating green spaces that are good for people, plants and bees,” said Ben Reynolds, Coordinator of Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, “but this is the first time that a cash value has been put on the food that London’s community gardens and farms are producing, showing how they help people to save money on their food bills and contribute to the growth in food enterprise and job creation in urban areas. We hope that Reaping Rewards report and the Harvest-ometer will help food growers to get the support they deserve, whether that be funding, advice or protection in local planning policy.”
Capital Growth is continuing to work with its members to see how much they are growing and saving and would welcome Harvest-ometer data from many more food growing spaces, including those growing at home, during the 2014 growing season. Anyone wanting to get involved in counting their harvest can sign up for free to the Capital Growth network to access the Harvest-ometer and will also be entered into weekly prize draws when they add their data during August 2014.
The full report is titled Reaping Rewards: The full report – Reaping Rewards: Can communities grow a million meals for London? is available at http://www.capitalgrowth.org/publications/
Capital Growth is London’s food growing network, based at Sustain and was launched in 2008 to provide practical and financial help to Londoners wanting to set up or expand food growing spaces. The scheme was funded from 2008 – 2012 by the Mayor of London and by the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food scheme.
- Data on the type and weight of produce from 160 participating community food growing spaces was collected on the unique online tool developed by Capital Growth – called the Harvest-ometer (www.capitalgrowth.org/millionmeals/harvestometer/).
- Members can record their harvest in weight, or proxy measures, like handfuls, then simply log in, add their data and this is automatically calculated into a financial value, stored and displayed as graphs as well as totals, so people can see how their harvest stacks up over the season.
- Anyone in London wanting to join the campaign and see how much your veggie patch, orchard or garden is worth can register free of charge online with Capital Growth (www.capitalgrowth.org/apply/) and visit the member’s area.