Academia and allotments: the students growing their own food

Picture provided by NUS

Thanks to a growing awareness of sustainability issues, students around the country are swapping evenings on cheap beer for afternoons spent growing their own fruit and veg. Natalie Leal looks at the rise of edible campus initiatives

As students head off to university this autumn many will be able to dig up some campus-grown potatoes or pick an apple on the way to their halls of residence thanks to a recent rise in edible campus initiatives across the UK.

More than 20 such growing projects now exist around the country, see students growing fruit and vegetables on site with some keeping chickens or beehives. Enterprising undergraduates at universities from Exeter to Newcastle have set up the student equivalent of farmers’ markets and veg box schemes with some even producing their own beer, honey or jam.

This may not sound like typical student behaviour, which stereotypically involves cheap cider and beans on toast, but the organisers of the projects stress that there is, in fact, a large and growing number of engaged young people desperate to do something practical. They want to make a positive difference – both in their immediate environment and to the world – and they are doing this through food.

One of the first institutions in the UK to start looking into the idea was the University of Brighton. Inspired by the first ever edible campus at McGill University in Canada, architect and research initiatives leader Andre Viljoen and his colleague Katrin Bohn wanted to create something similar. But, he says, 10 years ago people were generally nonplussed by the idea.

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