Crop Swap

18 Sep 2008

Over the past few months in gardens and urban plots across the UK, a growing number of green fingered neighbours are getting together to swap their gardening ideas and set up vegetable patches.

The concept of ‘garden sharing’ was thought up by a group of urban dwellers who wanted to grow their own fruit and vegetables, but could not fit it into their busy work schedule, or were put off by the idea of never having gardened before. As the demand for knowledgeable people with green tips and time to spare – perhaps without gardens of their own – quickly increased, it sparked off the current trend of cultivating seasonal food locally.

As the number of gardening groups rise – including Fritz Haeg’s edible estate in the gardens of Southwark tower block, the Tavistock Garden Share Alliance, and the London Food Up Front project – like-minded people have the chance to come together and swap their crops – tomatoes, squash, beans and more besides. For the first time since the Second World War, the sales of vegetable seeds now exceeds those of flowers.

Within the community of garden sharers, residents are given a number of tasks to assist with, including watering duties, planting, or digging, and questions concerning their fruit and vegetables are asked, and answered, on the many internet blogs dedicated to helping newcomers – like the Yahoo message board for GroFun (Growing Real Organic Food in Urban Neighbors).

Nadia Hillman, founder of the GroFun project in Bristol which aims to reconnect the community through the sharing of gardens, recently commented on the rising interest in urban crop cultivation. ‘The benefits are enormous…You learn skills, enjoy a better quality of life, get outdoors, and meet your neighbours. You get to stand in your garden and pick fresh tomatoes rather than sitting in traffic on your way to Sainsbury’s. Plus, we have the edge in an energy-scarce future when everybody else has to learn how to be self-sustaining’ she said.

As more and more people turn to the help of their neighbours for produce instead of supermarkets, community entrepreneurs envisage a patchwork of green plots across urban areas in the UK, with the aim of supplying the local areas with vegetable and fruit boxes.

The Guardian

Victoria Blackshaw
[email protected]

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