Community agriculture

I’ve been interested in resilient food production for a long time.  I started with an interest in sustainable production, self-sufficiency, permaculture, organics, forest gardens and agro forestry.

More recently I’ve focused my learning and work on community food production.  The economics, the governance, the way that food can bring people together, both in its production and consumption.

I volunteer at a number of community food projects and have been interested to see the patterns of participation and the way personalities and group structure effect the group dynamics.

Community food production can increase resilience on a number of levels.  I’ve seen wonderful benefits accrue.  The strengthening of community, the growth of knowledge, the increased physical and mental well being both from being out working the soil and eating the produce.

I’m very interested in community food projects and community supported agriculture which operate with relatively open structures and that encourage and support participation in the physical work, the organisation work and/or the projects governance.  When I’ve found examples I’ve been looking at their experiences.  I’ve been collaboratively building ideas around this http://piratepad.net/community-agriculture

I think such ideas have great potential.  I would like to identify more food growing projects that have some of these characteristics to see what their experiences have been.

I can see commons being created.

Self-sufficiency possible in large urban environments?

Do you think that self-sufficiency is possible in large urban environments? I am curious to find out what percentage of citizens tend toward self-sufficiency, and which countries or communities are leaders in this area.

What effect or benefits on individuals and communities do resilient food production have?

self sufficiency and the city

Self sufficiency in the city

No doubt it is possible - in fact I know of a city dweller who grows most of his own food.  He has a piece of land he rents, at a reasonable rate on the edge of the city where he grows most of his food.  He complains about the traffic noise at his growing plot - says it drives him mad - however its over a kilometer from the main road in question and tucked away in a beutifull valley - some people dont know how lucky they are!! He is also involved in the organisation of a community food growing project in the city.

This example I find particularly heartening as he not only produces most of his food but he shares his skills and knowledge via the community food project.  This project engages with schools and adults with learning difficulties and via these activities he earns a living - well that part of it that he does not grow :slight_smile:

Of course land is scarse and in demand around cities, which makes it more difficult to find a piece suitable for growing.  Which in turn increases the probability that you would have to travel further to get to your growing space with the additional travelling time increasing the efforts that have to be expended.

The classic example, much loved by the Transition Towns movement is of Cuba - the film ‘The Power of Community’ (which I’ve sadly yet to see) details how Cuba had to drastically increase food production after the Soviet Union split and Cuba lost the massive food and oil supplies that had been sent.   The film apparently paints a somewhat rosey picture, but with massive state support domestic food production increased dramatically ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Period ) .  People grew much more in the city - being creative with their use of space.  Also movement from the cities back to the land was facilitiated.

There does appear to be a growing interest in food growing, I certainly see it here in the UK.  There is much on television, a massive demand for allotments (which are sadly massively under supplied - particularly in cities) and for the first time since WW2 vegetable seed sales have recently out stripped flower seed sales.  The planning system combined with the property and vegetable markets make it extremely difficult for new enterants to move into food production.   There is a big financial outlay (and probably debt - which will require servicing) to aquire and gear up for production.  Then a new entrant needs to have the growing skills and all the skills to keep their new business afloat and market their produce in a market with extrememly competative pricing.  Its a tough start going it alone - which is one of the reasons I like the idea of food production which is a community enterprise - supported by, and in the service of a community.

Although many more self sufficient people, growing much of their own food would, in many ways, be a good thing, I dont find the thought amazingly attractive.  I think much that is wrong in the world is due to the fact that people have become more and more insular.  I think that food is a good way to bring people back together.  At the community food projects where I volunteer I meet all kinds of people who I would never noramlly meet, let alone get to know.  The sharing of food (at all the projects food is prepareed and shared) and labour creates friendships.

Benefits of a more resilient food production

I’ve covered some of this already,  I’m going to outline benefits under a more resilient food system based upon the model I’ve tried to describe, although I think any resilient food system would share many characteristics.

to throw up a quick list -

For community -

  • increased resilience to supply chain disruptions (possibly due to financial or energy disruptions)
  • increased community 'strength' (greater community bonds)
  • reduced imports (more wealth kept in community)
  • less food transportation (pollution, congestion, energy)
  • reduced energy consumption (fetilizer/peticide production, tractors)
For individuals -
  • increased resilience (not totally reliant on a job to put food on the table)
  • increased mental and physical wellbeing (working the soil, being in fresh air, collaborating and socialising with others, eating fresh vegetables, supporting yourself)
  • greater understanding of the resources required for, and the impact of, the production of your food

Urbanfarmers?

Hi Darren,

I got so excited about your community farms post I started editing the piratepad and posted my own mission report ! :slight_smile: You´ve tapped into a little obsession of mine and seem to know a lot about this so I wanted to ask you wehat you think of the Urbanfarms approach: http://edgeryders.ppa.coe.int/spotlight-social-innovation/mission_case/urbanfarmers

I tried to get information about the setup costs etc but it seems their model is based on some kind of collaboration with real estate agencies. Do you know of any comparable initiative that is up and running and what it takes to set something like that up and keep it going?

Aquaponics for urban agriculture

Yes aquaponics is much in vogue and there is much excitment (and hype) around it- I’d not heard about this Swiss project before - thanks for the pointer.

The bigger more established projects I have come across have all been in America.

I like the look of this one http://www.growingpower.org/

John Robb who is here on Edgeryders posted some figures in a blog post a few months back

http://www.resilientcommunities.com/how-much-food-and-income-can-an-urban-farm-produce/

The comments section to that blog post throws some less enthusiastic light on aquaponics.

If you are really interested I guess you could find out lot more at http://aquaponicscommunity.com/

There are loads and loads of videos on youtube - search aquaponics !!!

Urban growing

Cuba is not the only example. I’ve heard interesting things about the Czech Republic and other places in Eastern Europe where ~40% of a cities food is currently produced within the city itself. I’ll try to find the references.

I’ve recently co-authored a paper on Food Security and Resilience within the semi-rural setting of Stroud, Glocuestershire - and elsewhere on Edgeryders have posted various bits and bobs about local food projects - Edible Open Gardens, Potato Day, Apple Town, StroudCo FoodHub, Farmers’ Market, Community Supported Agriculure, informal wholesale food buying co-operatives, etc etc.

I like your list of benefits. Biodiversity is another potential benefit - depends how the food is grown of course, but certainly a potential benefit.

City … or around (an idea for a killer-app)

Many people live outside the city and work inside the city.

Maybe others could do the opposite? The killer-app for food might be one that not only links “land owners” with “hand owners”, as http://huertoscomparti2.blogspot.com is doing. It would also link people who provide resources to “hand owners”: seeds, water, transport, etc.

And also knowledge, such as that found in open wikis that are inaccessible to people because they don’t know them. Example: http://akvo.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page http://www.appropedia.org (has some permaculture).

So yes, the internet is starting to let us do all those things.

A Farm for the Future

I have just watched this video: A farm for the future
Absolutly amazing :)