Eco - March 2012
How city farming is taking root across Europe
Pockets of greenery brighten up even the greyest of cities - but urban agriculture is not merely aesthetic. The term originated in the USA in the 20th century but the concept has been around for hundreds of years.
The stepped architecture of Machu Picchu was used to collect water and ancient Egyptians reused city waste on urban farms. In the 19th century, city allotments became a commonplace sight as a way of combating food shortages. British households were encouraged to 'Dig for Victory' in World War II by turning flowerbeds into vegetable plots. In contemporary Europe, this eco trend encompasses anything from city farms supplying fruit and vegetables to local communities and restaurants to large-scale regeneration projects using organic waste and guerilla gardening.
Bruggen naar Rabot, in the Rabot-Blaisantvest quarter of Ghent, is an urban renewal project with an agricultural twist. The concrete floor of a former factory has been transformed into 160 allotments, a football pitch and a community barbeque. To reward green-fingered residents Rabot-Blaisantvest has introduced its own currency, Torekes, which can be exchanged for gifts. www.gent.be/bruggennaarrabot
Catalan cooking doesn't get more authentic and homegrown than at Hotel Omm in Barcelona. The menu at the hotel's Michelin-starred Moo Restaurant features fresh produce grown in an on-site courtyard garden, personally tended by chef Felip Llufriu. www.hotelomm.es
The Princess Gardens on Moritzplatz can be found in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, once a rubbish-strewn wasteland. The garden belongs to the community and volunteers can buy the organic produce they help grow at lower prices than the local market. The public can visit the café, work in the gardens and learn about planting techniques. Mobile planting beds mean all the hard work isn't destroyed by the cold weather - they are simply rolled under cover. www.prinzessinnengarten.net
Despite being in the centre of London you are more likely to see a cow than a banker at Mudchute Park and Farm. Run in partnership with the borough of Tower Hamlets, the 32-acre farm is open to the public all year round. Urban farmers can hire allotments and help care for over 200 animals. www.mudchute.org
An offshoot of urban agriculture, guerilla gardeners sow by stealth on pockets of unused urban land - and have a lot of fun doing so
Working under the collective guise of the Brussels Farmer, guerilla gardeners took to the streets in 2007 planting sunflowers - chosen because they are easy to plant, cheap and look ever so cheerful. After the success, volunteers now distribute seed packets to new recruits. www.brussels-farmer.blogspot.com
Set up in 2004, this blog, detailing Richard Reynolds' clandestine planting in South London, now connects wannabe guerilla gardening worldwide and highlights potential plots to target. www.guerillagardening.org
Guadalest, near Alicante
From the country which brought us La Tomatina (the tomato fight festival) comes La batalla verde (the green battle). Participants in this gardening-meets-paintball event meet at an unloved urban space, like an old car park, and throw balls of green mud at each other. The pellets contain a mixture of seeds and compost and, eventually, the battleground starts to sprout. www.urbanarbolismo.es/blog
Perfect for the guerilla gardener with little time, each seed bomb contains everything a plant needs to develop. Just throw and watch the seeds grow. www.seedfreedom.net