Transforming food and farming through community-led growing

May 3, 2012

An absolute gem of the urban growing community is without doubt: Growing Communities. This set-up is a community-led organisation based in Hackney which is providing a real alternative to the current damaging food system. But what exactly are they doing for the urban growing community and how can you get involved? Growing City had a chat with them to find out…

In just around a decade, Growing Communities have established themselves as the forerunners of community growing. This is reflected in the booming success of their two main projects: their organic fruit and vegetable box scheme and the Stoke Newington Farmer’s Market. “These harness the collective buying power of our community and direct it towards those farmers who are producing food in a sustainable way – allowing those small-scale farmers and producers whom we believe are the basis of a sustainable agriculture system to thrive. Growing Communities believes that if we are to create the sustainable re-localised food systems that will see us through the challenges ahead, we need to work together with communities and farmers to take our food system back from the supermarkets and agribusiness,” they say.


The team

They also run fantastically original organically certified urban market gardens and specialise in salads and leafy greens. Not only do they grow delicious food and reduce their carbon footprint at the same time but they train apprentice growers and volunteers. A host of these volunteers are working on a Patchwork Farm in Hackney where they will be growing food for their box scheme in back gardens, churches and estates.
All our projects are steps towards Growing Communities’ aim of creating a more sustainable, re-localised food system – changing what we eat, how we eat and how it’s farmed. 

Our experience has shown that urban communities are well placed to work together with farmers and growers to create practical alternatives to the current way our food is produced and distributed.”

Yet another exciting venture is the Start-Up Programme which aids local communities in setting up their own schemes based on a self-certified, tried and tested model.

It is just amazing how Growing Communities started off with just one demonstration growing plot in Clissold Park in 1996. and now they are the key player in London community growing schemes. Following a successful lottery bid, the team have recently shifted the whole site a several metres to the west in order to accommodate the works which are taking place in Clissold Park. “As a result of this move we have also been able to renovate the old Butterfly tunnel and transform it into a large polytunnel which will allow us to increase salad yields from the site.


Organic food box

The two main growing sites are at Springfield Park in Upper Clapton and Allens Gardens on Bethune Road, Stoke Newington. In addition to its raised beds, Springfield also has a polytunnel which grows a variety of different salad crops e.g. mizuna, basil and oakleaf and Cos lettuces.  All the sites have a pond and wildlife areas which increases the diversity of insects and wildlife on their sites. 

”Our most recent growing site is in Allens Gardens on Bethune Road, Stoke Newington which we took over in February 2004.  Allens Gardens replaced a previous site, further up Bethune Road which we had to leave when the land was sold on for housing.  We moved the entire site which included most of the raised beds, the fruit trees, herbs and over seven tonnes of  lovingly cultivated organic topsoil 400 metres down the road to Allens Gardens.”  The Allens Gardens site is now a thriving market garden – where previously the site was home to burnt-out litter bins and a derelict container – now you’ll find raised beds full of salad leaves, organic fruit trees lining one wall, a pond, wildlife area, a greenhouse, a shed and an eco building.

Check out this video for their views on how great the scheme is:




  • KD

    So much inspiration for beginning my own vegetable journey