Tag Archives: urban food

Big Issue North: Can You Dig It?

Here’s a feature I put together for the Big Issue North on radical gardening. Click on the images for a closer look.

Guardian: Manchester should soon be eating fruit and veg from the UK’s very first Vertical Farm

Mmmm, where shall we plant the asparagus? Visitors study plans for a vertical farm in Manchester. Photograph Arwa Aburawa

When you can’t spread out, spread up. That’s what growers of everything from broccoli to strawberries are doing in a disused office block in Wythenshawe. By Arwa Aburawa.

The 18-day international festival which has swept through Manchesterhas sadly come to an end, but one project is only just starting, with long-term implications for the future of the rainy city. On the very last day of the Manchester International festival, a two-year project to build a vertical farm in an disused office building in Wythenshawe was launched with the aim of encouraging cities to more grow fresh food in a sustainable way.

The problem with cities is that whilst they have big populations that need feeding, there is usually very little space to grow food. Consequently produce is flown in for all over the world and brought into cities by the lorry-load causing much environmental harm due to fossil fuels being burnt for transport. Indeed, a typical UK supermarket trolley of food will have travelled a distance of 3,000 km before making it to your shelves at home.

The solution? Dickson Despommier, a parasitologist at Columbia in New York City who spoke at the MIF event, thinks that vertical farming can help. Vertical farming is a relatively new concept developed by Despommier and his students back in 1999, where farms are built indoors and on levels rather than horizontally on land. Some of the benefits of this hi-tech way of growing food is that abandoned buildings are put to use whilst precious (and expensive) land is saved. This farming technique also requires up to 70% less water and less fertilizer than traditional farming as crops grow in a controlled and sheltered environment. Continue reading

Manchester’s Radical History: Abundance And Urban Foraging

Abundance Manchester was established in the summer of 2008 with the aim of collecting fruit from public trees and people’s gardens and redistributing it to people in need. The volunteer-run organisation now collects fruit from around 60 gardens every harvest and drops off the produce on bike trailers to a homeless shelter, a centre for destitute asylum seekers and the Salvation Army in south Manchester. Inspired by groups such as ‘Grow Sheffield’ which highlights the amount of food waste that occurs in an urban environment, the volunteers at Abundance Manchester also say their work illustrates the ways that environmental groups can help with social issues such as homelessness.

“It’s such a simple idea, you take fruit from people who don’t want or need it and then you give it to people who do. Most people can’t believe it hasn’t been done sooner – everyone benefits,” beams Nicola Scott, a volunteer at Abundance Manchester. Passionate about growing food locally and organically, Nicola says that what drew her to Abundance was a realisation of the amount of food waste that occurs in people’s gardens: “People seem to just inherit these fruit trees or buy houses with existing trees and just don’t know what do with them…There are some people who really care about their trees but then you do get people who still go out and buy apples from their local supermarket even though they have an amazing apple tree growing in their backyard!” Continue reading