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Urban farming: City pickers

It was once a forgotten wasteland in east London – now it’s a thriving organic farm. Urban areas consume huge amounts of food, so why aren’t there more places like this? Jack Watkins reports

Five years ago Allens Gardens provided a spectacle of dereliction all too familiar in the underprivileged London borough of Hackney. By night it was a shooting-up gallery for drug addicts, by day a dumping ground, choking with debris and burnt-out bins.

A snip, you might think, for a property developer? Not so. Today the spot is host not only to a spruced-up children’s play area but also a vegetable and fruit plot that is helping to breathe new life into the once common practice of urban food growing.

It has the look of a tranquil urban idyll. There are four beds of vegetables grown under a crop-rotation system. A line of newly planted apple trees fronts an ancient brick wall, on the other side of which a young grapevine trails. Herbs such as salad burnet and mint fit into odd corners. As a reminder that modern growing needn’t mean the elimination of all other forms of life, there’s a tiny pond, inhabited by frogs and newts.

The plot is one of three managed by Growing Communities, a local social enterprise group, and though they jointly amount to less than one acre, they comprise the first Soil Association-certified organic growing plots in London. Benign and small-scale as they might seem, they are a vital and ambitious component in a local box scheme run by the group and its determined founder-director, Julie Brown.

The Independent (UK)

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