Introduce self. Before I begin, I’d like to get a bit more idea of you, the audience. How many of you grow your own food? At home? On allotments? Are any of you on waiting lists? Or know people who are looking for land to grow on? How many non growers would like to – if you had the time, space and skills? Have you heard of Landshare? – our project is a kinda Somerset Landshare Plus….
Somerset Land and Food is a 3 year lottery funded project which is now half way through. Our key aim is to matchmake people who need access to land to grow food on with landowners who are sympathetic and willing to lease – or sell - land for new allotments, new community gardens or to enable professional growers to access land for new market gardening or Community Supported Agriculture schemes for example.
So how do we plan to do this? Well, it’s by working in these 5 areas. READ OUT. We’ve done a fair bit of mapping and are now moving into the next phase of our project: negotiation with landowners in places where demand for land outstrips supply. The good news is that landowners have an extremely important role to play AND much to gain by releasing land for food production – whether that’s allotments, community gardens and orchards, community supported agriculture projects or other forms of locally accessible market gardening. Rendering the food system VISIBLE and PLANNABLE In context of food security and food sovereignty the UK – we are vulnerable ISLAND AGE OF FARMERS SKILLS GAP 70% of land owned by 1% of population
In 2009, this report – Can You Dig It? - issued by the New Local Government Network emphasised the important role that allotments have played in British history, particularly during the Dig for Victory campaign of WW2 which saw people grow their own produce to boost their food supply. Nationally, there are reported to be 100,000 on waiting lists but only 200,000 available plots which are already tenanted. Can You Dig It urges us to harness this new revival of interest in food growing and calls for a new Dig for Victory in Britain. As a society we cannot afford to waste the opportunities that this revival of interest presents….
In the late 1940’s there were 1.4 million allotments. Indeed, the history of allotments show that there is nothing like war and “pauperism” to get people digging for sustenance if not victory. The economic downturn, rather than suppressing demand, has fuelled demand. Rising costs of living and increased food prices have led to people looking for ways to save on household costs. The Local Government Association produced this report A Place to Grow to advise parish, town and district councils how to cope. The main thrust of the advice to local authorities is to seek to reduce waiting times by: Defining fair ways to manage non cultivation Adjusting plot sizes to accommodate more people Also developing the evidence base that might justify both public and private investment above other priorities However, there is a curious chicken and egg phenomenon at work – sometimes it is not until a plot of land is identified as a real possibility that interested people come out of the woodwork…. LV, a leading insurer conducted a survey in 2009 which revealed that 6 million people are interested in the idea of an allotment. single parents the most likely group to want to rent or apply for an allotment – one in three (32%) said they were interested in allotment ownership. Teaching children about food is also a factor for some, with close to one in three (30%) ‘growing their own' as a way to show their children where food comes from.
In the UK, we haven’t been self sufficient in food since 1840 - we import 95% of our fruit and about half our vegetables. In Britain we have lost 97% of our fruit and veg varieties since 1900 and globally 75% of genetic diversity of crop plants was lost in the last century…. And perhaps foreign producers will decide to feed their own populations when the cost of shipping food becomes prohibitive…..or when civil unrest due to food price hikes and shortages makes it politically expedient and a national security issue if they fail to do so. Food is too big to see – need to render our food system visible Demonstrate and build links and reveal routes to markets Gaps
As the supply of land is finite, innovative and pioneering approaches will mainly involve converting under-utilised land into more productive growing spaces.
I’m going to zoom in on Somerset now and South Somerset in particular to give you some idea of the scale of demand we have uncovered and where it is. We’ve developed a brand new mapping tool called FoodMapper - a publicly accessible, digital map which enables local people to plot a range of local food resources These can be: physical growing spaces, land that could be used for food growing, local food producers or local food initiatives such as markets, food co-ops, food related training or one off events that could benefit from being part of a more visible network of local food resources. And last but not least groups can plot themselves as looking for land in a particular location. Much of the information about community based growing spaces in Somerset is very scattered and there is no existing list of where all the allotments and other growing projects are located. So one big result of this initial mapping is a growing database of what is happening where. By doing this mapping we hope to make local food links and resources more visible. And also to highlight where the gaps are – ie where demand for land is outstripping supply. By creating this baseline, we can then start to answer these two questions – where is the real demand? And which groups are really motivated to find new land? PROTECT LAND – ie best and Most Valuable
FoodMapper went live at the end of August 2010. It opens with a regional view – this reflects the fact we have regional funders and stakeholders and indicates that FM has regional and indeed national application. AREA – we can draw polygons and arrive at a hectarage PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE record Need to identify willing landowners – church, county farms, NT
We started our mapping by focusing on the 10 market towns with the highest social need. In some areas, we’ve also begun to map the rural hinterland. This is very much a work in progress as data collection and accuracy depends on local knowledge and ongoing local participation. So far in Somerset we’ve plotted more than 150 hectares of land: 134 hectares of land down to community based food production and a further 17 hectares tentatively identified which COULD be used for new community growing. We’ve mapped 174 growing spaces in total, most of them allotment sites but including 6 community orchards When a plot of land is drawn on the map, it actually measures the area of land so that we can tell how much land there is given to community growing space in a particular area. We can also make a calculation about how much land is recommended should be available for allotments or indeed how much land might be required to feed a certain level of population. LFIs – seedsavers, co-ops, local food retailers, Farmers and country markets Events and TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES
In the district of South Somerset the longest waiting lists are in the market towns as you might imagine but there are also rural parishes where new houses have been built with postage-stamp sized gardens, where people are getting together to request that their parish councils provide new growing spaces. 2 recent local stories about gaining access to land – come from Langport, the other from Somerton. In both cases private landowners have come forward to make land available We’ve heard about the development of Diggers Field. A rather more difficult journey faced the people of Somerton. Again there was no provision of allotments in the town and so a group of residents set out to find a landowner willing to make an acre or two available. 5 years later the group finally signed a 7 year lease for land to grow food on a couple of months ago. This has solved a problem for this group but the fact remains that, strictly speaking, private allotments are not covered by the legal protection afforded to statutory sites. We hope that the ability to map potential land and groups looking for land on Foodmapper, that it will get easier for people to find land in the future. Also by helping to strengthen local networks via our conferences and other means, we hope that the community food movement in Somerset will go from strength to strength – but it all depends on the participation of local public and private landowners.
Let’s zoom in on Yeovil. By our calculations there are 6.62 ha of allotment land in Yeovil. Within the town boundary there are 13,768 households. NSALG’s 1997 recommendation of 20 full size plots per 1000 households would suggest that there should be 6.8 hectares. So provision in Yeovil town is about right by that 1997 standard. However, NSALG in the SW have recently updated that recommendation - based on setting up more than 40 new sites across the region - to more like 60 plots per 1000 households to reflect latent demand. At that rate Yeovil should have more like 20.5 hectares of community growing space…. That is to say about 3 times what there is now. So the next question is: who owns or controls land in and around Yeovil that could be used for such purposes? And how can members of the public begin to find this out? Well, next door they are considering that question. But what about landowners here today – what might it be possible for you to do to meet land seekers half way? Well, we hope this is where Foodmapper and SLAF has a role to play. The red dots are all the existing allotments – which all have waiting lists, the blue dots are local food initiatives – the country and farmers markets, the Vanessa Project run by MIND and a food growing training course run at Reckleford Childrens Centre with parents and children. It is also possible to map land that COULD potentially be available. Now, I’ve heard landowners say that they are reluctant to advertise that there is land here or land there that could be available but the fact of the matter is that once it becomes known that a piece of land is in the offing, people come out of the woodwork. Until then, people remain sceptical about the possibility….. I hope you will agree that it’s useful to be able to see at a glance all the local food initiatives and growing projects happening in a particular geographical location.
Reaching out to landowners is a complex undertaking and determining who owns land can be very difficult to establish. One eye watering fact is that 70% of land in Britain is owned by 1% of the population…. In Can You Dig It – it is reported that: Brownfield land – areas that have been previously developed but are currently unused – also offers great potential for allotments. Calculations suggest that Britain has 12,710 hectares of vacant brownfield land that is unused or may be available for redevelopment. This land can be developed “as is,” without levelling, demolition or clearing of fixed structures or foundations. The vast majority (85%) of this vacant land is located in urban areas or within 500 metres of a built-up area – precisely where allotments are in highest demand. About one-third of this land has been deemed suitable for housing, but only a fraction has been allocated for housing development. Of this unused suitable land, 28% has yet to be allocated for any specific use. This unused, uncontaminated, and unallocated urban land represents a significant opportunity for allotments. Across England, 50 counties and unitary authorities owned and managed 96,206 hectares of agricultural land in 2006. This land is let to 2836 tenants. Council agricultural land holdings have decreased by 30% since 1984. To cope with ongoing budget pressures, many councils are now attempting to speed up the process of disposing of this farmland. We all know that Somerset’s County Farm estate has recently come under the axe…. Councils could be encouraged to consider converting some of this agricultural land into growing spaces instead of selling it off. This conversion can be done automatically under Section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1990
Dudley Stamp ¼ million school children – maps that became blueprint for Dig for Victory
Foodmapper at ordnance survey
foodmapper.org.uk Connecting land, people & food Ordnance Survey July 20 th 2011
Project Aims <ul><li>Map existing growing spaces </li></ul><ul><li>Negotiate with landowners for land to grow on </li></ul><ul><li>Use Technical Assistance Fund to help people access land and share skills & resources </li></ul><ul><li>Run conferences twice a year </li></ul><ul><li>Develop a network of partners </li></ul>
Mapping supply & demand <ul><li>Comprehensive database of growing spaces </li></ul><ul><li>VISIBLE networks of related local food initiatives </li></ul><ul><li>Where is demand for land not met by supply? </li></ul><ul><li>Which groups really want to access new land? </li></ul>