Everyday Growing


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With the continued popularity of ‘growing your own’, allotment waiting lists remain high and unable to meet demand, this short documentary explores how NGOs in three cities, Manchester, Sheffield and New York, are tackling the challenge of providing growing space for urban residents to grow food.

Everyday Growing Futures (13 minutes, 2013) is directed and produced by Caroline Ward and Erinma Ochu and commissioned as part of the Everyday Growing Cultures project (www.everydaygrowingcultures.org). This project is partly concerned with identifying citizen-led solutions to the current allotment waitlist crisis and is funded by the Communities and Culture Network+.

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  • Hello, I’m Erinma and today I’m going share stories of social innovation in three cities , Manchester, Sheffield and New York. I;m gonna tell you how local residents have been tackling the challenge of finding land to grow their own food.. You’ll hear about some of the techniques we used- mapping, walking, making soup, and how we used story telling to foster innovation from city to city and back again. Now my background is in neuroscience. And, whilst it ’ s a bit of an imaginative leap to go from exploring how the brain works to urban food growing, these topics and not completely unrelated. How many people here live in cities? There ’ s growing evidence that people that live in urban areas are more likely to suffer from mental health challenges How many of you live near a park or garden? There ’ s also evidence to suggest that green space in cities contributes out mental wellbeing – just looking at nature is good for us. Now how many of you know you next door neighbour by name, two neighbours, three neighbours, five? More than five? Where do you live? If you ever move to xxxx you need to know this lady…. But there ’ s hope for those who don ’ t know your neighbours or live near green spaces because, Everyday Growing, the project I am going to share with you today is all about how to get started. I ’ m, also a filmmaker and my role on the project, as well as being involved in the research, was to share stories through making a film with Caroline, who ’ s here actually.
  • Our story starts with visionary researcher and allotment holder, Dr Farida Vis who lucky for me lives just around the corner in Manchester. This is Farida in her allotment - one of the joys of working with Farida – home made jam, apples, courgettes, courgettes, more courgettes.. actually maybe there were just a few too many courgettes… the jam gave me a wonderful food memory actually… I was brought up in inner city london, the east end to be exact, but my mum who’s danish, sent me to spend my summers on a farm or with my grandparents who grew their own fruit that we picked and my mum made jam with. Anyway… back to Farida One of the things that Farida noticed as an allotment secretary was the rise in demand for waiting lists…2 months 12 years ago and now 15 years… and a reduction in the number of plots available in the UK from 1.4 million in the 40s to 200,00 now But, what do you do when everyone wants to grow their own again – especially in cities – how might citizens themselves go about easing the pressure on allotments? Now one of the things that Farida did when on the waiting list with her masters student, Yana, when she stopped being the secretary was to provide people with really useful dataabout allotments – like how long is the waiting list where you are, how much does your plot cost, really useful data like that…. Data that can help people to make decisions.
  • Enter Kirstin from the Kindling Trust. The Kindling Trust are an NGO that support Greater Manchester to become more sustainable in terms of production and activism to achieve change and helping a city to feed itself The Kindling Trust have mapped local, seasonal and organic food network around manchester – imagining that in the light of climate change and growing food prices, we need to know where we can source food without ruining the planet.
  • At the same time, in Sheffield – Danny at Grow Sheffield had been wondering the same question – and their members of the Grow Sheffield food network had also been mapping out local, seasonal and organic.
  • Kirstin had heard about this New York project– 596 acres – which went out and mapped empty lots – usually between buildings – that allows people who want to grow food to find people nearby who want to do the same. Then people are encouraged to get together and make it happen. Getting rid of the rats, bringing in soil, and applying for funding to equip the garden.
  • Now Manchester’s a small place and fortunately Kirstin met Steven who, like Farida is involved in Open Data Manchester which aims to open up data so that it can become useful to people – everything from transport data and health data and hospital data – but for that data to be useful to people it doesn’t just need to be available, you need to make sense of it. So Steven had a look at the code from the 596 acres website, which is available on the data repository, github, but could see it didn’t quite translate to old trafford.
  • Participants walked around Old Trafford in Manchester, taking photos and recording vital statistics,  such as aspect, water supply, security, and surface materials, for any site they thought could be used for food growing,. Sites identified included ginnels, grassed over areas, derelict plots and unloved nooks ad crannies.
  • To map growing spaces in Old Trafford, we used crowdmap – an open source platform by Ushahidi – often used for mapping crisis around the world. In Old Trafford, 26 people found 82 sites over 2 walks where food could be grown in land totalling around 5.2 acres. That’s a lot of space for a lot of vegetables and potentially quite a few jobs could be created to farm the land. One of the things that Farida wondered as a research was what synergy there might be between the open data community and the grow your own community – both have this perspective of a commons – shared land, shared resources – In Sheffield.. They used google map – here’s the map of their walk…
  • Danny came to Manchester last workshop and planned out his walk on google maps – his approach was slightly different…. He started with places that he knew and was also looking out for food that they might forage… people that might be nearby that could help… And the end of the workshop, we’d made friends, we’d mapped but the next bit, community gardens, and negotiating with the council, seemed a long way off… we needed inspiration
  • And that’s where Wendy came into play …. Wendy is an artist who lives in the lower east side of new york…. But she’s also an artist who pioneered the green map system which enables you to everything from recycling to food and more around any city. We got the chance to see a community garden just as it was opening – after all the hard working of getting rid of the rats, bringing in the soil and sorting the paper work…. And we captured that on film to bring it back to the UK…
  • As luck would have it… I was on a bus, telling Jill, a singer and outreach worker about Everyday Growing and it just so happens that this guy, Daryl, a community organiser was sat in front of me on the bus. And he tapped on my shoulder and he said – I heard you talking about an urban growing project – I work on an urban farm in Brooklyn and it would be great to show you round. One of the questions from Kirstin and from Danny, was how to keep things going in the UK…. Daryl had a few tips This is a farm not a garden – it supplies the surrounding area with locally produced seasonal food – and also helps people get started, learning to grow on the farm before helping establish community gardens for people to grow their own. What really inspired me was that the farm grew out of hopelessness and activism in Brooklyn, where people that thought housing and education were important also want to provide opportunities for young people in particular.
  • So one of the most powerful things for me in envisaging this shared goal around growing urban food and using mapping as a lo-tech way to achieve that – we used pens, paper maps, cooking and talking… What’s important I think is to remember the role of people in inspiring innovation… telling stories, Ordinary citizens, doing extraordinary things not waiting for the people in power tell us no. As kirstien says, this is our land…. Just being involved in this project, I made new friends, found new courgette recipes and have a very diferent way of looking at my neighbourhood, instead of seeing an empty place, I see the potential of our neighbourhood. Maybe all the technology we need to make sense of all of this is right here… in …. As wendy says…
  • Thanks to all the partners & to Imran/ farida for inviting me to speak
  • If you could grant us a wish for our cities today I hope that by 2050… Every adult and child in a city gets to share and taste a meal with vegetables they’ve grown themselves I hope you watch the film and continue sharing these stories of citizen-led social innovation around the world but also, with your neighbours Thank you….
  • Everyday Growing

    1. 1. @erinmaochu #TedxCity2
    2. 2. “If we work together in the garden, maybe we can work together in crisis…. Dig In!” Wendy Brawer
    3. 3. @erinmaochu www.everydaygrowingcultures.org/film #growingcultures