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Growing in a community farm or garden

Community farm or garden projects are plots of land for public use, which are run co-operatively by their members instead of being divided into individually-managed plots (although some of the bigger ones include some actual allotments). They can offer an opportunity for people who don’t have access to a plot of their own. Projects which centre on the growing of food tend to refer to themselves as ‘farms’ whereas those with recreational or decorative areas sometimes call themselves ‘gardens’, but otherwise the two terms mean much the same thing.

Community gardeners at Can Masdeu, Barcelona

Community gardeners at Can Masdeu, Barcelona

No two community farms are alike. They can be of any size, from a few raised beds in a primary school right up to multi-acre (and even multi-site) operations. Activities don’t have to be limited to growing food, either; running training courses and school visits are common, and some even provide play areas and after school clubs. Larger projects may choose to employ workers, but most are run solely by dedicated volunteers.

Pros

  • Community farms foster community spirit and close friendships, which makes them ideal for people needing extra support
  • Working as part of a team means you can achieve things you would never attempt on your own
  • You can choose to specialise in a particular area if you wish, such as wildlife or beekeeping
  • You can scale your activity up or down as time permits: holidays aren’t a problem

Cons

  • Because everyone has a say, you can’t just do as you please
  • Projects tend to revolve around a small, committed group and it’s difficult to stop this becoming a clique
  • It’s no-one’s job to keep track of community farm schemes, so finding details on projects near you may be difficult

Is there one near me?

The Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens website offers a search facility to find your nearest scheme, although they will only know about projects that have registered with them. It’s also worth asking on the busy Landshare discussion forums.

Links

The Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens supports, represents and promotes community-managed farms and gardens across the United Kingdom.
Landshare is a website that aims to match up owners of vacant land with people who would like to grow on it. It is spearheaded by TV personality Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which has helped the idea to spread, and although the site content is skewed towards promoting his latest programmes the forums are extremely useful.

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