A Potted History of Community Farming and Gardening
Communities growing food together is not a new thing. All early agricultural systems seemed to have been co-operative activities, with land, tools and harvest all shared. However, as cultures have developed, ownership of land has tended fall into fewer hands.
This concentration of control does, in fact, affect almost all areas of life - not just land ownership.
During the 1960s the growth of community action escalated, in part as a reaction against this lack of control and access to resources. Many communities set up projects such as youth clubs, under-fives groups, tenant or resident associations, community centres and elderly projects.
Similarly, some groups around the country saw some derelict land in their neighbourhood and decided that it should be used as a community garden - a place that is run by the community to meet their own needs. Part of the inspiration for this was the growth of the community garden movement in the United States.
Over the years more and more community gardens were established, although many depended on short-term lease agreements or indeed squatting.
In 1972 the first city farm was established in Kentish Town, London. This larger project not only included gardening space but also farm animals, influenced by the children's farm movement in the Netherlands.
The growth of the UK’s city farming and community gardening movement, from the 1960s to the modern day, was recorded as part of an oral history project for FCFCG. It is the first time the development of the movement has been documented in this way. The project was funded by an award of £34,500 made by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) under the Your Heritage scheme.
Since the early days in the 1960s and 70s there are now more than 120 city farms and school farms, nearly 1,000 community gardens and a growing number of community-managed allotments. They help to empower people of all ages and backgrounds to build better communities, often in deprived areas.
During the course of the project, 20 witness seminars were held around the UK, when stalwarts from long-established city farms and community gardens recalled their experiences, both the highs and the lows, and reflected on the benefits that have been created for local people. A number of one-to-one interviews were held, particularly in South West England, while copies of documents and photographs charting the movement's history have been collected to create an archive.
As part of the project's legacy, FCFCG created a toolkit to help local community groups document their own history: