This last week I’ve been busy putting together a funding proposal to transform a piece of unused, contaminated land in the heart of Lozells into a grow site for local residents to produce their own food.
The Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust has pioneered GEML, which stands for Grow It, Eat It, Move It, Live It. This is a cross sector partnership operating in Ladywood, Soho, Aston and Nechells with four aspects: growing food, encouraging interest in cooking and healthy eating, active living and reclaiming open spaces. The site in Lozells is now developing this in other parts of the city.
It’s remarkable what happens when you get agencies, third sector organisations and individuals working together. I was recently at an environmental forum meeting at which, in the space of fifteen minutes, a decision was taken to transform a piece of land into a grow site. Birmingham Council now has a worker on board who is able to cut through the jungle of red tape and make things happen.
I’m unsure what the exact difference is between a grow site and allotments, I think the essential one being allotments have a permanent status, whereas a grow site implies something more temporary.
I’m finding the research interesting. The site in Lozells is going to use raised containers and I’ve decided the quickest, easiest and most cost effective to be the builders bags which deliver aggregates. These are cheap, they are a good size for growing a few things, if someone wants to grow more they can have several bags. I’m successfully growing lettuces in one in my garden as an experiment.
I filled one a third full with polystyrene granules to bulk it out and provide drainage, then topped this with a layer of compost. I’ve found firms on the internet specialising in recycling plastics, and we’ll use chips made from post consumer waste for this project.
These are exciting times. There’s growing realisation the UK faces food shortages when oil runs out, because we have become so dependent on importing and transporting food. More and more projects are springing up in urban areas. Hackney, in London for example, has Growing Communities, which produces food in the middle of one of Europe’s most densely populated cities.
I look around Birmingham and see huge potential. There’s land all over the place. Last week I was in Marseille in the South of France. Couchsurfing in an apartment on a suburban housing estate on the city’s south side, the grounds of which planted out with all sorts of trees such as fig, plum and olive.
We could do the same here, have a proper garden city, with apples, plums, pears…