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Green-fingered estate residents win food growing competition

19 October 2010

A former antisocial behaviour hotspot in Islington transformed into a thriving community food growing garden and fruit and veg plots scattered around a housing estate in Hackney, are two winning entries in a competition to find London's best housing estate food growing gardeners

Aimed at social housing residents, the Capital Growth Edible Estates competition has motivated green-fingered Londoners to rise to the challenge of becoming the capital’s best community food garden.

The competition has encouraged housing associations and local councils to provide plots of land for tenants to nurture into thriving food gardens. There are an estimated 750,000 social housing properties in London and more than 40 growing groups based in Brent, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Southwark and Westminster entered the competition.

The Edible Estates competition which was launched by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in June this year is part of Capital Growth - the London-wide grow-your-own food scheme.

The announcement comes on the day of an event for housing professionals and residents at Islington’s Window conference centre to encourage more sign ups to create 2,012 community Capital Growth food-growing spaces by the end of 2012.

There are now 12 London boroughs committed to Capital Growth in part by identifying suitable plots. Two London boroughs – Camden and Islington – already have met the Capital Growth borough target, with 60 and 71 growing spaces respectively.

This has helped to boost the number of spaces London-wide to 600. The spaces are in a range of diverse places including schools, on roofs, in skips and even on a canal boat.

Tower Hamlets Homes has also just joined the ranks of landowners backing the scheme by agreeing to create a community food garden in each of its 27 neighbourhoods. They join Metropolitan Housing Trust London, Family Mosaic, Affinity Sutton, and L&Q housing associations, who are already signed up to the scheme and between them manage more than 100,000 properties , many in the London area.

More than 50 primary schools have been growing food as part of the schools competition organised by Capital Growth earlier this year, designed to fuel food growing passion amongst youngsters, parents and teachers, whilst creating new or expanded plots.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Congratulations to these green-fingered residents whether winners or not. Edible Estates has shown how communities working together can reap a host of dividends such as getting to know neighbours and reclaiming patches of neglected earth.”

Rosie Boycott, Chair of London Food, said: “There are benefits for landowners as well as food growers in joining Capital Growth. It has helped to create opportunities to regenerate and beautify neglected areas that will also leave a lasting legacy of thousands of extra food growing spaces in London. With help from landowners and enthusiastic food growers I am sure we can build on the 600 plots we have already achieved and reach our target of 2,012 new spaces by the end of the Olympic year.”

Paola Guzman, of London Food Link, said: “We have had a great response from the residents that participated in the competition. It’s incredible what people can achieve when they get together to create a food growing project. These gardens have created a sense of ownership and pride for residents. Neighbours are getting to know each other. Parents feel more confident in letting their children play outside and communities are becoming more active.”

The winners are:
Plants and People (the community garden that has developed the most creative ways to engage people)
Isledon Village in Islington, who turned an anti-social behaviour hot spot – used for drinking, drug-taking and burning out stolen motorcycles - into a space reclaimed by local residents for growing fresh healthy food used at communal events on the estate. The project is funded by Islington Council's Edible Islington food-growing programme. Residents are also using home growing kits to enable them to grow fresh food in their front gardens in grow bags and on balconies in window boxes.

Runners up:
Cottington Estate TMO (Southwark)
SGFG Club (Haringey)
Collect and Create (creative ways to use forgotten objects such as old bins, shoes or tyres).
Welcare Urban Garden in Greenwich, for creating raised growing beds and other food growing plots from recycled scaffolding boards, old wood, laminate flooring and even discarded furniture. The group were able to reclaim a piece of common land on the Nightingale Estate and turn it into a vegetable gardening plot that is valued as an open access allotment.

Runners up:
Greening Brownfield (Greenwich)
Haberdasher TRA gardening club (Islington)
Best Estate Garden (for developing several ideas such as recycling, water collection fruit growing, and community engagement, making the garden an agent of change)

Somerford and Shacklewell Tenants and Residents Association, Hackney, where over 150 people have taken part in planting fruit trees on unloved grass patches, filling disused raised beds with organic seedlings and distributing produce over the last year. Residents have gone further and taken over plots of land for themselves, covering railings with sunflowers, beans and peas and letting rampant squash plants, nasturtiums and cabbages loose on the estate.

Runners up:
GreEn16 (Newham)
Rocky Park Urban Growers (Tower Hamlets)
Dodson and Amigo community project for involvement with children (Southwark)
Parkland Rose Estate for Homes for Haringey staff involvement (Haringey)
Girlestone Estate for their creativity with irrigation system (Islington)

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