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Cardiff local food production to increase

Posted by hannahflynn on January 11, 2009

part of this season's crop at Riverside Community Garden Project

Jerusalem artichokes: part of this season's crop at Riverside Community Garden Project

May’s local elections saw Plaid Cymru calling for people to ‘grow their own’, under an eight point manifesto. 

Dr Gwenllian Lansdown, Chief Executive of Plaid Cymru and councillor for Riverside explained, “the policy was premised on releasing land for public ownership for food production; be they allotment sites for instance or plots of land that aren’t doing anything currently, and looking at international models of urban gardens and urban food gardens especially.”

Since then several projects have sprung up to increase the amount of food produced in urban Cardiff, both independently and with the council. These take the form of allotments, guerrilla gardening and community groups. The common aim is simple: to use any space they can to grow fruit and vegetables.

One of the newest arrivals is the Transition Towns  project, a nationwide movement encouraging the increasing localisation of resources. It has attracted attention due to its guerrilla gardening events around Cardiff.

Pat Gregory is involved in awareness raising, which is the first part of the Transition Towns movement, “The guerrilla gardening and urban gardening idea came out of our awareness raising projects as it is a way of doing something visible which people can talk about,” she says.

“We have a monthly speaker event at Dempseys, where people come ad talk about what they are doing, so its about linking the organisations which are already working towards this.”

Another of these organisations is the Riverside Community Garden Project, a set of three allotments on Pontcanna Field, started by Riverside Market earlier this year. Jenny Howell who runs the project says eight or nine volunteers turn up every Wednesday afternoon for the community gardening sessions. They are currently building a woodland area for fruit trees and a herb spiral.

She says, “Some people don’t access the market but we still want to encourage people to access fresh fruit and veg. Any one who wants to come along and help can come along and help, and then we just divvy up the harvest.”


Jenny Howell of Riverside Community Project Garden discusses the reasons behind the allotment.

 Steve Garratt, the manager of Riverside Market, aims to increase the amount of locally produced food sold in the market. He feels they have been successful in helping local business to get off the ground and he has plans to expand the market’s own food production, “We have rented some land close to Cowbridge, as we couldn’t find any land in Cardiff, where we plan to set up a horticulture operation. We will be training people how to do it.”

“Urban agriculture creates a number of social benefits, creates employment and is about a lot more than just producing food.

Steve is also interested in the ‘organoponico’ model that proved a success in Havana, which saw food production focused on small allotments in cities. Plaid Cymru have also engaged with this method of urban agriculture, sending a delegate of members to the Cuban city earlier this year.

“It is a simple model of leasing land in urban areas for food production and concentrating on it being local community projects.” explains Gwenllian. There are other examples from London and from other parts of the UK, where land in more deprived areas has been turned around and used to produce food.

“Obviously the benefits of that are far greater than producing food. It’s about a spirit and a sense of community. There are examples in New York City where people living together have found a plot of land and decided – right we are going to do something about it, and I suppose the basic motivation is to improve the basic community where they live.”


Pontcanna Fields, the site of Riverside Community Garden Projecy
Pontcanna Fields, the site of Riverside Community Garden Project

One of those models is the Friends model which has already been established successfully in Cardiff. Plasnweddan Gardens has its own Friends group and Gwenllian plans to use their experiences to encourage the formation of new Friend’s groups around Cardiff.

In December she started to look for people interested in setting up a Friends group in Clare Gardens in Riverside. The initial plan is to plant fruit trees there as they are a low maintenance form of food production. “I would like to see whether the Friends group in Clare gardens can be emulated elsewhere in the ward so that we can use that as an experience to say – look what we have done here and look at what we could achieve in other parts.”  




Gwenllian Lansdown, Chief Executive of Plaid Cymru explains the reasons behind the party’s pledge to increase local food production in Cardiff.


Further Reading:

A sustainable Wales – Plaid Cymru

Transition Towns wiki

Riverside Community Garden Project blog on Facebook

Transition Town Llandelio – The first transition town in Wales





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