In October 2013, Stephanie Günther gave a presentation at homo ecos: about “collaborative consumption”. In this series of nine blogs, she explains what it is, and how it can help towards a more sustainable society. Chapter 4: Growing food together.
According to the United Nations, in 2030 about 60% of the world population will live in cities. This will have an impact on our way of life and on our nourishment. The city will therefore become the decisive place for the development of more sustainable ways of eating, living and also moving. The development has already started in the 1970ies with the concept of urban agriculture: in many cities in Europe and North-America, people use available space to grow fruits and vegetables, or to keep chicken for eggs. This idea has already made its proof in the 1940ies, when the US-government rationed food, as labour and transportation shortages made it hard to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to the market. To compensate this shortage, the government encouraged citizens to create so-called “Victory Gardens”, to provide their own fruits and vegetables. Nearly 20 million Americans planted gardens in backyards, empty lots and even city rooftops. Neighbours pooled their resources, planted different kinds of food and formed cooperatives. It is estimated that during World War II nearly 40% of the fresh vegetables and fruits in the USA were produced in the Victory Gardens.
But the aim of urban farming is not only to grow food and to avoid transport, it is also to increase biological diversity, to reduce CO₂ and to create a better microclimate. And the sharing of gardens promotes also a sense of community and the exchange of a wide variety of competences and forms of knowledge and help therefore people to lead more sustainable lives. They are a place where people can work together, relax, communicate and enjoy locally produced fruits and vegetables.
The equivalent of urban agriculture in cities is land share in rural areas: bringing together people who have a passion for home-grown food by connecting those who have land to share with those who need land for cultivating food. This includes sharing knowledge and lending tools to helping out each other.
The link between urban farming and rural land share and more general the link between local consumers and local producers is the creation of food cooperatives: people build buying clubs to take a certain amount of products from a local farmer. This guarantees him a stable income and planning reliability. And his clients know the origin of their food and avoid paying the intermediary trade. Or consumer groups act like bulk buyers to get price reduction from the wholesale trade when buying ecological or fair trade products, or when buying from local producers who do not deliver to individuals.
- Sharing fruits and vegetables and organizing collective buying:
- USA: http://www.coopdirectory.org/ or http://www.localharvest.org/food-coops/ (platforms to find an organic food cooperative)
- Germany : http://www.mundraub.org/ (site indicating fruit-bearing trees that are not harvested by its owners) or http://www.foodcoop.eu/ (platform to bring together people to buy food from the producer or to act as a bulk buyer)
- Sharing gardens (in cities or rural areas):
- USA: http://www.urbanfarming.org/ (platform to share gardens in cities; general information about the concept of urban farming; offers in different countries) or http://www.technologyforthepoor.com/UrbanAgriculture/ (information site about urban agriculture)
- UK: http://www.landshare.net/ (platform to bring together people who want to grow their food and people who have gardens to share; offers in UK, Australia and Canada)
- Germany: http://stadtacker.net/ (platform for sharing gardens in cities; information about the concept; offers in different German regions) or http://prinzessinnengarten.net/ (platform to share gardens in Berlin; site also in English)
- Renting or selling allotment gardens:
Author: Stephanie Günther