Ankara Garden Plots Going, Going, Gone...

vegetable garden istanbul city walls photo

A vegetable garden outside Istanbul's thousand-year-old city walls.

In the shadow of Istanbul's old city walls, enterprising urban farmers have carved out small plots of land to grow vegetables, adding a welcome bit of greenery to the roadside as they make, or at least contribute to, their own livelihoods. Green-thumbs in the capital city of Ankara once had a similar opportunity -- before the land started being sold out from under them.Popular plots
Previously, more than 500 "hobby garden" plots were available for rent in the Atatürk Forestry Farm (AOÇ), located in the Yenimahalle district of Ankara, for an initial registration fee of 5 Turkish Liras and then an ongoing monthly fee of 45 liras. Each 200-meters-square garden included storage sheds, gazebos, and running water to grow flowers and vegetables. Whether used as a way to put food on the table or relieve the stress of a demanding office job, the plots were popular with city residents, many of whom, due to Turkey's rapid urbanization, are likely not more than a couple of generations removed from rural life.

Today, as part of a process that includes the transferring of large portions of land for the development of sports facilities, the AOÇ is selling off the former hobby-garden parcels, sparking a race between real-estate agents and other entrepreneurs to snap them up the fastest.

Getting to know the soil
Though some of the new owners are planning to rent the plots out as sites to build go-cart tracks and swimming pools, others are hoping to resell to city-dwellers eager for their own little patch of green -- like Metin Kabalcı, a regional manager from the Turkish Statistics Institute, who went in with some friends to buy a small plot where he can "renew his energy in the soil" and give his child the opportunity "to get to know land and soil better through this experience."

But such opportunities come at dramatically increased prices. One would-be landlord interviewed by Today's Zaman hopes to rent out 50-square-meter parcels for between 75 and 100 liras -- eight times higher than the old rates. Another prospective seller is expecting to get 17,500 liras for a plot not much more than twice the size of the original hobby farms.

What would Atatürk do?
The farm was initially established in 1937 by the revered founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, to encourage urban agriculture and experimenting with new farming methods. Atatürk was reportedly a frequent visitor to the farm, even joining in the work there. It's hard to imagine he would have been pleased by this new development.

More about urban gardening:
Urban Gardening: What, How and Why
5 Alternatives to a Backyard Garden
Grab Your Hoe--New Report Shows Community Gardening is Booming in Urban Areas
Urban Agriculture Grows in the City
Folia Helps Urban Homesteaders Keep Track of Their Gardens
Exploring Permaculture in the Big City
Backyards Being Converted to Community Gardens in Santa Monica
Cuba Relies on Urban Gardens to Feed Hungry Populace
Detroit Charity Turns Wasteland into Farms
UK Town Embraces Urban Farming on a Massive Scale
ApartmentTherapy: Urban Gardening

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