Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a national treasure--a writer, organic farmer, chef, t.v. personality and passionate believer in local communities. His latest venture is "Landshare"--a scheme which puts people with large unused gardens in touch with gardeners wanting space. He calls it a "food revolution destined to be the next great thing." With more people wanting to grow their own food and allotments being harder and harder to come by, he just may be right.
It is a simple and optimistic idea. People register their interest as a grower, a spotter --someone who has seen land in their area that may be suitable for growing--or an owner. The register, once it is up and running, will put these people in touch with each other.
The facts are that 80% of Britain's population live in towns and cities, Britain's food travels 17 trillion miles every year to reach our plates and it costs four barrels of oil per person to feed us every year.
So there is a good reason why the concept is growing and others are proposing variations. "LandFit" is another group that is "encouraging local food production by matching would-be growers with under used land." They too want to increase opportunities to grow good locally by bringing untended and ignored bits of land back into use. They see it is a way to not only grow food and encourage organic gardening but also as a way to discourage anti-social behaviour. It's a variation on Jane Jacobs all over again: when you have a well-kept street with local people interested in what is going on then you have a sense of community and involvement.
It is complicated and political because it involves land ownership and the use of private property by others. The group is in the process of discussing matters such as " governance issues, and developing a model agreement between gardener and 'lead stakeholder', and ways in which LandFit style agreements can be supported."
These are two examples of groups trying to come to grips with sustainability in food production, taking control of food production and the growing numbers of people interested in gardening but without access to land. Landshare and LandFit
More on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Observer Ethical Awards 2008 Winners
The River Cottage Meat Book