The wonderful thing about food is that you get three votes a day. Every one of them has the potential to change the world.

Nature Friendly Food Network

The Urban Agriculture Consortium (UAC) builds collaborations to co-create the conditions for regenerative urban and peri-urban farming and food growing to thrive in the UK, as part of an integrated, resilient, & just food system.

Why Urban-centric?

Urban (and peri-urban) settings present a unique set of constraints, opportunities, challenges, problems and solutions when it comes to transitioning our food system away from the present destructive industrial model, towards a just, inclusive, regenerative and localised one. The process of urbanisation has disconnected people from the source and value of good food, giving rise to many personal and planetary problems.

So when we reimagine urban centres and their peri-urban hinterlands as landscapes interwoven with small scale, regenerative and diverse food growing everywhere, as generators of abundance, food equality, innovation, livelihoods, local economic resilience and beauty we can start to see that it is possible to heal this dislocation and its effects; healing our own bodies, our communities, the habitats of our companion species’, and the planet.

This decade is widely considered to be our last window of opportunity to slow the collapse of the ecosystem integrity on which all life depends through a global movement for ecosystem restoration. Mainstreaming agroecology – an agriculture based on healing and optimising natural systems, provides perhaps our biggest hope for success. This transition will be driven by demand for good food in urban settlements, and enabled by supportive policy and financial commitments at a local, regional and national level. This is why UAC is focussing its efforts on urban and not rural zones

About this Project.

This is a 3 year project (2020 – 2023) generously funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation with a £199,000 grant.

We have just completed our year-1 evaluation and wider network gathering. To read our evaluation, see our slides and all the feedback from our network on how we’re doing and where we’re going, see post here – UAC one year in – Evaluation, collaboration, vision.

The UAC is coordinated by Jeremy Iles and Maddy Longhurst of Green Future Associates and supported by our wonderful core oversight group (COG). Our COG partners are Suzy Russel of the CSA Network, Andy Goldring of the Permaculture Association, Gareth Roberts of Regather and Sheffood (Sheffield), Nick Wier of the Open Food Network, Gary Mitchell of Open Newtown and the Food Policy Alliance Cymru (FPAC) and Chris Blythe of UK Social Farms & Gardens.  

In 2021 we are also starting some policy-focussed work funded by Polden Puckham Charitable Foundation, and developing action to support new Farmstarts in the north of England, funded by Necessity.

How we work.

Our approach is to work dynamically and flexibly with clusters of places and different people and organisations to amplify, accelerate and add value to work that is already underway and nurture ideas and solutions that are trying to emerge. We are seeking opportunities for connection, collaboration and synergy.

During our first year, we have been developing our offer, refining our purpose and designing our interventions in accordance with the needs of the places and people we’re working with. We are developing our offer around a range of support relating to policy advice and development, advocacy, business, access to land and markets, planning & legal support, peer-mentoring, training & coordination to support pathfinder places & projects to meaningfully up-scale at all levels

Over the funding period we will work with food partnerships, food producers, community food networks, universities, and local and regional authorities in 20 pilot towns and cities to see what will work in the wake of Covid-19, and to explore models and processes which could be replicated elsewhere in the UK. 

We will contribute to a greater strategic understanding of how to support urban food growing, as well as providing tangible, practical benefits such as skill-sharing, project development, enterprise support and policy support for practitioners, government bodies and other key stakeholders. 

Autumn – Spring 2020/21

During our first phase we have brought together a cluster of northern England ‘Pathfinder Places’ including Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Leeds, Lancaster and Nottingham. We are working with them to develop our approach, refine our purpose and explore ideas to ensure we optimise our impact. All of these places are doing amazing work in developing the capacities and reach of their local and regional food systems and contributing to a dynamic food movement in the north of England. They share needs around supplying enough (agroecologically produced) food to meet demand, access to land and training (particularly for new entrants), access to finance and investment to create successful projects, joined up and enabling policy environments and learning from what’s working elsewhere.

Current projects:

A typology of urban agriculture : Dynamic public sector food procurement : New farmer pathways / Farmstarts : Planning / The 15 minute city : accessing local land : Climate plans and food

We are supporting a piece of action research in Scotland through the Community Growing Forum Scotland which will look in detail at overcoming barriers to upscaling urban agroecology in a small number of urban centres in Scotland.

We are also funding and supporting Social Farms & Gardens in Northern Ireland to run a series of Workshops with the new Sustainable Food Places local authorities and other LAs to explore Community Access to land for food growing, to collectively address the barriers to this happening successfully and in a timely way in Northern Ireland.

“This is a valuable and timely intervention: food security in Britain has been shown to be under threat from unsustainable global supply chains. At the same time there has been a huge upsurge in interest in growing food with many new urban growers starting since the Covid lockdown began. 
“Urban agriculture offers many environmental, sustainability, community, and well-being benefits, but faces specific challenges: new approaches to land access & security, new procurement policies and new financial models are needed”. 
“We’d like to see all our towns and cities becoming pathfinder Growing Places – it’s a win-win opportunity as part of a new more sustainable normal”. 

Jeremy Iles, heading up the Urban Agriculture Consortium

“At Esmée Fairbairn we’re interested in more sustainable food systems. We feel that urban agriculture, at scale, has the potential to shorten supply chains, reduce the emissions associated with food production and to enable local communities to become more engaged with how their food is produced. We expect that expert advocacy and the provision of specialised expert support in a number of demonstration locations will help make the case for the wider uptake of urban agriculture across the UK”

Laurence Scott of Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

A new Urban Agriculture website will be online later this year.

If you would like to know more, please email jeremy@greenfuture.org.uk