How London's food growing spaces really feel
At the beginning of this year's growing season Capital Growth asked its members about the people involved in their gardens and the value of the support the network offers.
Over 100 Capital Growth members responded to its 2022 member survey. They described all the inspiring and amazing activities they run and the undeniable positive impact on both greening our city and nourishing London's communities (literally and figuratively!).
So, how are Capital Growth's members doing? What are they doing? And is the network working for them? The results showed some clear positives:
- 92% of members have seen mental and physical health benefits due to their involvement in food growing;
- 83% of members have improved their connection with their local community;
- and 76% have increased their knowledge of wildlife in the city.
Capital Growth members said they feel supported by the network, connected to other growing projects across London and ultimately part of something bigger. One member shared:
"We often check in with Capital Growth when considering next steps or the bigger picture and it's a great point of reference and source of resources for the wide and varying impact of community gardens."
The online engagement tools offered by the network are well received, with members finding the newsletters, social media content and webinars most useful. Members feel they have benefitted the most from taking part in the annual Good to Grow day of action, receiving advice on food growing and projects, and bring signposted to local networks or organisations of interest to them.
Members identified the biggest challenges they face relate to funding (both funding the opportunities and securing the funding), finding and retaining volunteers and representing diverse groups within their garden communities.
When asked what Capital Growth could do more of respondents suggested more support with the following:
- Finding and securing funding for their gardens;
- Creating an online forum or space for advice;
- Providing more educational resources specific to food growing
- Linking up with councils on various issues, such as food waste and accessing unused land for food growing;
- Creating smaller, more localised networks of growing spaces within the existing Capital Growth network such as the borough level.
One member said: "It feels like an opportune time to get community food growing high up on so many agendas - it is a positive response to multiple issues, not least the climate crisis." Capital Growth Coordinator, Fi McAllister, couldn't agree more:
"With support from City Bridge Trust, a key focus of our work is highlighting the crucial role London's food gardens play in addressing the climate and nature emergency. We're making the case to protect these spaces further and supporting our gardens to become more nature-, climate- and community-friendly through a programme of training, engagement and events."
For example, this year's Urban Harvest theme is Climate-Friendly and gardens across London are invited to take part and celebrate their harvests from 11-18 September by hosting a climate-friendly community meal in their gardens.
With this year's survey results in mind, the Capital Growth team aims to deliver on its member asks as best they can and use the feedback received to improve and shape their work going forward. And they're already looking forward to next year's survey results to track their progress.