AN organisation that promotes and develops community horticulture projects has been celebrating its silver jubilee this month.
The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens supports a range of community-managed projects ranging from fruit and vegetable plots on housing estates to large city farms.
Its members are usually based in urban areas and are established by local people in response to a lack of access to green space, combined with a desire to encourage strong community relationships and an awareness of gardening.
The Bristol-based Federation currently represents 59 city farms, 1,000 community gardens, 75 school farms, a number of community-managed allotments and more than 200 city farms and community gardens in development.
These member organisations employ a combined total of 550 people, empower 500,000 volunteers and attract more than three million visitors each year. The estimated combined annual turnover is £ 40 million.
While some of the members can be seen as very different organisations, it is the community involvement and community management that links all the projects together.
The Federation's director Jeremy Iles told the News that recent years had seen a growth in the number of community gardens in particular: "The movement is flourishing in a quiet and understated way. I think it's an indication people are getting fed up of mass market consumerism and are concerned about issues like healthy eating.
"The people that are getting involved in community gardens are demonstrating a genuine interest in rebuilding fragmented communities."
This month's 25th birthday celebrations began with a conference in Canary Wharf, London, addressed by Baroness Andrews from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
"The conference then heard a series of presentations from grass-roots practitioners showcasing the positive effects of city farms, community gardens, school farms and allotments.
The conference was followed by workshops and a community festival at the largest inner-city farm in Europe, Mudchute Park and Farm on the Isle of Dogs.
The attendance by Baroness Andrews supports Mr Iles' belief that the Federation's policy work is paying off and that it is regarded by government as having a useful role to play.
He hopes this will have a knock-on effect at local level: "The government seems keen to empower community groups and local authority officers need to work in partnership with our members.
"There does seem to be less of a ‘them' and ‘us' attitude now and more of a facilitating and supporting role, which is encouraging."
In 1972 the first city farm, influenced by the children's farm movement of the Netherlands, was established in Kentish Town, London.
Children's farms are now an important part of the Federation's work, with the 75 school farms having their own network.
Anyone looking to start a community farm or garden is eligible to join the Federation. The membership package includes a starter pack, newsletters and invitations to events. The Federation's development team are also able to visit projects to offer support and advice.
For more details visit: www.farmgarden.org.uk