If you’ve been to Pop Brixton recently, you’ll have spotted the fruit and veg nestled amongst our planters and seating. Since we opened our doors, we’ve been working with Urban Growth to help green our little corner of Brixton, and to encourage local people to get green fingered.
We sat down with Urban Growth to find out a little more about their urban farming projects, this year’s bumper crop and how you can get involved…
Tell us a little about Urban Growth…
We’re a social enterprise that collaborates with communities to create and maintain beautiful biodiverse green spaces. We’re interested in rethinking our public spaces and how we empower the community to design and look after these spaces. Our aim is to reconnect people to nature to improve their wellbeing and make London a greener, healthier place to live and work in.
As well as creating gardens, we run gardening and nature-based workshops, we set up and run gardening clubs on estates and we support people to learn how to grow fruit and vegetables and look after our environment.
Introduce us to the Pop Farm! When did it begin, and how did Urban Growth get involved?
We launched Pop Farm five years ago, to teach people about horticulture and connect the local community to the natural world. The purpose of Pop Farm is to provide a place where people without a garden of their own can come to learn how to grow both edibles and ornamental plants.
Over the years, how has the farm evolved?
At Pop Farm we have supported people of all ages and backgrounds to learn about horticulture, some of whom have gone on to secure further training and work in this sector. We have done this through offering both formal (accredited) and informal learning opportunities and by collaborating with a range of local organisations including The Camden Society, who support people with learning difficulties, and Divert, who support young people who find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system.
This year we’ve enjoyed a partnership growing coriander and other plants for Brixton Gin – a local distillery who source all their botanical ingredients to flavour their gin within Brixton.
We are also hosting group visits from organisations such as the Refugee Council.
Going forwards, we want to continue creating meaningful partnerships and reaching further into the community to ensure everyone can benefit from the healing power of plants – that is our mission!
We know you had a great harvest this year! Tell us about the harvest – what crops were grown and what happens to them once they were harvested?
We grow a huge range of herbs, salads, vegetables and fruits, as well as exotic plants from overseas. This year Pop Farm expanded to the sun-trap that is the 3rd deck terrace. With all the new space we enjoyed a bumper crop of tomatoes, crystal lemons (Cucumis sativus) and shiso (Perilla frutescens – a tasty Japanese herb from the mint family, which is said to be a combination of the flavours of mint and basil with a hint of cumin!).
It’s always fun when someone tastes a vegetable they’ve never heard of before and they start to realise the extent of the amazing diversity of vegetables and fruits that exist that you can’t find at the supermarket. Let’s celebrate diversity! At the end of our session on Thursdays we share any harvest between the volunteers who helped to grow it and the caterers on site, so that people coming to eat at Pop Brixton can enjoy fresh chemical-free food grown on site by the local community. That’s what it’s all about – sustainable living!
What’s next for Pop Farm?
We love starting conversations about where our food comes from and wildlife friendly gardening practices – We’d love to explore how our learning programmes at Pop Farm can feed into important wider issues around biodiversity in cities.
How can people get involved or volunteer at Pop Farm?
Join us on Thursday mornings 10-11:30am! No experience needed. Everyone’s welcome and we provide all the gardening tools.
Simply let us know you’re coming by booking your free place on Eventbrite here.
What’s coming next for Urban Growth?
In Lambeth this autumn, we will be building two more community gardens, donating green sculptures to the community and creating a forest garden in a local school. We may also be running some Christmas workshops – potting up winter scented blooms and making seasonal wreaths in the Pop Brixton polytunnel… keep checking our social media for details!
Follow Urban Growth and get involved with their urban farm projects:
Facebook | Twitter @urbangrowthlg | Instagram @urbangrowthlondon