JUNE 3, 2009: A pioneering new land sharing project aimed at providing UK communities with more access to land and locally grown produce is now up and running.
Landshare is the first ever UK wide network of its kind and works by ‘matchmaking’ keen growers to those who have available land. With allotment waiting lists now at an all time high – and an estimated 30 year wait in some areas – many are struggling to find suitable land to grow fruit and vegetables at a time when more people than ever want to grow their own produce, say the organisers. With the effects of the credit crunch, the desire for organic produce and a better appreciation of seasonal cooking, Landshare is tapping into this mounting trend to ‘grow your own’. The site, launched in conjunction with Channel 4 and River Cottage, already has over 30,000 supporters – covering every postcode area across the whole of the UK. Businesses, councils, landlords and homeowners are all encouraged to register any available land at www.landshare.net The new Landshare website works by allowing people to search for land, growers and help via a postcode mapping and listings system. It provides access to many different resources from guidance for sharing land, including a pro forma legal agreement, to a community questions forum and advice on growing produce. In February, the National Trust, in anticipation, pledged 1,000 suitable growing sites from their properties across the UK. There has also already been interest from national government, the Church of England and several other major landowners. In addition to being a unique resource to bring more land around the UK into cultivation, Landshare is also creating a comprehensive map of ‘helpers’ across the UK. These helpers will either help lower the barriers to participation, for example amongst the elderly or those with limited computer skills, or be local hands-on gardening advice for people learning to grow their own food for the first time. Promoting these helpers as ‘Veg Doctors’,the Royal Horticultural Society, Garden Organic and the National Trust are amongst those who are asking all their expert members to sign up, representing a potential database of over half a million members UK wide. Heading up the project, real food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says: “The huge interest in the scheme shows that people are looking for a viable alternative to the madness of modern day food chains. We should be growing so much more produce here in the UK, and we certainly have the enthusiasm, skills and desire to do this, but sadly not always the land. “Many of our green spaces have been sold off for property development or are tied up in red tape. The aim of Landshare is to unlock as much of this land as possible and return it to fruitful production where it belongs. There is so much to be gained in terms of health, economic, environmental and social benefits – not to mention the sheer joy and satisfaction that comes with growing your own food.”Anyone interested in getting involved as a grower, landowner or helper can sign up at www.landshare.net www.channel4.com/landshare