The Urban Veg project is based at heritage attraction Winterbourne House and Garden at the University of Birmingham, UK.
The project aims to promote a culture of urban food production as a means to addressing social exclusion and public health. Through the central theme of food growing it will introduce concepts of conservation, sustainability and increased well-being whilst addressing social isolation, low levels of physical activity, healthy eating and food provenance issues.
Working with the University of Birmingham staff and students, local communities, volunteers and school groups, the Urban Veg team and urban food adviser Alys Fowler will teach a variety of food growing techniques and general gardening skills over a range of programmes from short sessions to extended, in-depth training. Subjects taught will range from composting, food preserving, seed collection/storage and sowing to bee care, chicken care and wildlife gardening. Individuals and groups who attend training can then share their knowledge with others in their community and increase the amount of food produced in the city and its surrounds.
Urban Veg also helps make community actions possible such as Big Dig and The Community Food Festival and helps steer food growing strategies with Growing Birmingham. It has also acted as a point of contact for people wanting to start careers in horticulture and works with apprentices as part of their overall training at Winterbourne House and Garden in association with Birmingham Metropolitan College and The Jericho Foundation.
A series of demonstration growing spaces are being made, encompassing window boxes, balconies and small gardens showing the possibilities for home growing. Systems (and concepts from them) such as ‘no dig’, organic gardening, permaculture and forest gardening will be utilised by gardeners and volunteers developing and maintaining the space to create a beautiful and bountiful gardens.
We will not offer public growing spaces or allotments, as this is offered by numerous small organisations in the area, but will provide a centre for excellence and best practice in urban agriculture. However, the public are invited to work alongside our gardeners as volunteers and we are more than happy to offer tours and work days for those interested.
The project was officially launched in September 2012 as part of the Brum Dine with me EU Researchers day with a Harvest Festival of demonstrations and activities. It is part-funded by Public Health West Midlands who come to Urban Veg to learn about food growing and its benefits.