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Published

14 April 2014

New book on urban cultivation

Through urban horticulture and food production, people can lay claim to public spaces and, at the same time, contribute to sustainable development. Sara Danielsson, who works at the Mistra Urban Futures centre, has written a handbook on the subject.

Sara Danielsson has worked on urban transformation and cultivation in various forms since graduating from the School of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg, in 2005. Her book Konsten att odla staden (in Swedish, on the art of farming and market gardening in urban areas) is now being published. In it, she describes visits to cultivation enthusiasts in New York and Berlin, as well as several places in Sweden.

‘One vital issue before you start cultivating is access to land. Whom should you get in touch with to get permission? How do you find other people to grow things with, and how do you form a growers’ association?’

Urban cultivation is a global civic movement that has spread to Sweden too in recent years in line, for example, with rising interest in locally produced food. Irrespective of whether crops are grown on farms or in gardens, on roofs or in parks, it is an effective way of influencing one’s immediate environment, Sara Danielsson points out.

Measures for boosting urban food supply

In her book, Danielsson writes about interviewing companies like the Swedish Stadsjord (‘Urban Soil’), which was given permission from the building company NCC to farm a demolition site at Hisingen in Gothenburg, pending new construction.

‘Urban cultivation is about growing in places that aren’t intended for the purpose — how citizens create a place and reshape the public space.’

Sara Danielsson is involved in the Green Production project, part of Mistra Urban Futures whose participants work on sustainable urban development. She and two colleagues are studying food production in and around urban areas, one focus being on what is known internationally as ‘community-supported agriculture’. The idea is to link farmers with consumers, without middlemen like wholesalers and retailers. But this calls for new ways of thinking and business models, such as consumers paying for their harvest in advance, thus safeguarding the producers’ sales.

‘Urban cultivation in Sweden takes place almost exclusively at hobby level, but around the world there is great interest in community-supported farming. In Sweden there are only a few individual examples.’

Text: Henrik Lundström, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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