Green Fingers Are Spreading across the Pond

The Evening Standard (London, England), September 17, 2009 | Go to article overview

Green Fingers Are Spreading across the Pond


Byline: Rosie Boycott

DURING his trip to the US this week, our grow-your-own Mayor lobbied his counterpart in New York on the value of growing food in the heart of the appropriately monikered Big Apple.

This 24-hour city has long had an extraordinary food culture. But like London, our sister city is now waking up to the miracle of food production in even the most crowded city. New York's GreenThumb project was founded in 1978 and is now the US's largest urban gardening programme, helping around 700 neighbourhood groups create and manage community gardens.

Like projects flourishing under our own Capital Growth programme, GreenThumb has seen first-hand the immense benefits that can be derived from such endeavours: a community with a common purpose, a chance for children to get out of their high-rise, concrete environment and get their hands covered in mud -- and plenty of fresh vegetables for all.

This leads to more home cooking and far less food waste: as what you've grown yourself you hate to throw away.

But Mayor Bloomberg will discover there is far more he can do with even the high-rise, urban landscape of New York. As in London, he could help transform small spaces -- backyards, rooftops, abandoned building sities -- into gardens, all of which could be tended by the city's stressed-out citizens.

You don't need a lot of space to get going: beans and salads will grow in a window box and herbs and tomatoes will flourish in a hanging basket. New York could teem with small (and not so small) empty spaces where rough ground, roofs, balconies and window ledges could be transformed into places where vegetables can grow and where communities can unite around a desire to grow their own.

Cities elsewhere in America are already providing a fine demonstration of what can be achieved.

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