Rescuing derelict pieces of land and putting them to good use growing food for the community is what the Loughborough Farm is all about. The project calls itself a patchwork of local growing spaces and as well as transforming the patch of overgrown scrub on Loughborough Road opposite Wyck Gardens, the farm has another site on Minet Road, opposite Loughborough School, that it is getting ready to clear.
The Loughborough Junction Action Group (LJAG) persuaded Lambeth council to hand over the sites on Loughborough Road and Minet Road on a temporary basis on the understanding that the sites would be handed back as soon as Lambeth decides what to do with them.
The site on Loughborough Road had been overgrown and abandoned for many years although locals recall playing football there in the 80s. When the site was finally cleared of scrub, a stash of guns and £40,000 worth of drugs were found. There was even a rumour that went round for a few days that a dead body had been found. It was untrue but the story has become a local urban myth and still gets repeated.
The site on Minet Road was saved by Councillor Matt Parr who prevented it from being sold to a developer.
“Growing food on derelict land can be challenging,” Emily Myers, project coordinator warns: “The land can be overgrown with weeds, full of rubble and sometimes the soil can be contaminated. So other ways of growing have to be found such as raised beds or growing bags. However, the rewards definitely outweigh the challenges.”
The growing is done in 100 giant builder’s bags, donated by Barratt Homes, and five months after the launch, the farm is still cropping salads which volunteers take home with them. Any excess is given away for small donations to local residents.
LJAG has recently heard that it has successfully won a grant of £17,000 from the People’s Health Trust. This will allow the charity to continue employing project co-ordinator Emily Myers two days a week for the next year with enough money left over to put a small shipping container on the site to use for storage, a potting shed and training space.
“We are so pleased that so many local people are getting involved in the farm. Many people tell us how happy they are to see this piece of wasted space put to good use and the project is definitely bringing together people with a shared passion for growing healthy food,” Anthea Massey, Co-Chair of LJAG told us.
The site on Loughborough Road is open every Saturday from 1pm to 3pm although the volunteers often stay longer.
This article is part of a feature on Transforming Empty Space in Brixton.