Back to basics: city gardening rises again
3 April 2019
Concrete jungles used to be seen as a fact of city life; it's what you accepted in return for the economic and cultural opportunities that cities had to offer. The residents of Mirafiori Sud – the proGIreg Living Lab in Turin - however, have shown that times are changing, and that cities too, can be green. In February 2019 they came together to design and plan their new community gardens, - part of the 'Orti Generali' project. And they are not alone; with various styles of community gardening sprouting up throughout Europe and beyond, city gardening is the latest big trend.
City gardening exists in various shapes and forms, from the long-established allotment gardening, which dates back to the era of industrialisation and urbanisation in Europe, to urban gardening collectives, on the rise over the last decade or so, which spread awareness of the mass agricultural industry, bring production back to the local level and enable members to share the fruits of their own labour. The community of Mirafiori Sud debated the ideal form for their gardens, which are being built in the Parco Piemonte near the banks of the river Sangone. They chose to follow the French model of a 'parc-potager' which means that the space will not only be used for gardening, but also for relaxation, enjoyment and just being closer to nature. The intention is for the gardeners to use 60% of the space for growing their vegetables and 40% will be freely accessible for the whole neighbourhood to relax in and use as a meeting spot – a key aspect for the landscape designers to consider. The budding gardeners will be able to either rent their own plot of land or share a collective one with three or more others for a moderate price. There will also be the opportunity for even lower rents in exchange for maintenance work in the common areas.
In Turin the local partners Fondazione Mirafiori and Associazione Clorofilla, are accompanying the process, within the framework of proGIreg’s nature-based solution ‘Community-based urban farms and gardens’. Together they are working towards their vision of not only enabling citizens to grow their own food, but also creating a more socially-inclusive and community-based neighbourhood. "But this is just the beginning" explains Davide Di Nasso, one of the project managers for the gardens, "2019 is the year of experimentation, the objective is to consolidate the social enterprise model and progressively add new services such as an educational farm and a kiosk, and also to offer educational and training sessions and other social agriculture activities."
The residents of Mirafiori Sud have various reasons for becoming active: some had been dreaming of their own urban garden for a long time and hadn't succeeded in accessing a city-run plot so far, whereas others moved from other gardens – some official and some unofficial - because of the services, the cheaper rates and the community-focussed vision of this initiative; others came to cultivate their own crops for the first time.
In paradoxical times of excessive consumption, financial crises and increasing wealth and health gaps, it seems that more and more people are turning back to nature and to their neighbours to fulfil their basic needs; be they healthy food, physical exercise, community bonding or just the need to touch the earth with their bare hands.
Images: Federica Borgato and Umberto Costamagna