Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

(Designs of the time)
Urban Farming

January 27, 2007

Projected picnic at the Museum of Modern Art in Middlesbrough © DOTT 07 Urban Farming

Urban regeneration, edible grow zones, kitchen playgrounds and town meals

In many communities fresh fruit and vegetables are hard to source and expensive. There’s little awareness of local food production, the possibility of growing your own and next to no supply chain for existing producers and consumers. Cooking is increasingly evolving into the warming up of processed foods. Supermarkets become the sole suppliers of food to an entire region. Often, there’s an oversupply of multiple retailers. But also there’s often an oversupply of redundant, vacant land. Could communities be more self-sufficient in their food supply? Could this also connect with more sustainable land use and urban design?

In September 2007, Designs of the time (DOTT 07) will host a town meal in Middlesbrough in the North East of England. Attended by several hundred people, the meal will be generated from fruit, vegetable and livestock cultivated by those who live and work in the town using mobile, personalised and containerised kitchen or community gardens. The meal will be based upon recipes generated by the same people that grow the produce, working closely with a professionally staffed cooking facility cum kitchen playground, known as a ‘meal assembly center‚’

A cabbage planter on Middlesbrough's Corporation Rd.

The Urban Farming project will be delivered by existing organisations, agencies and individuals in Middlesbrough. Some elements of the project are new - but many are already going on in the town operating under another name. Since the impulse is to create an enjoyable, sustainable, town-wide initiative, the project will engage with community groups, green-fingered schools, with community cafés, professional farmers, Finance Directors, hands-on mums and dads, hotel kitchen staff, the sales departments of local companies and coaching staff of Middlesbrough Fottball Club. They‚ll create their own gardens or ‘grow zones’ and bring their own food to the table.

What’s the opportunity for longer-term growing of food? How might urban agriculture in such a post-industrial community enable a more sustainable, zero-carbon economy? The project will chart the opportunity for permanent food-growing sites in the town in an opportunity map created by architects Bohn& Viljoen, designers at the forefront of creating what are known as ‘continuous productive urban landscapes’. The town’s new urban farmers will be mentored by a specially assembled team of local experts, made up of allotment holders, professional and amateur horticulturalists, students and domestic gods and goddesses who are already dab hands at growing food and are whisk-wielding wizards in the kitchen.

Impression of a single planter with giant rainbow chard

DOTT 07 is a year of art, design and community based projects devoted to enabling social innovation and make a positive difference to daily lives. Supported by the U.K. Design Council and regional economic development agency One North East, DOTT 07 seeks to enable new work by designers in real-life situations. In Middlesbrough, agriculture, well-being, design and land use are fusing to envisage a new, sustainable future for a place founded on heavy industry.

Senior Producer: David Barrie,
Service Design: Nina Belk, Zest Innovation,
Domain Expert: Debra Solomon,

Middlesbrough UK 2006-2007
A joint initiative between One North East, the Design Council, agencies, organisations, employers, the Third Sector and the people of Middlesbrough, England.

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