During May we partnered up with Open Data Manchester and Everyday Growing Cultures to carry out a pilot mapping project in Old Trafford. The aim of the project was to produce a website with a toolkit to guide communities throughout the country to carry out their own mapping initiative with a goal of identifying unused plots of land for food growing.
The idea came after discovering a website in new York called 596acres.org, which mapped the vacant lots in Brooklyn, which totalled 596 acres.
We specifically wanted to: develop a map we could integrate with our existing FeedingManchester website; enable people to identify potential growing spaces; connect people interested in doing something on one or more sites; and more broadly try and change the way we think and talk about the unused spaces around us, particularly around council-owned land.
We contacted Steven Flower, from Open Data Manchester with our idea to trial somewhere in Manchester: http://opendatamanchester.org.uk/
Steven pulled in Farida Vis, who works on Everyday Growing Cultures, a Sheffield university project processing national allotment data, and looking for alternatives to allotments to ease the waiting list burden: http://www.communitiesandculture.org/projects/everyday-growing-cultures/
Together we came up with a plan to do 2 walking sessions to map the area and a final presentation.
The first mapping walk fell in that brief early summer at the beginning of May. We met at the St John’s Centre in Old Trafford, talked through the varying techniques for growing food in urban spaces, then went on to look at the methodology of mapping. In pairs, participants walked a segment of Old Trafford, taking photos and recording vital statistics, such as aspect, water supply, security, and surface materials, for any site they thought could be used for food growing,. Sites identified included ginnels, grassed over areas, derelict plots and unloved nooks ad crannies.
14 people turned up to help map for the first session, and at the repeat two weeks later, another 12 people turned out to pound the pavements.
On their return to the centre, their photos and data were uploaded to populate the map being created using Crowdmap.com, a free online tool: https://growingoldtrafford.crowdmap.com/
As a group we mapped around 166 acres of Old Trafford, and identified 82 sites which the participants thought could be used for food growing. These totalled an impressive 5.2 acres.
Based on a survey of urban food production in New York City, this could produce around 40,000kg’s of fruit and vegetable, which could have a financial value of over £200,000: www.farmingconcrete.org
That’s a lot of food, potentially putting a lot of people in profitable work.
We saw a huge amount of enthusiasm from Old Trafford residents and we are planning to support them in their efforts to use the data gathered to start growing food on previously unused land in the area. We plan to organise a study vist by Old Trafford residents to visit Phil Dodd and team at Moss Side Community Allotment. We also intend to produce a paper copy of the map we developed to display in Old Trafford and to collect expressions of interest and other information from local people on an on-going basis. We are going to contact Trafford Council to try and find out ownership information for a handful of the sites which seemed to have the most potential.
We are very grateful to both Steven and Farida for making this a reality and to Erinma and Caroline for their film coverage. We’d like to thank all of the 25 or so people who came along during May to take part and to the St John’s Centre for their wonderful hosting.