Edible Estates is a community interest company established in 2017 to promote and establish community growing projects, particularly in Council estates. At this time our work is focussed in Edinburgh, but we hope to work in other Scottish cities in the near future.
The term ‘Edible Estates’ was first coined by Fritz Haeg an American architect/activist, involved in the creation of edible landscapes in the suburbs of American cities. We have developed the idea as a framework for the regeneration of greenspace around social housing estates, principally through the development of community food growing projects.
Whilst local food is a goal, community growing projects also provide an opportunity to encourage and support residents to become involved in their community, learn new skills, and improve their health & well-being. They can have a positive impact upon the communities in which they are based, increasing the environmental sustainability, and supporting the development of local community resilience.
Since 2021, we have delivered the ‘Edinburgh Growing Together’ project on behalf of Edinburgh Council. EGT supports community gardens across the Council’s estates.
Over the years, we have developed a variety of project models and services which can provide communities with inspiration and a starting off point in developing their own ideas for community greenspace projects. The sidebar on the right lists the model and services we have developed thus far.
There are many kinds of community gardens, we work with two models, which can be used independently or in a blended approach. At Neighbourhood Gardens, each household gets its own growing space to manage (4′ by 12′), at Community Growers sites the growers work as a group managing several growing sites across an estate.
We have developed the Growing Youth programme to provide training and work experience for young folk through the construction of our community gardens, learning joinery and landscaping skills.
We are also interested in Greenspace as a place for play and recreation. Our Natural Play workshops take children out to nearby woods and greenspaces for free play in the outdoors. We are also working with communities to develop local greenspaces as Community Parks with new play structures developed as community self-build projects.
We are particularly proud of the creation of School Farm projects in primary schools, where children are learning to grow throughout the year.
What features an Edible Estates project may have, would depend upon the existing greenspaces within a neighbourhood, and the needs, aspirations and capacity of the people who live there. In the Interventions section of our site you will find some of the methods we have developed over the past five years. Meanwhile, we have set out below our Manifesto; the things we think are important:-
In some estates, there is a lot greenspace maintained as amenity grassland. Whilst some grassed areas are required for recreation and clothes drying, some land could be put to better use, for example as food growing spaces, imaginative playspaces or wildflower meadows.
As they are, these grasslands represent a maintenance burden for the Council and/or residents, whilst cutting the grass may be good physical activity, this same effort could provide fresh, cheap and nutritious vegetables and encourage greater interaction and co-operation between neighbours.
The Edible Estates model is mostly about other things we can do with greenspace. We want to re-think greenspace within social housing estates as an asset which can contribute to personal and community well-being.
Growing food can be a very social activity, there’s opportunities to help out fellow growers with advice, plants, tools and mucking in with big jobs. It can create opportunities to meet new people and start new friendships. Whilst some people may want to manage a full size allotment growing lots of fruit and vegetables, others might be happy with a wee raised bed and a crop of herbs. Community food growing projects put an emphasis on the community aspect of growing.
Once we have grown food, we make sure to give folk support to ensure they know how to cook it into delicious and healthy meals. Coming together to eat is a powerful tool for promoting community, we always try to organise events and meetings around cooking and eating food.
Community greenspace regeneration projects can involve residents of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. It provides routes for personal and community capacity building, and visual evidence that positive changes are taking place through the regeneration of landscape.
More over, our goal is for each project to be self-sustaining through community management – participants supporting each other, and managing the project for themselves. We use community participative design workshops to build the capacity of a group to design their own project. This knowledge and experience is essential to understand the issues involved in the management of a community growing project. To this we add training and support to establish a community association to manage their project.
Co-production & Greenspace Management
Traditionally, the greenspace in housing estates has been managed by Councils with little direct involvement of local households. Some Councils now contract large landscaping firms to regenerate and maintain greenspace. These contractors often have little or no relationship with the local households.
In recent years, reducing budgets are limiting what Councils can do to maintain and upgrade landscapes, this opens up opportunities to encourage and support local households to take a role – sometimes called ‘co-production’. Best practice projects in community greenspace management have shown that multiple benefits come from involving communities in the design and management of their greenspace.
Our aspiration is to establish community enterprises to bid for contracts to manage greenspace on behalf of the local authorities. These enterprises would be managed by the communities they serve, and encourage and support households throughout the neighbourhood to grow their own, either in their own garden or at community food growing sites in the neighbourhood.
Training, Employment & Enterprise
We are keen to explore opportunities for creating employment through horticulture enterprises within the community, and on nearby agricultural land. It may be that the peripheral location of some council estates on the cities fringes can be turned to their advantage as they are close by good quality agricultural land which could be used to develop intensive horticultural operations providing local food to the city.
We want to create landscapes which are beautiful to live in, that provide wildlife habitat and which provide a community harvest. We support Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscapes scheme to establish wildflower meadows and reduced use reduced mowing strategies.
Health & Wellbeing
Community food growing projects are recognised as having a big impact upon the health and wellbeing of participants. If the project is sited within a community, the benefits can extend in some manner or form to everybody that lives there.
There is an awareness that the play facilities provided for children have been preoccupied with heath and safety rather than fun and adventure, and that children need ‘risk and challenge’ to develop in a healthy way. Playing and learning in natural outdoor environments is good for children – they’ve been doing it for thousands of years. It stimulates physical activity, promotes creativity and helps develop social skills. It can create an appreciation of the natural world, relieve stress, develop resilience and bring learning to life. And it’s a lot of fun.