What factors support and promote home-based food-growing in four neighbourhoods in SW Sheffield?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

“The real food world happens as much in the back garden as it does on the hundred acre fields of potatoes … Unless we harness the skills and resources of gardeners as a serious part of our national food supply and integrate it into our whole approach to life, then the entire business of feeding ourselves healthily and economically, as well as the social and mental health of the nation will suffer...”- Monty Don, 2008 Lady Eve Balfour Memorial Lecture, Soil Association

Graduate School of the Environment School of Computing and Technology
Centre for Alternative Technology, University of East London
Machynlleth, Docklands Campus
Powys 4-6 University Way
SY20 9AZ London
UK E16 2RD
tel: 01654 705981 tel: 020 8223 3000

Preface, Abstract, Acknowlegements

The purpose of this thesis was to research home-based food-growing in four neighbourhoods in Sheffield utilizing primary research carried out by the author.
The chief areas of interest were:
• comparisons of the extent of food-growing in each neighbourhood based on education, income, and community involvement and activism,
• reasons for growing or not growing,
• level of concern regarding threats to food security from peak oil, climate change, and resulting instability brought on by rising prices,
• types of support needed for growing efforts,
• the potential for resiliency in the promotion and support of home-based food-growing,
• additional issues such as soil contamination, allotments, and related behaviours such as organic food consumption, exercise, health impacts and money saving efforts.
Context was established with literature review and primary research was conducted using a Grounded Theory model.
Using social research methods, including questionnaire, interview, and observation, four neighbourhoods in SW Sheffield were assessed to determine what factors are most likely to promote and support home-based food-growing. 68 questionnaires and 29 interviews were analysed. Each household interviewed was assessed for growing potential by measuring land area available, land area in food cultivation, solar resource, and availability of tools.
The hypotheses that emerged was that the group of people studied who grow food do not generally do so because they are concerned about food supply or to save money. They grow food primarily because they enjoy gardening, find it therapeutic and they want the freshest produce. They would appreciate access to more land to grow on but very few are interested in an allotment due to lack of proximity and time to adequately utilise one. Those who grow the most food are likely to have a university degree and be aware of threats to food security from peak oil and climate change. The most highly valued source of advice and training across the group are family members and other gardeners. Having a high level of personal community involvement and living within a neighbourhood that is active not only in growing but also socially is a key factor in the likelihood and/or the desire to grow food. The most successful growers live near and interact with other successful growers. Those who do not grow list lack of land and time as the primary reason, but the chances of growing are higher in neighbourhoods with more community involvement regardless of other factors.
Thanks to all who advised me and/or served on my peer review panel; Richard Clare, Anne Marie Culhane, Alaster Douglas, Heather Hunt, Dave Oxford, Maughan Pierce, Vanessa Senger, Jerry Simon, and Stephen Watts. Thanks to my thesis tutor Alison Pooley whose valued fortnightly advice kept me on track, to my thesis supervisor Melissa Taylor whose early encouragement insured perseverance, and to Bryony Benfield for her professionalism and reliability during my tenure at CAT. Thanks to Helen Sharma for putting in a good word for me when it counted and to Joan Randle for heeding it. Thanks to Graeme for advice, morale support and good cheer. Thanks especially to my wife Jacqui for giving me the time and support to do this degree, for transcribing the interviews, for her unbiased editing and proofing skills, and for encouraging me in the garden.

Table of Contents

Title page
Preface and Abstract
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
List of Illustrations and Figures
Chapter 1 - Introduction, Literature Review and Context
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Food Security
Bio Diversity
Urban Agriculture and the Developed World
Chapter 2 - Methodology And Method
The Questionnaire
Questionnaire Analysis Procedure
The Interviews
Interview Analysis Procedure
Chapter 3 – Primary Research
Neighbourhood Tenancy
Community Activism, Social Activities, and Resources
Neighbourhood #1
Neighbourhood #2
Neighbourhood #3
Neighbourhood #4
Land Use in the Neighbourhood
The Best Growers
Education, Climate Change and Peak Oil
Why Do They Grow?
Who Buys Organic Food and Why?
Citizen Detail #1
Local Food
What Do They Need to Grow?
Age and Growing
Citizen Detail #2
Project Details #1
Project Details #2
Soil Testing and Contamination
Chapter 4 – Analysis of Method
Chapter 5 – Conclusions and Recommendations
Education, Climate Change and Peak Oil
Ownership, Land, and Activism
Food Security
Food Choices and Health
Motivation to Grow Food
What do they need to grow more?
Composting and Allotments
Resilience and Policy
Summary - A Better Way
Further Research Suggested
Bibliography and References
#1 Glossary
#2 Research Diary sample
#3 Intro letter, Questionnaire, and Interview Request Letter
#4 Questionnaire Analysis Sample “Income”
#5 Questionnaire Analysis Sample “By Neighbourhood”
#6 Sample from Questionnaire Data Sheet
#7 Categorisation of Interview Questions and Responses
#8 Sample from Interview Analysis Document
#9 From the Sheffield City Council Website
#10 Boston Globe Contamination Article
#11 Chemical Cocktails
#12 Resource Pamphlet

List of Abbreviations and Acronyms

As – arsenic
Cd – cadmium
CLEA - Contaminated Land Exposure Assessment
Cr – chromium
CVD – Cardiovascular disease
DEFRA – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
ESRC - Economic and Social Research Council
FCRN – Food Climate Research Network
Fe – iron
FeS – iron sulphide
GHG – green house gas
LEAF – Local Enterprise Around Food
Ni – nickel
NVQ – National Vocational Qualification
Pb – lead
RHS – Royal Horticultural Society
RWH – rainwater harvesting
SASE – self addressed stamped envelope
So2 – sulphur dioxide
UA – urban agriculture
UEL – University of East London
VAT – value added tax

List of Charts, Illustrations and Figures

all charts and graphs are derived from my own data.

Photo - Sheffield back Garden
Chart #1 - Home Ownership
Chart #2 - Neighbourhood Comparison #1
Chart #3 - Neighbourhood Comparison #2
Chart #4 - How Many Grow What?
Chart #5 - How Many Grow How Much?
Chart #6 - Education of 14 Best Growers
Chart #7 - Mid or higher issues concerns
Chart #8 - Best Food Growers’ Food Choices
Chart #9 - Best Growers’ Income
Chart #10 - Confidence in Growing
Chart #11 - Money Saving Behaviours
Chart #12 - Income Distribution
Chart #13 - Income to Age
Chart #14 - Types of Food by Income
Chart #15 - Why They Grow
Chart #16 - Organic Perceptions
Chart #17 - How Many Buy How Much Organic?
Chart #18 - Local Food Purchased
Chart #19 - Why they do not grow
Chart #20 - Would Grow More If…
Chart #21 - Gardening Training
Chart #22 - Most valuable training resource
Chart #23 - Composters
Chart #24 - Free Compost delivered please
Chart #25 - Time Factors
Chart #26 - Fresh Cooking by Those in Need of More Time
Chart #27 - Meal Planning by Those in Need of More Time
Chart #28 - Types of Food Grown by Age
Chart #29 - Allotments
Chart #30 - Why No Allotments
Chart #31 - N1 and N4 comparison, allotment problems

Chapter 1 - Introduction, Literature Review and Context

A poll commissioned by the RHS in 2004 found,

“80% of the British population has access to a garden … of the 20% that don’t, half of them wish that they did … of those that had a garden only 2/3’s actively looked after it in any way and of that 2/3’s, less than half grow anything edible at all … the complaint was, from those that didn’t, is that they didn’t have time … but nevertheless they had time to work incredibly long hours to earn money to buy food, a third of which would be thrown away.” (Don 2008)

According to that survey only 20% of the British population grow food of any type.
Within living memory most of our food was grown locally and prepared in the family kitchen. Nowadays we have become almost completely dependent upon food supply chains spanning continents and oceans, using vast amounts of cheap fossil fuels. Food security depends not on our neighbours or fellow citizens but upon a tottering system of global finance and fossil fuel extraction.

As we increase our reliance on energy imports, so food grown or manufactured in this country will, relying as it does on energy inputs, be inherently import dependent. … measures to reduce the dependence of the food sector on energy inputs will … also increase food security.” (Garnett 2008 p.38)

If we look at just one staple crop, wheat, fossil fuels are used to manufacture and transport the agricultural chemicals involved, to harvest the crop, to dry the crop, to move the crop to processing facilities, to mill the crop, and to deliver the product. Even as far back as 1975, by the time the crop had been processed into a marketable product, procured and consumed, 37.6% of the energy embodied in a loaf of white bread had been expended on fertilisers and transport. (Chapman 1975 p.23)

More recent British and Dutch studies found the total amount of energy required and equivalent GHG emitted by the typical household for food consumption was roughly equal to energy use for all other household needs including the family car, a luxury also implicated in food chain emissions. (Vale 2000 Kramer K.J. et al., 1999 pgs.23-24)

“Emissions of CO2 from car journeys in the UK to purchase food rose by 27% between 1992 and 2002. They total about the same as those from heavy goods vehicles transporting food from mainland Europe.” (Millstone and Lang 2008 p.63)

Additionally, we are eating more foods out of season. A vegetable grown in a heated greenhouse requires 57 times more energy to produce than a vegetable grown in an open field. (Kol, Bieiot and Wilting 1993 p.28) In a world coping with peak oil this energy expenditure will become not only unaffordable but also unsustainable.

Such profligate energy use has implications far beyond food security.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions
As of 2007 the percentage breakdown of the approximately 18% of the UK GHG emissions attributable to food related activities is as follows;
5% - Fertilizer production
39% - Agriculture
6% - Transport from overseas
7% - UK transport
12% - Processing
5% - Packaging
5% - Retailing
8% - Catering
11% - Food preparation in the home
2% - Waste disposal
(Millstone and Lang 2008 p.63)

Refrigeration is not listed above but, as a necessary part of at least 5 of the above categories, is a major contributor,

“… the UK cold chain is responsible for something in the order of 15% of total food chain emissions.” (Garnett 2008 p.39)

Transport is involved in several of the above categories, not than just the two indicated, and is a significant contributor to emissions.

Between 1978 and 1999 the amount of food in transport in the UK increased by 16% while the miles traveled by food increased by 50%. (Paxton and Viljoen 2005 pgs.41-42) Research from September of 2008 published by the Food Climate Research Network indicates that air freighting of fruits and vegetables is particularly egregious,

“...while 1.5% of fruit and vegetables are carried by air, these foods account for 40% of all CO2 arising from fruit and vegetable transport.” (Garnett 2008 p.33)

If the UK switched to food produced entirely locally and organically it could reduce GHG emissions by 22% (Stanley 2002 p.25)

Additionally, as international transport increases due to globalisation, the infrastructure to support it helps to drive local enterprise out of business.

“The presence of new infrastructure makes it easier and cheaper to source from further afield and of course the cost of investment needs to be recouped. This fosters the continuation of, and increase in, long distance sourcing. By contrast, sources closer to home may be less economically attractive because labour costs are higher. … local enterprises go out of business, leaving no closer-to-home choice available.” (Garnett 2008 p.35)

This has negative impacts on local economic resilience.

Food Security
“Food security means that all people at all times should have physical and economic access to sufficient, affordable, safe and nutritious food necessary and appropriate for a healthy life, and the security of knowing that this access is sustainable in the future. … Addressing the problem may involve looking at income levels and the availability of refrigeration services, but also, Holben (2003, p161) argues, can be addressed at wider levels including participation in community gardens, learning about gardening, education on nutrition, food storage and preparation, and food safety education.” (Dowler et al. 2001 p.25)

The UK government acknowledges that many of its citizens have limited access to enough healthy food either due to low income or a paucity of retail establishments selling healthy options. (Tomkins 2006 p.27)

“And as new, urban lifestyles lead greater numbers of people to consume more fats and less fibre, more fast food and fewer home-cooked meals, … Urban and peri-urban agriculture can help improve food security in several ways: growing food at home or via a cooperative reduces the cost burden of acquiring food for the poor, puts more food within their reach, and reduces seasonal gaps in fresh produce.” (FAO 2005 p. 1)

The poor are not the only ones at risk. Even the more well off have become dependent upon supply chains spanning the globe for foods delivered out of season and none too fresh.

“Growing your own, it is argued, can protect a nation from the vagaries of economic and climatic conditions overseas. … is there a specific risk avoidance argument for shortening the supply chain?” (Garnett 2008 p.38)

While shortened supply chains can work to increase food security they can also decrease it, i.e., if a local populace is completely dependent upon food locally grown then it is at the mercy of climatic conditions and events. However, if it is totally reliant on foreign food it is at the mercy of problems anywhere along the supply chain. A position that reduces the risks inherent in both instances is called for. (Garnett 2008 p.38)

Bio Diversity
Industrial agriculture is reducing the bio diversity of our food supply through the loss of heirloom varieties of produce and seeds. In the US 97% of the original varieties of vegetables and fruit have been lost. Worldwide it is estimated that only 10% of the variety of crops that have been developed in the past are still being farmed. (Millstone and Lang 2008 pgs.38, 58) The UK has suffered as well,

“… over 12 years the average number of plant species in arable fields has fallen by 29%. Wildlife too is under threat and even cultivated crops are becoming more uniform. … There are … 2000 varieties of apple in the National Collection of the UK but today just nine dominate our commercial orchards.” (Raven et al. 1995 p.49)

The wider environment is also being degraded as we convert habitat to mono crop agriculture and pastureland worldwide. Ironically, where rural lands have been degraded by industrial agriculture, urban areas are sometimes havens for flora and fauna.

“… the urban environment is often already richer in flora and fauna than rural farm land; beehives in cities actually produce more honey than those in the country because cities are home to more trees and flowers than most parts of the modern countryside.”(National Federation of City Farms 1996 p.49)

The UK suffers from over nutrition. 8% of men were considered obese in the 1980s, 22% were obese by 2005. For women, the number went from 9% to 24%. The situation is worse in the US. (Millstone and Lang 2008 pgs.26-29)

The developed world has undergone a nutrition transition characterized by,

“• a decline in the traditional staple foods … such as pulses and oilseeds
• an increase in intakes of fat, sugar, salt, and often animal foods
• an increase in alcohol consumption …
• an increase in the consumption of refined and processed foods
• an overall reduction in dietary diversity
Such changes in diet have an impact on health, leading to an increase in diet-related diseases, such as late-onset diabetes, some cancers and cardiovascular disease.” (Millstone and Lang 2008 p.82)

The nutritional quality of food marketed as “fresh” is declining due to the vagaries of the globalisation as well.

There is growing evidence that fresh seasonal food has significant health benefits. Local seasonal foods are consumed closer to their peak of ripeness, which increases the intake of health promoting phyto-chemicals found in the color and aromatic qualities of ripe produce. (Leitzmann 2005 p.758)

“Diets high in fresh fruit and salad vegetables appear protective against cancer and CVD. It is important to take into account the seasonality of consumption in estimating and establishing significance of risk.” (Cox et al. 1999 p.55)

Produce that is both fresh and seasonal can be hard to find, unless you grow it yourself and doing so is a healthy thing to do, in and of itself. Gardening as therapy was recognised in Sheffield by Dr. William Buchan in the 1760s. He observed better health and fitness in gardeners.

“‘… the very smell of the earth and fresh herbs revive and cheer the spirits, whilst the perpetual prospect of something coming to maturity delights and entertains the mind’.” (Buchan 1760 p.143)
Currently in Sheffield, Richard Clare, a local organic gardener and permaculture teacher runs a well attended social and therapeutic horticulture course on a yearly basis through the Sheffield Organic Food Initiative. (Clare 2008 p.1)

Research was done on Sheffield city topsoils in 2005.

“A model of soil variability … was applied to 569 measurements of metal concentrations … in the topsoils of Sheffield … Each of the 35 spatial outliers that occurred in gardens have concentrations exceeding their Soil Guideline Value for residential land use with plant uptake, highlighting a potentially significant exposure pathway. … coal and furnace waste at these sites suggests that their dispersal … represents a significant point contaminant process. … Cr and Ni showed a significant association with disturbed sites … in part due to their prevalence in areas of historical steel manufacture. … Pb concentrations in urban topsoil … were twice the value in the rural environment … highlighting a very substantial diffuse Pb load to urban soils.” (Rawlins et al. 2005 p.353)

Sheffield has centuries of mining activity and steel works that has impacted the soil quality both through direct dumping of waste and airborne deposition of contaminants.

According to Richard Clare, “In the ‘70s in Sheffield due to industrial pollution, there was a public health recommendation not to grow food anywhere in the city.” (Worthington 2008)

Complicating the situation is the difficulty in getting reliable recommendations from soil testing. While there are laboratories to get contamination testing done,

“There are no widely available reference materials for bioaccessibility testing validated against human or appropriate animal in-vivo studies. … For lead, comparing in vitro data with human in vivo data indicated that the in vitro methods used by most of the laboratories in England and Wales underestimate bioaccessibility. … This is clearly a matter of concern if such test results are used to make decisions within the risk management of land contamination. (Barnes et al. 2007 p.67)

Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires “… a science based risk assessment which takes account of toxicological information, and site specific … circumstances” to determine if significant possibility of significant harm (SPOSH) exists. The Act also “requires that local authorities identify contaminated land and ensure that significant risks are dealt with.” (Defra 2008 p.3) DEFRA published a software tool, the Contaminated Land Exposure Assessment (CLEA), to assist local authorities with this. The Act establishes to what degree remediation must occur primarily through a link to planning and development requirements.
The guidance provided by DEFRA is intended to assist local authorities, not the individual, with implementation of the Act. (Defra 2008 p.3) By leaving assessment of contamination primarily up to the planning process, are backyard gardens and existing allotment sites being overlooked? How does the homeowner or allotment holder gain access to CLEA tool for assessment of exposure on allotment sites? (COT 2008 p.1) My queries to the council to determine the extent of compliance have received no reply. See appendix #9 for details from the Sheffield City Council website regarding implementation of The Environmental Protection Act.

Research done by Dr. Rule, professor of biogeochemistry Loyola University, indicates that,

“Most soil contaminants will bind tightly to the soil particles and will move very slowly to the soil below.” (Rule 2008)

With the increasing interest in urban agriculture in Sheffield, are more of its’ citizens being exposed to existing, unmeasured, contamination of the soils?

“… vegetables, particularly leafy crops, grown in heavy metals contaminated soils have higher concentrations of heavy metals than those grown in uncontaminated soil. (Guttormsen et al. 1995; Dowdy and Larson 1995) A major pathway of soil contamination is through atmospheric deposition of heavy metals from point sources such as: metaliferous mining, smelting and industrial activities. … foliar uptake of atmospheric heavy metals emissions has also been identified as an important pathway of heavy metal contamination in vegetable crops. (Bassuk 1986; Salim et al. 1992)” (Kachenko and Singh 2004 p.1)

Given the lack of guidance for the individual citizen regarding the risks of food-growing in the city from soil contamination, as well as the evidence that there could very well be significant contamination, it seems prudent to apply the precautionary principle and assume that soils within Sheffield are guilty until proven innocent.

Urban Agriculture and the developed world

The food supply in Sheffield, like many western cities, is heavily dependent on cheap energy. With the onset of peak oil and the projected shifts in growing seasons and rainfall patterns due to climate change, the developed world could soon begin to resemble the developing world. Food security in urban areas will become more of an issue.

“In the ESRC Global Environmental Change Programme report (2001) the problem of food poverty in the UK ‘where 20 per cent of the population cannot afford healthy food especially where fuel and rent take priority’ is worthy of inclusion in a booklet about environmental justice.” (Sheriff 2005 p.35)

As fuel poverty increases, so too will food poverty.
Valuable lessons can be learned by the developed world about urban agriculture in the developing world. There are obvious similarities: land and labour are at a premium. Labour saving technologies to enhance intensification and verticalisation are called for. Land is likely to already be burdened with contamination and proximity to dense population makes use of agrochemicals especially dangerous. Preservation of the limited soil and water resources is of paramount concern.

“… we pay for our food three times: firstly at the shop, secondly through subsidies via our taxes and thirdly through the cost of clean up. In terms of water pollution, for example, UK water companies have had to spend £1 billion to filter pesticide residues out of drinking water (Lang and Heasman 2004, p224).” (Sheriff 2005 p.30)

Regulations will need to be drafted and enforced to ensure that urban agriculture doesn’t create additional health issues.

The differences between rural farming and urban agriculture (UA) mean that different approaches must be utilised when considering how best to plan for and implement strategies and policies to support UA. Urban populations are more heterogeneous than rural farming communities. Social networks are likely to play a more important role compared to technical knowledge. Food security is not the only issue; financial resilience can be enhanced as well. (RUAF 2001 p.76)

Just as on larger farms, income can be improved through the production and marketing of produce and value added products.

“One example of a successfully implemented strategy to enhance micro enterprise development in urban agriculture is the Brazilian initiative PROVE … a programme designed to promote and sustain small agricultural production, processing and trade involving several urban agricultural systems such as vegetable gardening, fruit production and livestock systems with low-income groups as the principal beneficiaries.” (RUAF 2001 p.56)

Policy makers and activists should plan for this type of development with policies dealing with access to land and credit, land tenure, market support, waste and hygiene, and training programmes. Production businesses foster processing business, as well as input and service delivery business. (RUAF 2001 p.52) Urban growers will have a better knowledge of the local markets and have less impacts and costs due to transportation than rural farmers. (RUAF 2001 p.46)

Chapter 2 - Methodology and Method

At the time I was deciding on a thesis topic, peak oil and climate change were becoming more widely accepted as threats to our food supply. The issues of food crisis, food miles, and the carbon footprint of food were prominent in the media. Allotments are thoroughly researched but I found very little investigation of home-based food-growing. The majority of the population has no access to an allotment for one reason or another. I believe that more and more people will turn to growing in their own home gardens as the economy worsens.

On my own I was unlikely to get enough data to be statistically significant, therefore qualitative social research was required rather than a more quantitative approach. Because of the small sample group, I expected no more than for the data to point out relevant trends and issues. I knew little about the topic at the outset and needed the flexibility to alter my approach as I learned. I thought it more useful to discover the reality on the ground rather than formulating a hypothesis in advance and attempting to prove it. As Grounded Theory is designed for just such a situation I settled on that approach, utilizing questionnaires as well as interviews for data gathering.

“A grounded theory study seeks to generate a theory which relates to the particular situation forming the focus of the study. This theory is ‘grounded’ in data obtained during the study, particularly in the actions, interactions and processes of the people involved.” (Robson 2002 p.190)

Based on study of Robson’s Real World Research I decided to form an informal peer review panel and keep a research diary. (Robson 2002 p.1) The first entry is March 7th 2008 and the final entry is October 28th 2008. Many of the entries mirror the updates I sent to Alison Pooley, my thesis supervisor, every two weeks. See appendix #2.

I also consulted Gilham’s Developing a Questionnaire and The Research Interview during the formative stages of my research design and decided to triangulate my data through questionnaires, interviews, and direct observation. (Gilham 2007, 2004)

“Data triangulation … to enhance the rigour of the research … involves the use of more than one method of data collection.” (Robson 2002 p.174)

The returned questionnaires would inform the design of the interviews. I rejected a sample questionnaire due to time constraints and instead planned follow-up telephone interviews if required.

While the SW side of Sheffield is home to affluent ethnically homogenous neighbourhoods it also contains both ethnically and financially diverse neighbourhoods. To ensure a level of diversity across and within the groups and thus increase the relevance of the research, I picked four very different sample neighbourhoods.

Initially, I hoped to not only learn about home growing but also to be instrumental in promoting and supporting growers in some way. Options for financing support was only available for one neighbourhood so I discarded this idea other than to provide a list of resources to all who returned the questionnaire and wished further contact. See appendix #12. I also rejected assessing yields from active growers, as it was not likely to give me data that would be comparable to other growers due to the heterogenous nature of the sample group. It would also be misleading in terms of food security or health of diet, as I would not be following the produce to table or doing a study on household diet.

My peer review panel consisted of a professional psychologist, several professional activists, the most prominent food grower in Sheffield, several activist amateur growers, and a doctoral student at Oxford. We discussed, separately and in groups, home-based food-growing and factors that might be involved in its promotion and support as well as social research technique. Advice regarding social research texts, questionnaire design, neighbourhoods of interest, and the activities of organisations and activists centered on food in the Sheffield area was gratefully received. I practised my interview technique, using a laptop and USB microphone, by recording and transcribing several of the individual discussions.
The Questionnaire
After careful consideration of the issues I believed to be most pertinent, I formulated a set of preliminary closed questions and began with the layout, keeping it brief and simple, avoiding jargon and technical terms or too great a reliance on opinion based responses. (Gilham 2007 p.26) I created a questionnaire divided into 6 sections, each with 3 to 6 questions; Demographics, Environmental/Resource Concerns, Household Practises, Gardening, Personal Health and Other Factors. The 5 Environmental/Resource Concerns questions are the only ones that are belief or opinion based. I used pre-selected scaled responses to facilitate analysis.

Each of the 136 questionnaires included a letter of introduction explaining my research as well as a SASE to ensure its return. I personally delivered 95% of them to households by knocking on doors. Except for 7 questionnaires delivered by friends I never left a questionnaire without talking to the resident. Expecting no better than 30% return, I was delighted to receive 50% back. See appendix #3.

Questionnaire Analysis Procedure
I intended to set up a spreadsheet for one question at a time beginning with income. All responses were sorted by income and neighbourhood. See appendix #4. Upon completion I realised that due to 9 recipients choosing not to answer the income question on the survey, the data on this spreadsheet was useless except for analyzing factors correlating to income alone. I therefore created spreadsheets that produced totals for each response in each neighbourhood but these proved too cumbersome for determining correlations between factors. See appendix #5.

At this point I considered using statistical analysis software. My supervisor, Alison Pooley procured some statistical software for me to try out. After spending two days sourcing a PC, reformatting it, and loading windows and the software, I discovered the activation key for the software that had been provided had expired and I was faced with trying to get another one from UEL. I had already lost time on this and I decided not to pursue it any further as I had little faith in getting it up and running expediently. Had I been familiar with this resource prior to starting on my questionnaire design I believe I could have made good use of it. Instead, I was left to hand count and correlate responses.

For example, I separated the surveys based on what food types each household grew. I would then go through each pile looking for high numbers of responses to other questions. I discovered, for instance, that all but 1 of the respondents growing all 4 food types have a first degree or higher educational qualification. I further subdivided the groups looking for well-educated growers who grow the most who also expressed a high degree of concern for climate change. I did this for every question. All these numbers were recorded on a data sheet that grew to 44 pages. See appendix #6. In compiling the thesis, I used the spreadsheets and data sheets to assemble charts.

The Interviews
Anyone returning a questionnaire and expressing a willingness to participate in further research was contacted again. See appendix #3. The majority of them agreed to be interviewed. Only 3 either later cancelled or did not show up. I compiled a set of questions that complemented the questionnaire and then customised each interview based on personal responses. For example, I did not ask interviewee 13 what prevented him from getting an allotment because he indicated he had an allotment. 29 interviews were completed. Most interviews occurred in the their homes where I also measured the gardens, assessed solar resource, and noted gardening infrastructure. Interviews were recorded and all interview responses were transcribed onto the question sheet produced for the interview.

Interview Analysis Procedure
I grouped the questions into categories. I then grouped relevant interview questions under the category. For example,
Category A. Involvement in community
How long have you lived in this neighbourhood?
How well do you know your neighbours? any that grow food?
Are you familiar with any neighbourhood community activism since you have lived here?
Would you participate in neighbourhood growing?
Would you be interested in gardening in someone else’s yard?
Would you allow others to grow food in your garden?

See appendix #7. Next, I copied the answers to each question from the text of the transcriptions into the analysis document being careful to label each response with the interview number and color code by neighbourhood. See appendix #8.

By picking key concepts mentioned in the responses and counting the number of times a respondent used language relating to that concept I found and charted trends.
For example, the level of community activism known about and/or participated in varied drastically from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. I established an index of community activism based on key words given in the interviews. I did the same for social activities. I listed key words and indicated the percentage of the interviewees in each neighbourhood who mentioned either a word or a concept that implied neighborhood social activities. For instance, when one individual mentioned a “new mums” group and another mentioned ”Sure Start” I put a 1 next to parents/kids in the list. Similarly, I put a 1 next to community whenever an individual used that word or mentioned an organisation that is about community building; I only indicated one tick per category per person. If no-one in N#1 ever mentioned a category that someone else in another neighbourhood did, then N#1 received a 0 for that category. I converted these numbers to percentages; if a neighbourhood had 2 mentions of a category out of 5 total interviews they received 40% for the category. Averaging the percentages, including all the percentages for unmentioned categories, delivered a number to be used for comparison. For instance, N#1 received a 19% score for community activism, which is the highest of all four neighbourhoods, while it scored 21% for social activities. N#4 scored 9% for community activism while it scored 22% for social activities. While these scores seem low, N#4 is actually the most socially active. A neighbourhood could only receive a 100% score if every person interviewed mentioned every category. So the numbers are only relevant as comparisons between neighbourhoods.

Chapter 3 – Primary Research

Neighbourhood Tenancy
Chart #1 shows the breakdown between tenants and owner-occupiers. Within the sample of 29 interviews in the four neighbourhoods the average neighbourhood tenancy was 11 years with a median of 5 years, a max of 61 years, and a min of 1 year or less. Of the 8 tenants, 1 believes gardening would not be acceptable to the landlord, 5 are active growers, 63%, 3 of whom are aware of or involved in activism. Of the 21 owner-occupiers, 17 are growing, 81%, 14 are aware of or involved in activism.

Community Activism, Social Activities and Resources chart #2

Chart #2 shows a comparison of various factors across the neighbourhoods. The parameter total sq m indicates the overall size of the home garden while sq m in food indicates how much of it is planted in food crops. Solar res for solar resource, is a subjective rough estimate, done with compass in hand, based on a comparison of all properties’ shading and aspect.

I established an index of community activism and social activities based on key words given in the interviews. The most commonly cited issue across all four neighbourhoods was parking, though absent in neighborhood #1’s responses, the only neighborhood that had any activism relating to transport, with organised bike rides and walks. Organisation, with the highest level of responses, was indicative of any mention of an issue involving some degree of organisation such as meetings, petitions, leaflets, networks or forums.

Neighbourhood #1
Chosen for of its reputation for being activist, the neighborhood organisation is largely centered on sustainability issues. A resident professional activist has been organising this neighborhood on issues ranging from micro generation to food. All 5 households interviewed, some who have been in the neighborhood only a short time, knew their neighbors and knew neighbors who grow food. 11 of the 13 households that returned a questionnaire grew food, the second highest percentage among all 4 neighborhoods surveyed. As interviewee #2 put it,
“Around this area there are a lot of people with allotments and decent sized gardens they can grow in. I would say that three quarters are already growing a reasonable amount of food.”
Every household surveyed except 1 had some experience with allotments and 4 had their own allotment. This neighborhood along with N#4 had more residents expressing a greater need for more time than for a bigger garden in order to grow more food. It should be noted however that both neighborhoods had the largest back gardens and the best solar resource. This neighborhood had an average garden size of 110.4m2 but with only 5 interviews, one at 376m2 and one at 0, by removing those two, the more realistic average is 58.6m2. An average 8.1m2 is in food cultivation. With every single house having a southern or SW aspect, the average solar resource is 8.3 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best. One household, a rental, has only south facing windows and no land available. Every house except that one has tools available. 2 of the 5 practise vermiculture, 3 of the 5 practise composting and RWH.
Even within this very active neighborhood, only 2 were willing to own up to influencing their neighbors to grow food. 3 of the 5 stated that they had been influenced in some way by having neighbors who grow food.

Neighbourhood #2
Chosen as a null group, the residents in N#2 have a remarkably low level of involvement in any neighborhood activism. With a mixed length of tenure and no consistent level of interaction, very few residents know more than their immediate neighbours. The only issue mentioned was a council parking scheme. Interviewee #10 said that the parents of the neighborhood are known to be quite militant about their children’s education but no one claimed to have been involved in any sort of collective activity pertaining to this issue, indeed this situation was described as “anarchy”. Interviewee #29 described being an activist as an “unreachable ideal”. The neighborhood was also described as insular. Interviewee #9 said she had put up a screen to reduce her exposure, prior to which she used to chat over the fence with her neighbors. Several attributed the low levels of neighbourly interactions to high student population and the transient nature of the area. In fact, all 3 students interviewed in this neighborhood are at least aware of activism in the area and 2 are the most involved of all those interviewed here. These two also know their neighbors better than the non-students in the neighborhood. This is also the case in N#3.

Of the 9 households interviewed, 7 own their own home. This neighborhood has the second smallest gardens and solar resource with 29m2 average garden size and 3.6m2 average area under food cultivation. This is misleading as so few grow food and one has 19m2 under food cultivation. If that number is zeroed the average drops to 1.5m2, which makes this neighborhood the worst for food-growing based on area in cultivation. The average solar resource is 6.5 out of 10. One house has no southern exposure for the garden, only south facing windows. Every house except that one has tools available. 3 of the 9 interviewed practise vermiculture, composting and/ or RWH, but not the same 3 for each. Not surprisingly, this neighborhood has the second lowest level of food-growing with 61% of residents surveyed. Of the 18 households that returned a questionnaire, 11 are growing food but only 5 of the interviewees said they knew any neighbors who grow food.

72% of surveyed households have university training which would suggest an understanding of the challenges facing the UK relating to energy and climate and thus the food supply, yet there seems to be a complete disengagement with the issues at a neighborhood level. They do not appear to be at all interested in working together to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. There are individuals growing food here, even a composting specialist, but because the neighbors cannot be bothered to get to know each other, that resource and potential for common knowledge and effort is being wasted. Not surprisingly, only one of the food growers interviewed here said they had had any influence on their neighbors, accomplished in the form of gifting plants, pots, compost and advice. Conversely, 4 of the 5 interviewees who do grow stated that seeing their neighbors growing did influence them to grow. Chart #3 shows a comparison between the total number of households surveyed, how many are growing, garden size and solar resource.

Chart #3 Neighbourhood comparisons #2

Neighbourhood #3
With Asians, Turks, Britons, Africans, Chinese, students, seniors, families, and singles, N#3 was chosen for its diversity. It is also the least well off neighborhood in the cohort. 53% of those answering the income question on the survey are in the 20k or under group, whereas only 8% are in that bracket in N#4, 27% in N#1, and 47% in N#2. In spite of this, 73% of the surveyed households have a resident qualified up to at least first degree. Being a lower income area with significant amounts of council housing, there are several funded organisations with offices in the area addressing community issues. These organisations serve to unite the neighborhood and give the residents a forum. As a result, there are high levels of responses to queries regarding community activism.
The tenants and students are among the most active here. When asked about the primary reasons to grow, interviewee #22, a tenant, recent graduate and community activist responded, “To be self sufficient, to have some kind of support in this impending food crisis. To know we have something sustainable for a long period of time. Not just for me, but for whoever has the allotment next or who lives in this house next.” Interviewee #14, a tenant and student, spoke of the ethical considerations of growing and is spearheading a neighbourhood gardening group. Another tenant has now started a community garden for his housing estate. In fact every tenant in N#3 that I interviewed expressed some sort of involvement or interest in community issues.
This neighborhood has the smallest gardens, averaging 26.5m2 with 2.2m2 in food production, and the worst average solar resource at 5.3 out of 10. Only 2 of the 8 houses interviewed have any southerly exposure. As in N#2, only 5 know a neighbour who grows at least 1 type of food while 13 of 23 surveyed are actually growing food. Every household interviewed except 2 has tools available.
This neighborhood is anything but insular; it hosts several street festivals a year and there are often people on the street. Several of those interviewed expressed the opinion that the neighborhood is very active and aware, including politically. Every single individual I interviewed in this neighborhood stated that they have been or are active in the community. All 4 of those interviewees who grow or have grown stated that they have noticed an influence attributable to food-growing, whether theirs or not. 5 of the interviewees state that they have noticed and been influenced in some way by neighbours’ food-growing.
Neighbourhood #4
This neighborhood is active, highly organised and the wealthiest one I researched. Of the 12 who answered the income question, 10 are in the 31k or higher brackets with 6 in the 71k or higher bracket. Everyone knows their neighbors. They have the largest gardens, averaging 174m2 with an average of 18m2 in food cultivation. 5 of the 7 households interviewed have southerly exposure. The solar resource is slightly behind N#1’s at an average 7.6 out of 10. Every house interviewed has tools available. 3 practise vermiculture, 5 practise RWH, 6 practise composting.
While having 37% more garden space compared to N#1 the growers in this neighbourhood have on average 56% more area planted in food. However, only 1 surveyed in this neighbourhood has and is active on an allotment while in N#1, 4 are working an allotment, 3 of them are working more than one. There is another striking difference between these 2 neighbourhoods. Both are very community orientated and active but in very different ways. N#1 is committed to community activism while N#4, though not disengaged from community activism, is more involved in social gatherings like Christmas parties, jam making, open garden days, mums’ support groups, and coffee mornings. They are highly organised around growing food.
They have banded together to purchase a shredder and have 3 other tool and resource sharing schemes. When one elder gardener fell ill, a neighbouring couple stepped in to keep his garden in veggies.
While they all grow food, only 4 of the 7 interviewees in this neighbourhood stated that they had either been asked for advice or influenced others in the neighbourhood to grow food. Interviewee #19 said he does not participate in the neighbourhood social gatherings. The other 3 do participate, or have done, and may underestimate the influence potential of simply being another food grower in a neighbourhood of food growers. Interviewee #27 said, “We are British; we don’t talk to our neighbours”, I assume in jest, as there is every indication in the rest of her interview that she does. Only 2 of the 7 said neighbours who grow food had influenced them.

Land Use in the Neighbourhoods Charts #4 and #5

Chart #4 shows the breakdown of what is being grown amongst all households surveyed while Chart #5 shows how many grow how many food types amongst all households surveyed.
Of those who do not grow much if at all, regardless of educational level, most believe they do not have enough land available to them to make it worthwhile. Of the 10 with a first degree and midrange or higher concern for climate change who do not grow any food, 7 feel they need a bigger garden. 4 of the 5 who only grow 1 food type would grow more if they had a bigger garden. Of the 8 with A level or lower who do not grow, 7 would grow more with more land. 2 of the 3 who only grow 1 food item would grow more with more land.
A UK study done in 1942 investigated food-growing in home gardens and found that while only using 14% of the available garden for food, yields were as high as the best farmland. Yields averaged 7.1 tonnes per acre while agricultural land only averaged 6.3 tonnes per acre at that time. (Tomkins 2006 p.45) In my research I did not look at yields but I did measure the amount of land dedicated to food-growing. In N#1 the average percentage of land given over to growing at home is 10.5%, in N#2 - 22.2%, in N#3 - 26.5%, and in N#4 - 10.3%. This is misleading however, because as we shall see in the next section, N#1 and #4 have the biggest gardens, have more residents growing more food and in the case of N#1 have the most allotments.

The Best Growers Charts #6 through #9

Question 18, “What are you currently growing?” had 5 pertinent responses; nothing, medicinal or cooking herbs, leafy vegetables, root crops, fruit and/or berries. A look at the factors that were common to all or most of these “best” growers might be instructive.

In Chart #6 the educational qualifications of those growing all 4 food types, the best growers, are indicated. All but one of the best growers households have a resident with a first degree or higher. Though it is not certain whether increasing levels of education means more likelihood of food-growing within this cohort, it is not unreasonable to expect so.

The high level of educational qualification is reflected in high levels of concern for peak oil and energy prices as well as food supply and food prices. See Chart #7. Contrast this with those 15 with A level or lower qualifications, 7 expressed less than midrange concern for climate change, 8 expressed less than midrange concern for peak oil. Strangely, 10 of the 15 expressed mid or higher concern for energy prices and 9 expressed mid or higher concern for food prices while 8 expressed below midrange concern for food supply. Of the 7 that expressed mid or higher concern for food supply, 5 grow 1 or less food item and none has or is on a waiting list for an allotment though 4 would grow more with a bigger garden.

In Chart #8 we see that the well educated and committed food growers are also committed to cooking fresh local food but less so to buying organic food. This could be due to the availability of homegrown supply as 11 of the 14 grow organically. While 5 have an allotment only 6 expressed a need for more growing space in the form of an allotment or bigger home garden.

Even though all but one of this group have first degree or higher, this is no guarantee of earning power, see Chart #9. Of the 51 surveyed with first or advanced degrees, all of the respondents earning 71k or higher have just first degree, no higher. The 13 with advanced degrees earn 30k or under.

In the case of the less well off of these growers, food purchase choices are likely down to income. If we examine responses to other questions that could be construed as income related, all 4 of those at the 11-20k bracket express midrange or higher concern for energy prices, have done 3 or more energy efficiency measures in the household, and have someone in the home who is retired, unemployed or in part time employment. Only 1 has a full timer in the household and 3 state that they grow to save money. 2 would grow more with free advice or instruction.
Health concerns could also be a motivator for growing with this group. 12 of the 14 best growers do not smoke, 8 exercise 4 times/week or more, 9 drink 3 to 4 drinks per week or less, 13 grow because they want the freshest produce, 11 grow for therapy.

These best growers appear to understand the threats posed by climate change and the connections between peak oil and food supply as well as energy and food prices. The less educated appear to understand this less so and grow less food.

Education, Climate Change and Peak Oil

Of the 128 adults resident in the 68 surveyed households 50 have first degrees, and 25 have advanced degrees, that is 59% with university training. Only 15 of 51 households with degrees grow no food, 29%. Conversely of the 15 with A level or lower, we see 8 who grow no food, 53%, and only 4 grow 2 or more food types. Concern about climate change seems to go hand in hand with an interest in food-growing among the better educated members of this cohort. 80% of households surveyed expressed midrange or higher concern for climate change. 73% of those grow at least 1 food item. Indeed, 86% of those with advanced degrees who expressed midrange or higher concern for climate change grow 1 or more food items.

Peak Oil concern appears to have a lower correlation with food-growing than climate change concern for this group. 78% of those with degrees express midrange or higher concern for peak oil. Of those, 65% grow 1 or more food item. Of the 20 with advanced degrees, 11 express midrange or higher concern for peak oil, 90% of those grow 1 or more food item. Peak oil has direct and clear implications on our industrial food system, whereas threats from climate change appear less certain. Also, as oil prices were at a record $140/bbl at the time I distributed the questionnaires and the media was full of news about a food crisis, it is no great intellectual feat to connect energy prices and peak oil to food. But peak oil is more abstract compared to energy prices. This is evident when you consider that 14 of the 21 with advanced degrees express significant concern for energy prices while only 11 of the 21 are as concerned about peak oil.
Of the 43 of the 51 with first or advanced degrees who expressed midrange or higher concern for energy prices, 38 expressed midrange or higher concern for peak oil as well.

31 expressed midrange or higher concern for rising food prices. I believe this indicates an understanding of the connection between peak oil, energy prices and food prices, not unusual for those with higher education. But what of concern for food supply?

Of the 51 households with first or advanced degrees, 24 expressed below midrange concern for food supply, 47%. 12 of them grow 1 or less food items. Of those 12, 4 do not grow because they can afford plenty of food, 4 because supermarket food is good enough, 5 because it is too much work. 7 of the 12 indicate 2 or more reasons they do not grow, 8 indicate 2 or more reasons they would grow more, 9 if they had a bigger garden or allotment. Of the group of 24 who have so little concern for food supply, only four have or had an allotment, none are on a waiting list, all 4 have either given one up or are not using theirs, even though 17 said they would grow more with a bigger garden or allotment. Does this lack of concern about the food supply stem from a confidence in growing ability?

Confidence Chart #10

I have grouped responses on this topic from the interviews into three categories: those who think they can adapt without growing skill, those who have low confidence in growing ability and those with high confidence in growing ability.

Chart #10 shows the numbers in the interviews expressing confidence is high, but compared to the whole group of 68 households, it is small, only 20. Here are some examples of what they said.

High Confidence
Interviewee #17 - “We have a garden and we are amassing the skills by which, in the future, we can have a permaculture set up and be totally self sufficient in food ...“
Interviewee #21 - “… there is very little you can do about it apart from grow your own. … if it became more of an issue, we would certainly turn over more of the garden for food rather than flowers.”
Interviewee #18 - “I have a stash in the cellar, ... I’m trying to grow food and starting to learn more about wild foods that can be eaten. I’m learning about food preservation ...”
Low confidence
Interviewee #6 - “Last year I had almost zero success. Admittedly I didn’t grow very much; I didn’t grow enough food for one meal. So I’ve gone back to Tesco.”
Interviewee #14 - “I’d like to see the council and the government doing more to support local food… that would benefit us more than us doing our own gardening…”
Interviewee #12 - “I’m trying to earn more money; … training to get a better job.”

Income charts #11 and #12

As seen in Chart #9 there is no consistency of income amongst the best growers. Evidence of an understanding that peak oil and energy prices are connected is clear but is there a correlation between concern for rising energy prices and the money saving behaviours queried on the survey, food-growing, energy efficiency measures, meal planning, cooking from fresh, limiting alcohol consumption, and not smoking?

Chart #11 shows money saving behaviours amongst those 43 well educated who expressed midrange or higher concern for energy prices. Only 20 plan meals before shopping 3 times per week or more. This, however, may indicate that planning is not necessarily seen as a money saving practise, as regular cookers they are likely to keep stock for cooking without planning.
Of the 43, only 9 express the highest concern about energy prices. All 9 express midrange or higher concern for food prices as well. All 9 cook from fresh 60% or more and have done 2 or more energy efficiency measures in the household. However, 8 of those purchase organic 30 to 75% of the time, all drink alcohol with 4 drinking every day, both of which could be interpreted as expensive, luxury items. 5 of the 9 who grow food do so because they want the freshest produce. All but one profess to be careful about nutrition. All 5 cook from fresh 60 to 100% of the time. 4 of the 5 earn 41k or more. Health is likely the motivation for higher purchase of organic produce and cooking from fresh and probably accounts for some of the other behaviours; indeed, only 1 of the 9 smokes and 7 exercise 3 times per week or more.

Chart #13 income to Age

I expected to find that food-growing in my sample group is a response to financial need. While that may the impetus for many to start growing now that the economy is in a tailspin, it may not be the case for existing growers. Overall income distribution, Chart #12, is weighted towards the 30k and under brackets. 58 of the 68 households surveyed responded to the income question, 64% of them, 37 households, fall into that category.

Of the 128 adults resident in the surveyed households, it is clear from Chart #13 that the majority of the under 30k category is made up of 18 to 35 year olds. 85 of the resident adults live in households with 30k or under income. The largest income group of any age is the 18 to 25 year olds, of which there are 20, in households earning 10k or less.

Chart #14 shows that the poorest grow the least. Of the four types of food-growing queried: herbs, leafy vegetables, root crops, fruit and berries, most of the households in the under 10k bracket grow none, only a few even grow 1 type. The most impressive income groups for growing are the 11- 20k, 41-50k, and 71kor higher, all of which have the highest proportion of those growing the most types of food. Question 26 answer #2 was, “I grow because I need to save money on my food bills.” Only 5 out of 68 checked this box and 4 of them were in the 11-20k bracket. Financial need is not the primary motivator to grow food for the majority of this cohort.

chart #14 food grown by income

Why Do They Grow? chart #15

“Increased awareness of the environment and a growing consciousness of rising food prices provides this investigation on urban agriculture activities in Dublin with indicators of the reasons of why there seems to be an increase in growing one’s own food.” (Cullen 2008 p.38)

Intuitively, these would seem to be the reasons people grow their own food these days. My findings in Sheffield are somewhat different.

Question 26 responses 1 through 6 are started with the phrase “I grow food because …”. The relevant responses are “I need to save money on my food bills, I want the freshest produce, it is therapeutic, I have a friend to help me, I like gardening”. There are many instances of combinations with the most common ones being a combination of “I like gardening” with “for the freshest produce” or “because it is therapeutic”.

Of 36 who list “I like gardening” as a reason to grow, 29 are growing 2 to 4 food types, only 2 grow no food but do practice amenity gardening. 17 would grow more with a bigger garden, 17 with more time, only 7 if food prices keep rising, 29 have a first degree or higher. 27 expressed midrange or higher concern for climate change, 29 express midrange or higher concern for peak oil, 32 express midrange or higher concern for energy prices. 28 have done 2 or more energy efficiency measures. 18 cook from fresh 75 to 90%. All have done 3 or more of the gardening techniques indicated in question #19. 22 indicate therapy as well as a reason to grow, 26 indicate a desire for fresh produce as well, 17 indicate a desire for fresh produce and therapy along with “I like gardening” as reasons for growing.

Of the 27 who list wanting the freshest produce as a reason to grow, 20 cook from fresh 60% or more, 25 grow 2 or more food types, 13 would grow more with a bigger garden or allotment, 8 if they had more time, 5 with free advice, 4 if food prices keep rising, 24 have first degree or higher, 17 also grow for therapy, 25 also grow because they like it.

Overall, growing for the simple pleasure of it appears to be the primary motivator closely followed by a desire for the freshest produce and for therapeutic reasons.

Who Buys Organic Food and Why? chart #16

As seen in Chart #16, among the 29 interviewed almost half choose organic to avoid chemicals in their food which is clearly a health concern, 45% described it as healthier, and 35% as better for the environment. 17% indicated that organic animal products are most important, indicating a general concern for health. Is their behaviour consistent with that supposition? It would appear so as of the 27 who list freshest produce as a reason to grow, only 8 smoke, 26 say they are careful about nutrition, 12 exercise 3 times per week or more, 15 drink once per day or less, 16 purchase organic 15 to 45%. Of the 25 who list therapy as a reason to grow, 11 purchase organic food 30% or more of the time. 17 cook from fresh 60 to 90%, 7 smoke, all but 1 are careful about nutrition.

Chart #17 organic purchasing

In Chart #17, we see that only 11 of the 68 households purchase organic food 75% of the time or more. All 11 cook from fresh 60% or more, 10 of those grow 2 food types or more, 9 practise 2 or more energy efficiency measures, the 4 who grow all 4 food types purchase 75% organic, garden organically, do not smoke, are careful about nutrition, and get regular exercise. They grow for freshest produce, cook from fresh 75% or more, express above midrange concern for energy prices, and express midrange or higher concern for food prices. So within this group of 11, the more food they grow, the more focused on their health they are, which would indicate that organic food represents a healthy choice for them. They are less consistent with money saving behaviours as well even though 7 of the 11 are in the 30k or under bracket. 10 of the 11 have first degree or higher.

Just 9 of the 68 purchase organic 45 to 60% of the time. All of these get moderate exercise, cook from fresh at least 60% of the time, are careful about nutrition, drink 1 to 2 drinks per day or less, express midrange or higher concern for energy prices, plan meals 3 to 4 times per week or less, and do not smoke. 4 of these 9 grow 3 or 4 food types, all organically. They express midrange or higher concern for food prices, and have done 2 or 3 energy efficiency measures. So for these 4 perhaps purchasing a little less organic food and growing more is related to financial concerns. 2 of the 9 grow no food types and have midrange or lower concern for food prices. 8 of the 9 have first degree or higher.

Exactly half of the sample households, 34, purchase organic only 15 to 30% of the time. There is no consistency in this group other than education, 28 of the 34 have 1st degree or higher. 7 grow 4 food types; their behaviours are similar to other growers in the cohort growing 4 types. As pointed out before the more one grows, the less likely to purchase organic one is.
Of the 3 who grow 3 food types, all have done 2 energy efficiency measures, expressed midrange or lower concern for energy prices, expressed less than midrange concern for food prices. Regarding health behaviours, even these who do not purchase very much organic food but do grow some food are more likely to practise healthy lifestyles. The same goes for, if to a lesser degree, the 5 who grow only 2 food types.

The 8 who grow only 1 food type all plan meals 5 to 6 times per week or less, all expressed midrange concern for energy prices, all expressed midrange concern for food prices, drink 1 to 2 drinks per day or less. The concern for food and energy prices as well as the high level of meal planning suggests some financial concerns but not enough to curtail alcohol consumption.
13 of 68 purchase 0% organic, 9 of these grow 0 food, 9 have no degree, 7 earn 10k or lower. 10 of the 13 plan 3 to 4 times per week or less, 10 have done 2 or less energy efficiency measures, 6 drink 4 drinks per week up to 2 drinks per day. While 1 to 2 drinks per day is within the range of recommended healthy practise, that amount of alcohol consumption is not cheap. This suggests that expense may not be the primary reason for not purchasing organic even though many in this group are in lower income brackets.

Citizen Detail #1

Alaya, not her real name, has two very energetic little boys. She and her husband own their own home in neighbourhood #3. Alaya is quite concerned about food security, particularly the price and supply of rice because the family budget is very tight. She likes to know where her family’s food comes from and how it is grown; she prefers fair trade, local, and organic for health, economic, and environmental reasons, but she cannot afford it very often.
Alaya very much wants to put in a garden in her small yard but needs help. She does not have the tools, a vehicle to source the tools and materials, access to the manpower to help clear the large growth of hedge and weeds in her backyard, or enough time to do it all herself. Her mother and father live in the south and grow vegetables, as do her grandparents and uncles. Having grown up with lots of fruit trees and a veg garden she is finding it hard to adjust to such a small yard. She plans to garden organically primarily to avoid pesticides in her family diet. She is hoping that she can get started at home and then get an allotment in order to seriously supplement her household food supply. She is also keen to develop an interest in gardening and nature in her children. She likes books by Monty Don.
Alaya knows several neighbours who grow and is inspired by them. She would be very happy to participate in a neighbourhood-growing scheme. She is very concerned about climate change because her home country, Bangladesh, is prone to flooding from sea level rise and she still has many family members there. She is involved in local community activism.
Alaya believes that the council should educate the public about the value of fresh organic food and the dangers of pesticides, she would like access to compost whether from the council or as a community based initiative. She would like some support and advice from the council; she is willing to work trade in return for help in her garden.

Local Food chart #18

The 14 best growers purchase local less than organic, but only just. 6 purchase local 15%, 6 purchase local 30%, 1 purchases local 45% of the time and 1 did not respond to the question.
Overall, 42 of the 68 surveyed purchase local food 30% or less, while 47 purchase organic 30% or less. 20 of the 22 who shop local more than 30% have a first degree or higher. Chart #18 shows the numbers in each neighbourhood who purchase various percentages of local food.
35 of the 68 households purchase 15 to 30% local compared to 34 who purchase that quantity organic. 20 purchase 45% or more organic while 19 purchase that much local.

What Do They Need to Grow? Chart #19

The numbers in Chart #19, from question #26 responses 7 through 11, were phrased as such, “I don’t grow because….”, to which they could check as many boxes as they wished. A lack of land or sun was most popular. This issue was queried again in Question #27 as a positive response, “I would be more likely to grow my own food if…” with two of the choices being “I could get an allotment” and “I had a bigger garden” as well as “I had better sunlight”. Again, land is the primary issue. Though the difference between those who want a bigger garden and those willing to take on an allotment is striking. With the long history of allotments in this country I believe very few are under any illusions as to how much work they entail. This is supported by the 30 responses regarding needing more time to grow more food shown on Chart #20. See Chart #30 below as well as the allotments discussion in the interview analysis section for more on this.

Chart #20 would grow more if.....

Training and Charts #21 and #22

There were many more responses to question 27 because anyone, grower or not might answer it. After a bigger garden most folks need more time. 15 individuals indicated they needed both, 5 indicated that they not only needed both but better sunlight as well, 3 that they would like free compost delivery as well, 3 said they would grow more if their neighbours did as well, only 2 if they could get an allotment.

10 individuals indicated multiple needs regarding financial assistance, such as free advice and free compost, or if food prices keep rising and a free class on gardening. All 10 earn 30k or less. 6 of them indicated 3 or more financial needs, 5 of those earn 20k or less per household.

Another relevant group are those who indicated a need for more community support. Responses indicated are “I could borrow tools”, “my neighbours did as well”, and “I could get free advice”. I do not include gardening classes and free compost delivery because I see these as council rather than community responsibilities. Gardening classes would involve certification schemes such as NVQs and properly qualified instructors rather than something put together within a neighbourhood. At the neighbourhood level it qualifies as advice. Composting on a scale large enough to properly support large numbers of home gardeners would require a committed council to set up or contract out a scheme with proper technology, operations, regulation, and maintenance. For more on composting see below.

Of the 17 expressing a need for support, 12 households expressed a need for only one of the 3 community support types, 5 expressed a need for more than one. The most common request is the 11 needing free advice. Closely related is the need for neighbours who garden, 5 of whom expressed that need, while only 4 would like to borrow tools. 5 of the 17 do not grow any food, 4 of them expressed a need for more land. 4 of the 5 have zero to minimal experience with allotments; they all buy organic food 30% or less, the same is true for local food. All 5 have midrange or higher concerns about energy prices, all have 1st degree or higher. 4 of the 17 grow 1 type of food, 4 grow 2, 1 grows 3, and 3 grow 4 food types. The willingness to grow is there, but the supports to make it happen are not or are at least perceived to be lacking.

Community support is needed in the form of advice but land is the primary issue. The need for a bigger garden or an allotment is the chief restriction on food-growing amongst this cohort. Taken together, 44 households expressed land related reasons for not growing more food, almost 68% of respondents. 30 have university training, 14 do not. 59% of those surveyed with degrees perceive land to be a limitation to food-growing while 82% of those without university training see it that way. 17 of the 30 earn 30k or under, 56%, while 10 of the 14 less educated earn 30k or under, 71%. 8 of those 14 are growing nothing, 12 of the 14 are growing 1 or less food type. 33% of the 30 with degrees who cite lack of land as an issue, grow nothing, just over half grow 1 food type or less. Having a degree and a decent income appears to affect the perceptions of lack of land as a limitation. Doing without both appears to increase the perception that there is a barrier to access to land.

If we look at the overall group of those who grow no food, 23, we see 18, or 78%, who express lack of land as a limitation. Adding in those who grow only 1 food type the total number rises to 35, 28 of whom, 80%, express lack of land as a limitation. Only 43% express lack of time as a limitation.

Chart #21 shows gardening training pursued and is drawn from the questionnaires. Not surprisingly, the vast majority, growers or not, have watched a television gardening programme. Referencing a garden book was also fairly common; using the internet was less so. Though only 9% of residents surveyed had attended a gardening class, all those interviewed felt that hands on training would be valuable with some lecture or internet back up. Evenings and weekends being the best times for a class.

69% have been to the local city farm, though when I queried this in the interviews most felt the primary value was stress relief or an opportunity to show animals to children. Several spoke highly of the Farm’s courses, discontinued due to budget cuts, and most expressed a wish for access to advice or training at the Farm. In an interview with the most senior and experienced staff member I was told that there was no sure way to get growing advice but that if I could catch the chief grower onsite he would be happy to offer advice.

Chart #22 is drawn exclusively from the interviews and it is obvious that human contact either from family members or other gardeners has been of the most value in learning about food-growing. This is followed closely by practise. Reading, which included both books and magazines, comes next.

Composting and Charts #23 and #24

Every gardening project needs good compost.

Among the growers of my cohort composting is very popular. The percentages of surveyed households that compost or have done so are indicated in Chart #23. The two neighbourhoods that grow the most, N#1 and N#4, have the highest incidence of household composting, and incidentally are also the neighbourhoods with the most land. Composting can take up valuable space.

There have been several initiatives by private citizens and community groups over the years to organise composting on a community scale. At one point funding was provided to set up an anaerobic composting system for Sheffield, but when the funding ended so did the project. Unfortunately, the council’s efforts in composting are meager: a small green bin programme, with no provision for the return of composted material, and reduced price composters is the extent of it. Many suspect that the waste contract with the Veolia incinerator is at the root of the problem.

There is a small amount of compost for sale through the City Farm, certainly not enough to supply a serious expansion of home-based food-growing. Several of my cohort mentioned being frustrated by the lack of dependable supply there. This leaves individuals to source compost at B&Q or other garden centers or to make their own. The composters available through the council contract with Veolia at a reduced rate are currently the best option as they solve two problems at once, reducing the waste stream and producing high quality soil improvement. The units are reasonably space efficient, but people need training in their use.

Other councils in the area also have not learned how to deal with composting.

“One sustainability official … had recently consulted with Bradford Planning about the potential for developing a localized ‘community’ composting system using the council’s park waste as one waste source. He was told that Composting was an industrial activity that would have to occur in the industrial part of the city. He commented that this made a mockery of the now widely embraced planning principle of mixed uses.” (Howe 2002)

Compost is a challenge on the individual level as well. Interviewee #6 said,

“I don’t have a car to get compost. That was why I got a composter; every day I throw away vegetable peelings. It got mushy at the bottom over winter but the stuff at the top had only been in there a couple of days.”

She gave up on it and mentioned that having free compost delivery would be a huge help. She had taken a bus to B&Q to have a bag of compost delivered which cost more than the bag of compost.

Chart #24 shows the percentage of households surveyed in each neighbourhood that indicated they would grow more if they could get free compost delivery. N#3 is the neighbourhood with the smallest gardens. One possible solution to this problem is division of labour. Interviewee #29, a resident of N#2, specializes in composting. While most of the gardeners with allotments bring compost from the allotment to the home garden, he does the reverse. When asked how his home garden interacts with his allotment,

“I take my composting there. It was part of an art project. Set up a composting scheme; gift the compost to different projects. The artwork is the gift and the potential for it to improve things…”

He grows nothing at home but keeps multiple compost bins going. Compost could be traded for produce with his neighbours.

Time and chart #25

Of the 30 households expressing a need for more time to grow food, Chart #25, 70% have at least one individual in the household working full time. 30% of them have children. 55% of the households that did not need more time have full time employment. Only 23% of them have children in the household.

charts #26 and #27 - Time issues

83% of those who attest to needing more time cook meals from fresh ingredients 60% of the time or more, Chart #26. 74% of those who do not indicate time as a limitation to growing cook from fresh 60% or more. Those in need of more time do a surprising amount of meal planning.
43% plan 3-4 meals/week or more, see Chart #27. Among the 38 with plenty of time only 45% plan to that degree. Assuming that most people would only plan the evening meal, 3 or 4 per week, this represents 43% to 57% planning. Interestingly, both households that claim more than 5-6 times per week are single adult households with no children.

Additionally, the presence of children in the household probably influences the degree of planning and cooking from fresh. 5 of the 13 time poor households who plan 3-4 meals per week or more have children in the household, compared to 6 of the 17 of those with plenty of time. Indeed, in the overall cohort 11 of the 19 households with children plan to this degree while 8 with children do not, regardless of need for extra time. 14 of the 19 households with children cook from fresh at least 60% of the time. 4 cook from fresh 30 to 45% of the time.
Having children appears to increase the amount of time dedicated to food provision.