Urban Farming

Farm walk: Claverhill Community Farm

Hosted by Claverhill and FoodFutures

Claverhill is a six acre community food project which hosts a range of projects including Spud Club (a community grown agriculture project), Lancaster Seed Library,  a natural dyes project,  tree nursery and a nature trail.

Come and join a tour of the site, including a discussion about natural flood management as you view the newly created holding ponds, water channels and lake on site!

You will need to book places on this walk separately. More information will be sent to all ticket-holders.

Speakers/hosts include:

Anna Clayton – Anna studied Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia and, since graduating in 2010, has completed a Permaculture design course, RHS certificate in horticulture and a variety of facilitation and collaborative training. For the past ten years she has worked on a range of community projects with focuses ranging from environmental art, seed saving, heritage fruit tree grafting, wildlife gardening, up-cycling workshops, junk jamming and food growing- both in the UK and abroad. On behalf of LESS, Anna currently coordinates FoodFutures – North Lancashire’s Sustainable Food Partnership and network.

Anna also works part time as a Writer and Researcher and Worker Director at Ethical Consumer Magazine in Manchester, under which role she has co-organised the Lush Spring Prize for environmental and social regeneration.

She also sits on the management committee of Claver Hill food growing project in Lancaster, and sits on the advisory group of the Northern Real Farming Conference.

Rod Everett – Rod is an organic farmer in the Forest of Bowland producing unusual apple cider vinegar to stimulate health. An ecologist, researcher for FoodFutures, farm advisor, permaculture teacher and natural flood management consultant. He is also a founder of the Northern Real Farming Conference

Urban Agriculture Consortium: progress, prognosis, COP26 feedback, policy influencing with a focus on Sheffield

Hosted by the Urban Agriculture Consortium

The Urban Agriculture Consortium (launched summer 2020) has rapidly established itself as an innovative part of the emerging regenerative agroecology ecosystem, with an initial focus on 5 northern “pathfinder” cities, as well as emerging partnerships & collaborations across the UK.   

We’ll report back on progress with a particular focus on:

  • Building and enhancing the Urban Agriculture Consortium network
  • Progress with the northern pathfinder places and the northern farmstart cluster, UAC’s typology and evaluation. 
  • Feedback and calls to action after COP26.
  • Focus on Sheffield – a dialogue with Cllr Alison Teal and Gareth Roberts on how progress has accelerated through policy interaction, and emerging proposals for a city- region urban agriculture task force.
  • PINGs – Policy Influencing Network Groups – future plans.
  • Outline of plans for 2022

We hope this will inspire further pathfinder clusters in other parts of England and Wales in 2022.

People will gain an insight into the rapidly establishing Urban Agriculture Consortium, growing momentum behind urban farmstarts and collaborations between local, regional and national partners on how to influence policy makers.

Speakers/hosts include:

Jeremy Isles – Jeremy instigated the Urban Agriculture Consortium in response to concerns over rising food insecurity and climate emergency. After extensive consultations during 2017-19, the UAC was launched in summer of 2020.  Arriving in the midst of Covid & Brexit fall-out, the UAC message of re-localisation of regenerative agroecology has struck a chord and the UAC has rapidly established a place in the evolving ecosystem of partners advocating radical & bold food system change.

This work is built on Jeremy’s long-standing work as pioneering environmental activist, “doing something useful” as a cycle campaigner at Friends of the Earth in 1983, as Director of the London Wildlife Trust (1984-90), in Bangladesh and Eritrea with VSO (1991-93),  as Regional Manager for Sustrans (1994-2000), and as CEO at the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (2000-2016).  Many of the projects and partnerships he initiated and worked on during this period have had a significant and long lasting impact including the National Cycle Network, Allotments Regeneration Initiative, Local Food Consortium, Community Land Advisory Service, and Growing Together. 

This long track record has led to his involvement in an innovative oral history of the green movement – funding yet to be confirmed.

Other interests include nurturing an allotment, singing, guitars, cycling, painting and sailing.

Maddy Longhurst – Maddy has always followed her instincts to work on initiatives and ideas that lie in the fertile margins and serve future generations. Recently this has involved the protection of land and soils, community-led thermal imaging of cold homes, Ecosystem Restoration Design, creating regenerative Tiny House Settlements, Sociocracy and Gleaning training for communities. Maddy worked on Phase 1 of the urban agriculture project in 2019 and is currently coordinating the Urban Agriculture Consortium with Jeremy Iles.

Alison Teal – Alison trained as a Clinical Psychologist in Australia and worked as a Consultant Psychologist and Family Therapist for many years. She returned to the UK in 2013 and settled in Sheffield in February 2014 in Nether Edge & Sharrow. With her daughters close to adulthood she decided it was time to get involved in politics and lobby all levels of government to take action on the Climate and Ecological Crisis. She is passionate about nature, social justice, women’s equality, and democracy.
Alison says, “The Green Party is the only party which looks at the challenges we face locally, nationally and globally in a systemic way. We consider how the decisions we make today will affect future generations.”

Alison became a founding core member of Save Nether Edge Trees campaign group in 2015 which led to several years of engaging in non-violent direct action to prevent the felling of healthy mature trees. She was arrested for trying to protect trees and also taken to the High Court by Sheffield City Council who applied for an order to send her to prison. However, the judge dismissed the case.

Duncan Williamson – Duncan is a recognised environment, sustainable consumption and food systems expert. He is the founder and director of Nourishing Food Systems and currently works with Action Against Hunger developing their strategies on climate change and the emerging food crisis. He is working with WWF, Chatham House and is on the steering group for the Fork to Farm COP26 project, overseen by Nourish Scotland. He has been working in the environment and related fields for over 20 years, with the last 13 focused on food systems and has an MSC in Sustainable Environmental Management focusing on land use. He has led teams and projects at Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and WWF UK. He is on the advisory body for the DiverIMPACTS project, which focuses on crop diversification through crop rotation and the food systems atlas. Also, setting up a community farm in his village.

Gareth Roberts – Gareth is a founder member and co-director of Regather, and coordinator of ShefFood – Sheffield’s Food Partnership. Gareth is passionate about cooperation, and has worked collaboratively with people from all walks of life for over 20 years. Since 2015 Gareth has led strategic developments around Community Economic Development and Sustainable Food Systems in Sheffield, ensuring Regather and ShefFood lead on innovative economic and social change. His mission is a food system where money is retained in the local economy, land is more productive, food is better quality, health is improved and people have better awareness of and involvement with how the food system, from local to global, can be changed for the better.

FarmStart: Support and progress in the north

Hosted by the Urban Agriculture Consortium and the Landworkers’ Alliance

The Urban Agriculture Consortium (launched in summer 2020) has rapidly established itself as an innovative part of the emerging regenerative agroecology movement. The Urban Agriculture Consortium has joined forces with The Landworkers’ Alliance to set up and coordinate a series of workshops to support an emerging cluster of FarmStart projects across the north.

This session will describe the experiences to date, and will explore emerging opportunities to embed and promote further agroecological FarmStarts across the UK.

We hope the session will inspire further FarmStarts in other parts of England and Wales in 2022, potentially with DEFRA support.

People will gain an insight into the rapidly establishing movement of urban FarmStarts and collaborations between local, regional and national partners.

Speakers/hosts include:

Maddy Longhurst – Maddy has always followed her instincts to work on initiatives and ideas that lie in the fertile margins and serve future generations. Recently this has involved the protection of land and soils, community-led thermal imaging of cold homes, Ecosystem Restoration Design, creating regenerative Tiny House Settlements, Sociocracy and Gleaning training for communities. Maddy worked on Phase 1 of the urban agriculture project in 2019, and is now co-coordinating the Urban Agriculture Consortium.

Fran Halsall – After a decade-long career as a landscape photographer and writer, Fran completed an MA in landscape architecture at the University of Sheffield. She has been involved in the creation of three community growing spaces in Sheffield: the Kenwood Community Growers; the Food Work’s farm and the Regather community garden. Fran is ShefFood’s Urban Agriculture Co-ordinator, leading on Sheffield’s participation in the national Fringe Farming and Urban Agriculture Consortium programmes.

Hatty Richards – Hatty’s background is in project development, management and fundraising within the community sector, mostly related to bicycles and community supported agriculture. She has also spent years grafting out on the fields and hosting different groups on the land to learn about and take part in growing.

Event outcomes – Building real food and farming networks in northern cities

This event explored the challenges and opportunities of developing sustainable food production and distribution systems and networks in our northern cities. We heard from four cities in the process of developing urban farming in partnership with the Urban Agriculture Consortium, and from Dr Jill Edmondson from the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield. 

Watch the full event here: NRFC Building real food and farming networks in northern cities, 14 September 2021 

This virtual workshop used case studies and presentations to:

  • Explore how urban and peri-urban farms can help build links between people living in cities, and the agricultural landscapes that surround them (and connect them to food, nutrition, seasonality and health) ;  
  • Explain how urban and peri-urban farms can contribute to our food supply and food sovereignty aims, and explore the extent to which urban/peri-urban farms could feed people in cities;
  • Explore how urban and peri-urban farms could attract people to the real farming movement, as producers, consumers, citizens and advocates
  • Discuss urban farming’s vital role in the broader movement for a just and fair farming and food system.

Hosted by Suzy Russell, CSA Network UK and NRFC Advisory Group/UAC core group and Andy Goldring, Permaculture Association and NRFC Advisory Group/UAC core group, with a brief introduction from Jeremy Iles, instigator & co-coordinator of the UAC.

The following speakers had input:

Luke Justice, market gardener at Meanwood Valley Farm

Jenny Lawrence, Roger Plumtree, Kirkstall Valley Farm

Sonja Woodcock, Coordinator for FoodWise Leeds

Dr Jill Edmondson, Institute for Sustainable Food, University of Sheffield

Anna Clayton, Coordinator, FoodFutures, Lancaster

Joe Dunne, Projects Manager, Food Partnership & Food Power Alliance Coordinator, Middlesbrough

Fran Halsall, Urban Agriculture Coordinator at ShefFood, Sheffield’s Food Partnership

Key themes emerging from the discussions and presentations included:

  • the need to train new growers/farmers
  • the need for everyone to be part of growing – maybe a shorter working week would enable this for more people
  • the need for councils/policy makers to recognise that urban food growing is essential in our times
  • the (unproven) worry that much more urban food production would have the same negative effects as intensive agriculture (it wouldn’t!)
  • issues relating to land use in urban areas
  • demand for local food and the need for strategies to build that market

Watch the full event: NRFC Building real food and farming networks in northern cities, 14 September 2021 

See input from participants: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Mm8SeubhLii5PYEnehpO2KRm34E4mXAi/view 

Find links and resources mentioned in the event chat: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G5gId8vl2bz42qEMdmPfIYKuQZS9Lk3xN8tnWHfLjVs/edit

Social prescribing of community urban food growing: transforming citizen health, neighbourhoods and futures

Hosted by Elizabeth Westaway with social and community farm projects.

There has been a huge rise of interest in social prescribing across the UK and particularly within the northern context. The NHS defines social prescribing as a type of personalised care, with people having choice and control over the way their care is planned and delivered, based on what matters to them and their individual strengths and needs.

This is a major shift in how people, professionals and the healthcare system interact, putting the patient at the centre of their care and their community.

People are referred to a link worker who connects them to groups and activities in the community that can offer support.

Social prescribing acknowledges that people’s health is determined by a range of socio-ecological factors, and tries to address their needs more broadly. By supporting people to take greater control of their own health, instead of being prescribed medication, social prescribing is an effective way of alleviating different health conditions.

Social prescribing of community urban food growing has gained traction over the last few years as an effective intervention for improving people’s physical and mental health, and emotional well-being, with numerous studies supporting this.

The combination of getting outside, being re-connected with nature, meeting new people, making friends, growing seasonal fruit and vegetables, having a purpose, developing a sense of community and belonging, and sharing a healthy, nutritious meal together all have positive benefits for patients and local people. Community urban food growing can also provide learning opportunities, empower people, support grassroots activism and is increasingly being adopted in urban agriculture.

This session showcased several social prescribing of community urban food growing projects, shared lessons learned and potential for replication; transforming citizen health, neighbourhoods and futures. Projects showcased included: the Royal Horticultural Society’s new garden (Salford), Northern Roots (the UK’s largest Urban Farm) (Oldham), Horton Community Farm (Bradford) and Woodlands Community Development Trust (Glasgow).


Dr Michael Hardman, an urban geographer, co-leads the Salford Care and Urban Farm Hub. He has research interests in radical green infrastructure interventions and local food growing, and its impact on communities.

Dr Elizabeth Westaway is an international public health and nutrition specialist, who has worked as a practitioner, researcher and consultant in academia, NGOs and the UN on health, nutrition, food security and agriculture projects in emergency and development contexts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. She has a PhD in International Development from the University of East Anglia, and was formerly on the steering group of People Food Power and Nottingham Good Food Partnership. Her current research interests are food quality, social prescribing and regenerative healthcare.

Dr Michelle Howarth leads the University of Salford’s Social Prescribing Hub, sits on the National Social Prescribing Network and works with Greater Manchester Natural Capital exploring evidence-based approaches.

Charlie Gray is a Director, and Community and Training Coordinator at Horton Community Farm Cooperative Ltd, ‘a LAND Permaculture centre for food growing and community resilience’ in Bradford City Centre. She has worked there for over ten years, developing their programmes. The farm works across five strands: education, wildlife, therapy, volunteering and food growing. She has designed, fundraised for and delivered numerous pilot projects for the cooperative, working with partner organisations, offering services to the local community. Projects include forest schools and outdoor education, horticultural therapy and the recent ‘Mindfulness Garden’, now working to consolidate commissioned services with commissioners, GPs and Social Prescribers.

Tim Cowen has worked in the voluntary sector for over 25 years. Since 2011 he’s been the manager for Woodlands Community Development Trust, a Glasgow-based environmental charity. Here he’s overseen the development of their highly successful community garden and community café, as well as the creation of Woodlands Workspace, a community building and events space. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Woodlands Community have expanded their front-line services, with an increased focus on mental health and well-being. Tim has a Law degree and Masters in Welfare Law. Later this year, he will be self-publishing his first novel ‘Banquet of the Beasts.’

You can read a blog post about the outcomes of the session here.

How / Can nature-friendly urban farming and growing contribute to tackling food security & the climate emergency?

Hosted by Jeremy Iles, Urban Agriculture Consortium with urban agriculture perspectives from the North.

In the wake of Brexit, growing awareness of the climate emergency, and now Covid-19, we need to look at how we can create a better, more resilient, nature-friendly food system.

All over the UK, food partnerships in towns and cities are beginning to look at how urban farming & food growing can contribute to a meaningful re-localisation of food supply. Academic studies have shown that 15% of fruit and vegetable could be produced in towns.

There is an emerging cluster of pioneering towns and cities in the north of England who are actively taking this agenda forward: amongst them Lancaster, Leeds, Middlesbrough & Sheffield, who are involved in the new Urban Agriculture Consortium. There are of course other places engaged in complementary work form which we will seek to learn: Carlisle, Preston, Tameside, Oldham amongst others.

There are many opportunities – and barriers – to developing urban growing at scale: land, policies, finances amongst others. These opportunities and barriers were explored in an earlier phase of the project and are summarised in our reports.

The Urban Agriculture Consortium is looking to work with a range of pilot towns and cities to explore how this might best be supported in the coming years.

This work is at an early stage – this networking and discussion session helped shape the programme across the north and in other parts of the UK.


Jeremy Iles has had a long career as an environmental campaigner from 1983 – 2020, championing cycling, urban wildlife, city farms, community gardens & allotments, helping move marginalised movements into the mainstream. Since 2017, he has forged the new Urban Agriculture Consortium of national partners and stakeholders: UAC is now funded to support communities to upscale nature-friendly urban farming and growing as part of an integrated, resilient & just food system.

Anna Clayton sits on the management committee of Claver Hill Community Food Project and is a member of Spud Club (a community grown agriculture scheme) and Lancaster Seed Library. For the past ten years, Anna has worked on a variety of community food and environmental initiatives and currently coordinates FoodFutures: North Lancashire’s Sustainable Food Network. Anna also works part time as a Worker Director, Writer and Researcher at Ethical Consumer Magazine.

Gareth Roberts is a founder member of Regather in Sheffield, where he led the enterprise start up in 2005 and incorporation as a co-op in 2010. Gareth is passionate about cooperation, and has worked collaboratively with people from all walks of life for over 20 years. His various experiences as an arts administrator, event manager, lecturer and serial social entrepreneur bring useful skills and resilience to Regather and the wider Sheffield social economy. More recently, over the past 5 years, Gareth has led various strategic developments for Regather, including promoting the role of urban agriculture and productive landscapes in community economic development; establishing ShefFood, the Sustainable Food Places partnership for Sheffield; and creating Regather Farm, a 15 acre peri-urban, organic market garden and agroforestery development, all of which ensure Regather continues to occupy a position and reputation in Sheffield and the UK as an organisation leading on innovative economic and social change, and local food system transformation.