Innovation | 10 July, 2017

Sustainable foods II: Community gardens

Raúl Benito Business Development

Sensitivity to ecology issues, raised awareness concerning the protection of the natural heritage we share and the search for and return to balanced and sustainable ways of life are features increasingly more widespread in western society. In the world’s major cities, from London to Vancouver, there are mainly private initiatives to incorporate cohabitation areas based on the idea of community gardens or allotments.

Switzerland is, once again, a model country in the sphere of town planning.

The respect and balance between urbanised and natural areas is visible and admired by everyone who has at some time visited this country.

The city of Zurich is a historic example. Since 1692 it has been implementing a social co-operation concept whereby lands are allocated for ecological purposes. Originally, it was a city initiative to provide its less wealthy citizens with an alternative to attain food produce. In 1909, however, the city passed an edict declaring the communal market gardens to be a “healthy and unique life-style, where families went to get away from the city noise and pollution, into nature and to work in the garden”. The edict was not only an extraordinary and modern case of social maturity, but it also acted as a civil control tool, encouraging the unemployed to have a job.

Zurich currently has 20 communal gardens and 5,500 urban allotments which occupy approximately 1.5% of the city area, run by different associations. Unlike in France and Germany, many of these gardens are strategically located, not in the outskirts of the city. Everybody is responsible for abiding by each association’s strict cohabitation regulations and for paying a monthly rent.

The trend in the users of these spaces has changed from middle-aged, middle class people to increasing younger age-groups, interested in organic foodstuffs and brought up in a culture of sustainability, with needs to return to healthy lifestyles, respecting biological orders and life cycles. And why not say so, because it is in vogue, considered “cool” and “hipster” among the younger generation Swiss to have an urban garden.