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An Urban Dream Farm for London?

Posted in Models by Devin Maeztri on May 14th, 2009

The first community project in the metropolis to recycle food wastes into energy and fertilizer by anaerobic digestion Sam Burcher.

The organic muesli producer who keeps making history.

Alex Smith has been made a London Leader of Sustainability for 2009 by the London Development Agency (LDA). This appointment by the Mayor of London’s office is a far cry from thirty years ago when Alex was a squatter and started his food company Alara with two £1 notes he found in the street. Alara now produces up to one hundred tonnes of organic muesli each week, some sixty percent of UK’s total muesli production.

Alara was the first cereal business to be certified organic in the world, the first cereal company to be Fair Trade certified, and soon, if Alex has his way, he will be the first food production company to be zero waste. Alex wants to make his mark as London Leader by using anaerobic digestion to recycle food wastes into energy and fertilizer to support the first “Urban Dream Farm 2″ in the world. Dream Farm 2 (see final chapter in ISIS’ Report Food Futures Now: *Organic *Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free [1]) is based on the circular economy of nature, in which organic wastes are recycled into food and energy resources, thereby maximising carbon sequestration and minimising greenhouse emissions and environmental pollution.

Alara’s food factory is on an unusually green industrial estate just north of King Cross-St Pancras train stations and Camley Street Natural Park, a wildlife sanctuary on the banks of the Regents Canal. Across the road is the Elm Village housing estate and further down Camley Street is St Pancras Old Church, the oldest Anglican parish church in London built on what was originally an Iron Age mound. The church stands in a beautiful cemetery garden re-designed by the author Thomas Hardy when he was a young architect and where the poet Shelley is reputed to have first met Mary Shelley visiting the grave of her mother Mary Wollstonecraft. Johann Christian Bach, the son of the famous composer is also buried in St Pancras Gardens which form the grounds of the Hospital of Tropical Diseases and St Pancras Coroners Court.

A permaculture forest garden Alex has already made a head start to the Urban Dream Farm. Over the years, he has added to Alara’s eclectic environment by planting a permaculture forest garden where delicious looking lettuces, bee hives, broad beans and about one hundred fruit trees can flourish. The garden runs parallel with the railway tracks and is an urban green corridor stocked with blueberries, raspberries, elderberries, mulberries, passion fruit, pomegranate, kiwi, plums, pear and apple trees that are starting to fruit.

Alex has also constructed a large pergola made of sweet chestnut and planted grapevines at each corner which will eventually entwine and climb with blackberries up the wooden framework. Beneath the pergola are stools and a table made of reclaimed marble where outdoor meetings can be held. A large metal cabin which is Alex’s garden shed is topped with a windmill to generate enough “live” electricity to read by. He and friends recently serenaded the trees with song, wine and good wishes at a traditional wassailing party.

To read the rest of the article visit Institute of Science in Society.

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