Sitopia Farm is a visionary project to develop a new sustainable regenerative horticulture farm in the heart of Greenwich, South East London. Starting with a two-acre site on land held by the Woodlands Farm Trust, the Farm is an urban farming social enterprise that seeks to expand food production in the local area supporting the immediate community but seeking to play a wider role in the network of urban and peri-urban farms that help preserve the city’s food security.

With some 70% of people projected to live in cities by 2050, diversifying our food system is important – as the current pandemic has illustrated with force – and with an overdependence on supermarkets in cities there is an inevitable narrowing of what is available to people. Urban farming has long proved its central role in providing healthy fresh food that doesn’t travel long distances and is grown with care for the environment. With food poverty a growing problem in cities throughout the UK and a rising obesity epidemic nationally, more localised food production of fruits and vegetables is an essential need of UK cities.

The aspiration of Sitopia Farm is one of building a community around farming and food production – where ‘food is grown as locally as possible, where the city’s inhabitants, young and old, understand how their food is grown and why it matters’. Growing food grounded in sound agroecological practice has extensive benefits, extending biodiversity, enhancing soil fertility, with plants that help cool the air and soils that absorb excess rain, recycling waste along the way and creating beauty in the thriving heart of the city. It’s a place to learn, ‘where all members of the local community can come to connect with each other, to the land and to celebrate and enjoy the food we eat’.

Making good food accessible to all is important for Sitopia Farm, as it is a community endeavour. There is real potential to supply local schools and hospitals and to explore the viability of selling at reduced prices for those on lower incomes. The project is also about engaging a wide range of volunteers in the skill of growing food – from community groups and schools to those with mental health problems and offenders.

In the first stage of project, the focus of the development is on the two-acre site at Woodlands Farm. A crowdfunder campaign is currently running to raise a minimum of £80,000 to fund a range of necessary infrastructure to get the horticulture production moving, including tools and basic machinery, a polytunnel, a produce stand, storage and various sundries. The project has secured a pledge for £37,500 from the London Mayor’s Make London scheme as part of the crowdfunder campaign.

Ultimately, as Sitopia Farm develops, the plan is to work closely with the Woodlands Farm Trust to create a significant food, farming and educational hub on the land for London as a whole. The land was rescued by community action in the 1990s stopping it from being turned into a dual carriageway (alongside the ancient Oxleas Wood which it borders). Comprising 89 acres, it includes old biodiverse hedgerows, woodland and meadows that have not been sprayed or ploughed for over 20 years, and also a number of buildings that could be converted for multiple purposes. It’s an exciting opportunity to bring food and horticultural farming back to the city in a major way.

As the founders say, ‘We want to demonstrate the huge potential small, commercial, community-focused city farms have and encourage more of these elsewhere, illustrating how local action can influence global change.’

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