London chefs will soon have a wider variety of local produce to choose from, now that a scheme to turn 2,012 pieces of land into food growing spaces by 2012 has been launched.
The Capital Growth scheme, run by London Food Link, aims to raise the amount of locally grown food in London by identifying suitable patches of land and offering financial and practical support to people who are prepared to grow the food for themselves and the community, as well as restaurants, providing them with fresh, organic, seasonal and local produce.
At the launch today, Boris Johnson announced one of the first Londoners to donate their unused land to the scheme as Ian Solomon-Kawall, a hip-hop teacher from Clapham whose cousin owns African-Caribbean restaurant Ace Fusion. He will use his privately owned garden in Morden to teach young people and single mothers in the community about the value of home-grown food, and hopes to use the surplus produce to supply Ace Fusion’s new organic menu.
“We hope to grow grapes, apples, pears, carrots, herbs and lots more - there’s about four allotment spaces,” said Solomon-Kawall, “One of the things we want to do is supply my cousin with organic food. If the yield goes well it will only increase the popularity of the restaurant as a lot more people are moving toward organic and vegan food.”
London chefs have often complained about the difficulty in sourcing local produce in the area, claiming that the markets available aren’t enough for restaurants’ demand in the capital. The scheme to turn empty, unused land into growing spaces will open up the range of suppliers chefs can choose from, and reducing their restaurants food miles.
One prominent restaurateur already jumping on the bandwagon is Urban Chef Oliver Rowe, the owner of Konstam restaurant who attempted to source all his produce within the perimeter of the London underground. He was also at the launch and expressed his interest in sourcing food from one of the existing organisations.
“He’s very excited about this and what it will mean for restaurants,” commented Ben Reynolds, coordinator for London Food Link. “People from all over London are already contacting us, keen to be involved in Capital Growth. A number of restaurants we know are interested in using produce from the scheme, which we’re quite excited about.”
The other organisations noted alongside Solomon-Kawall as the first to pledge land to the scheme, include Blenheim Gardens housing estate in Brixton, and Latchmere House resettlement prison in Richmond.
Capital Growth will be run by London Food Link, part of the charity Sustain. The pilot stage of the scheme running until March 2009 will identify and support the first 50 spaces, and is being funded by the London Development Agency. Beyond this, Sustain will be seeking future funding for Capital Growth, with the support of London Food.