In England, during and after the Second World War, there was a campaign run by the government to rally the spirit of the people by ´Growing for Victory ´and this had the effect of creating the allotment and the back garden farm. My grand parents dug up their garden and had fruit trees, vegetables and chickens, so I am not surprised that this would rub off on myself and my brothers.
Graça was asking me about my brothers and in particular my brother Roy, born Grenville Roy Simkins and using the name Gren for the first 18 years of his life until he worked at Kings Heath Park, Birmingham and met his future wife Jean, at this point we discovered that our brother was known to the world outside as Roy, I have no difficulty with the change because I have been away from my parents house for the last 40 years and when I communicate with Roy I use that name and also all my friends know him by that name, Graham and Malcolm however have not changed and for them he is Gren, the name mom always called him.
Roy as far as I can remember was not so fond of school and at the age of 15 , when he could leave school, he left school and got a job for the council in one of their parks, possibly at Handsworth Park. It was is calling and he always seems to be happy when his hands are covered with soil, he moved from one park to another and changed job titles as he went along, moving gradually into the greenhouses and there meeting Jean. Later he was involved with the production of plants for the councils bedding schemes and won many awards at the regional shows, he also had several TV appearances with Percy Thrower.
I do not remember why the council closed the greenhouses at Roy´s work but he was moved, or given an option to move to a living farm museum at
Sandwell Park Farm
In Sandwell Valley is Sandwell Park Farm, a fully restored 18th century farm which was constructed to supply food throughout the year to the Earls of Dartmouth’s estate and Sandwell Hall.
A variety of livestock housed within the central courtyard and adjoining pasture are the actual breeds which would have been kept on the farm at the turn of the century.
The Victorian Kitchen Garden demonstrates the techniques used to supply vegetables and fresh fruit to Sandwell Hall. The farm also contains collection of old agricultural machinery and displays illustrating human activity in Sandwell Valley from pre-historic times.
A bit of history
Communities growing food together is not a new thing. All early agricultural systems seemed to have been co-operative activities, with land, tools and harvest all shared. However, as cultures have developed, ownership of land has tended fall into fewer hands.
This concentration of control does, in fact, affect almost all areas of life - not just land ownership.
During the 1960s the growth of community action escalated, in part as a reaction against this lack of control and access to resources. Many communities set up projects such as youth clubs, under-fives groups, tenant or resident associations, community centres and elderly projects.
Similarly, some groups around the country saw some derelict land in their neighbourhood and decided that it should be used as a community garden - a place that is run by the community to meet their own needs. Part of the inspiration for this was the growth of the community garden movement in the United States.
Over the years more and more community gardens were established, although many depended on short-term lease agreements or indeed squatting.
In 1972 the first city farm was established in Kentish Town, London. This larger project not only included gardening space but also farm animals, influenced by the children's farm movement in the Netherlands.
What are city farms and community gardens?
They are community-managed projects working with people, animals and plants. They range from tiny wildlife gardens to fruit and vegetable plots on housing estates, from community polytunnels to large city farms.
They exist mainly in urban areas and are created in response to a lack of access to green space, combined with a desire to encourage strong community relationships and an awareness of gardening and farming.
City farms and community gardens are often developed by local people in a voluntary capacity, and commonly retain a strong degree of volunteer involvement. Some larger community farms and gardens employ many workers whilst others are run solely by small groups of dedicated volunteers. Most are run by a management committee of local people and some are run as partnerships with local authorities, whilst retaining strong local involvement.
Most projects provide food-growing activities, training courses, school visits, community allotments and community businesses. In addition, some provide play facilities and sports facilities, and after school and holiday schemes.
What do they look like?
There is no typical city farm or community garden as each develops according to the local area and in response to the needs of the local community.
They are places where people of all ages, all ethnic backgrounds, all abilities and from all sections of the community are made welcome.
Why do they matter to people?
"It's all about including people, providing a 'growing space' for groups and individuals. People come to the farm because they want to work with animals, but they stay because of the people.
- Rob Gayler, Farm Manager, Lambourne End Centre, Essex