Tag Archives: City Farmers

Using open data to engage government and communities

City Farmers is a community interest company, set up by Helen Steer and Pete Boyce in 2011 after receiving GeoVation funding in the GeoVation Challenge to help Britain feed itself. City Farmers helps local government and communities engage with sustainability issues through data, mapping and activism. They particularly focus on issues that involve food, micro enterprise and local economies.

City Farmers map image

The project began by researching existing growing provisions, communities, projects and challenges within Lambeth. The team specialises in using open data to create multi-layer maps, which have proved incredibly valuable at visualising and framing the problems, enabling conversations between individuals, communities, charities and government. It has developed a range of maps showing food growing, crime, education and various other types of ‘data topography’. City Farmers also support and create grassroots projects, run workshops and organize collaborations.

They started with a geographical focus on Lambeth, including specific areas such as Vassall Ward, one of the most deprived areas in Britain. Now more established, they have worked across South London, in Hackney, and even as far afield as Wales.


Geography and Supply Chain Integrity

With the current focus on the integrity, resilience and sustainability of complex food supply chains – the journey food takes from farm to fork – this post looks at how three GeoVation winners and two GeoVation suppliers are challenging the status quo using geography and geographical information.

GeoVation “How can Britain feed itself?” challenge winner Foodnation : The People’s Digital Co-op has a mission to have neighbourhood Foodnation hubs within bicycle-riding distance of most UK households. It provides an on-line platform to connect customers and farmers in their local area, easily enabling them to buy and sell local organic food and find fruit and veg-box delivery schemes around the UK. This is supported by the Foodnation app launched in May 2012. Working with the Transition town network to pilot the scheme, Foodnation founder Louise Campbell sees the model for the Foodnation Co-operative as being fully scalable in transition towns across UK.


How geography and innovation can help build food security

Our GeoVation challenge “How can Britain feed itself?” explored the role  geography and innovation can play in an agroecological approach to local food and farming. The emphasis is on building food security and sovereignty through connecting people to locally and sustainably produced food and farming. Geography is about the relationships between people, place, processes (natural and man-made) and planet and is therefore intimately connected to the land and how we use it. Our GeoVation Food Mapping Workshop explored how geography and geographic information can be used in local food and farming.

The links of geography to agro-ecological approaches to food and farming were again apparent at the excellent Oxford Real Farming Conference 2013 on 3-4 January. An ambitious programme covered numerous innovative developments in agroecological approaches to food and farming, from: policy to practice; collaboration and sharing business models for accessing land and production; and crowd funding for financing new initiatives.

Farmers, the world over are very innovative, but knowing whose doing what and where and what resources are available, is important in spreading good practice, knowledge and expertise rapidly. Technology, including social media, and geography is beginning to address that particular challenge. Our GeoVation challenge winners City Farmers, illustrate that in the conference  map they produced.

City Farmers Map of Delegates at Oxford Real Farming Conference

City Farmers map delegates at Oxford Real Farming Conference


Snow time to stop innovating

While much of the country has been dealing with snow in the last few weeks, there’s been no rest for Luke and Ian, who manage Ordnance Survey’s Developer Engagement programme. They ran their first GeoSurgery of 2013 on 17 January at the Google Campus in London and the event was a major success, with some extremely interesting conversations being had with over a dozen developers. The idea to run a quarterly GeoSurgery, an event that provides us with a physical presence in London’s Tech City, came about from the sheer level of interest received in Ordnance Survey’s product and service offering that we have gauged amongst the developer community. Ian – also known as Ordnance Survey’s resident “GeoDoctor” – was on hand to speak to a number of developers that had technical questions relating to the use of location-based data in their respective business offerings. We introduced developers to our portfolio of OS OpenData products, which include the frequently downloaded: OS Streetview; CodePoint Open and Boundary Line – to name just a few.

We’re now in the midst of organising our next OS Developer event, which takes place on 26 February, again in London. This time we’re at the HUB in Westminster, London to hold an evening dedicated to showing existing and potential developers through OS OpenSpace, which is Ordnance Survey’s web mapping service. Specifically, we’ll be showcasing the recent enhancements that we have made to the API, so if you would like to register an interest in coming along, please drop us a line and we’ll add you to the register.

City Farmers Map of Delegates at Oxford Real Farming Conference

City Farmers map delegates at Oxford Real Farming Conference

In early January Chris participated in the Oxford Real Farming Conference where GeoVation food challenge innovators, City Farmers displayed some great maps using OS OpenData showing who is doing what and where.  Some excellent presentations on how collaboration is building resilience in food chains through local food and farming.


New book with mission to explore food

Lin to Mission Explore Food Book websiteMission:Explore Food is an activity cookbook that challenges children to go cannibal, cook in acid, make chocolate poos (including nuts and sweetcorn), ask the Queen for a swan and work out the best way to slaughter a lamb.

The book, a collaboration between 2 of our 2011 GeoVation Challenge winners Mission:Explore and City Farmers is billed as one of the most controversial and yet important cookbooks ever written for children and families.

Mission:Explore Food has been created to tantalise children’s taste for adventure and tests their understanding not only of where their food is from, but also of where it goes once they’ve finished eating.

“A children’s book that asks them to question if the pig they are eating has ever seen the light of day, make scary soup and keep a poo diary might sound controversial, but it’s vitally important that children think about their relationship with food and have fun while doing it. We all appreciate that children should know how to cook and eat well, but these are just two chapters in the story of our food. Unlike most children’s cookbooks that ignore the rest of the food cycle, Mission:Explore Food includes activities that encourage children to learn about growing, harvesting, waste and soil as well. An essential ingredient is appreciating that their/our choices affect people and places around the world too.” explains Daniel Raven-Ellison, one of the authors. (more…)

Maps for an Urban Explorer

Two of our GeoVation Challenge winners from last year, City Farmers and Mission:Explore have been working together to create some beautiful maps using Open Data for Urban Earth, a project to (re)present some of the largest urban areas on our planet by exploring, experiencing and expressing them.  In the guest post below Peter, from City Farmers, tells us more.

In late February, Dan (Raven-Ellison, Mission Explore) took up my offer to produce some maps for his series of urban story walks, an exploration of London using open government datasets to plan his routes. The aim of these walks was to see how the physical environment related to the highs and lows of government statistics.

The first walk was to explore areas with high levels of violent crime. From the online London mapper, Dan had observed that, apart from the West End, Kingston had the highest rate of reported violence. The journey was to start in Kingston and to travel across south West London to the west end.

Although by far the highest rate of violent crime occurs in the West End, this is due to its low residential population, where as Kingston has a relatively average population level yet comes third across London.

Dan’s next journey was to explore the least connected areas of London. Given that he would be taking people to some remote areas of London, it was also nice to see how those areas rated. The final map is a combination of TfL’s Public Transport Accessibility Data (PTAL) and the Environment Deprivation Rank (ED) of the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD).

To highlight the PTAL levels in highest and lowest ranked areas of Environmental Deprivation, I chose to change the point style in those areas. To achieve that a blur was used on those in middle ED areas.

Following on from the comments on the second map, I really started thinking about how I could colour the maps to represent the data I was showing. Luckily enough the next map in the series was to be depression. Looking at the data available, the best grain I could find was for measured depression based on +2 results from the NHS clinical interview schedule. This showed the rate of what was clinically determined depression at ward level. Given the obvious connotation of blue as depressed and yellow as happy it was mealy an examination of tones to find something I liked.

Next up was an exploration of unemployment, given no natural colour choices for this I had a bit more experimentation to do. On the other hand, as these were based on actual numbers rather than a comparative indicator there was a lot more scope for detailing the extremes.

For areas of low unemployment, I went for a very soft looking field effect. As things get worse the colours darken and I think I have what looks like a smog effect. As the plan for the walk was to look at some of the highest areas of Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimant rates I felt it best to look at the top 10% in more detail. For this I attempted to make the areas look a lot harder. I highlighted the top five areas by using a cracked effect and individual colours.

There are also a few areas highlighted where there is a high gradient between wards or small areas of low relative Employment Deprivation (from the IMDs again) within wards with a high rates of JSA claimant.

The final walk of the series was a look at life expectancy. This initial problem this presented was that it varies between men and women. In order to express this I have chosen to express the average life expectancy in an area, and then provide a variance between men and women; in the low numbers of areas where man outlive women, I changed the text to yellow.

Unlike the other maps I had not used quantiles as I decided to colour the areas at year intervals of life expectancy. In order to explain this I chose to key the map using a graph which shows the percentage of the population which live over a certain number of years.

If you would like to know more about the maps or see them in more detail, we plan to add them to the City Farmers website once we have a hi-res image widget set up on our server.

If you’d like copies of the maps then feel free to contact us through the site, I’m happy to send a link to download them whilst they are unavailable.  If you’d like to commission some maps of your own then I’m happy to discus this. The analysis for these was relatively straight forward but would take on more complex sets of information analysis, whilst still aiming working towards something that looks good and draws the eye.

Thanks for reading, I hope you like what you see.

Peter Boyce

You can find out more about Urban Earth and see a more detailed version of this post  here




Mapping the Future of Food and Farming

orfcWe are delighted to be hosting the Mapping the Future workshop at the Oxford Real Farming Conference on Friday. We’ll explore the challenges mapping can be used to address, with innovative examples and contributions from local food and farming pioneers including contributions from City Farmers, Food Nation, Sustaination, GeoFutures and Ordnance Survey.

We worked with the Campaign for Real Farming and Agrarian Renaissance when we launched Geovation’s “How can Britain Feed Itself?” challenge in June 2010. As a result we were delighted to be able to seed fund two innovative ventures, Food Nation and City Farmers that are using geography to help address sustainable, local food and farming. You can read about their ventures here on the blog.

Building on interest in the role geography can play, we held a Local Food and Farming Mapping Workshop, together with Tasting the Future at Ordnance Survey in July and produced this report from the day.

Mapping local food at Tasting the Future’s assembly

‘Seeds of Change’ was the name of the Tasting the Future’s third assembly which as held on 28 November 2011. Tasting the future is a community of practitioners working towards a sustainable food future. The purpose of the assembly was to connect, hear inspiring stories and learn.

Conversations tackled a diverse range of issues facing us in the transition to a sustainable food future. These included: supply chains, climate friendly beef, urban agriculture, business models, sharing, supermarkets, GMOs, biodiversity, hubs & possibilities, sustainable food for everyone, food waste, food mapping, working together for systems change, getting people to act, connection and sustainability as a starting point for innovation.

Chris from GeoVation was one of the 11 speakers during the afternoon session. Chris spoke about GeoVation’s work on Mapping Local Food and how geography can support sustainable food enterprises. Also speaking was Pete Boyce of GeoVation Challenge winner City Farmers who told the assembly about their experiences of local growing and the opportunities for influencing and changing policy.

Niamh Carey from Tasting the Future shared the story behind the idea, the values behind the work and what the team would like to see grow. The final session allowed feedback from everyone in the room on how to take this forward.

To find out more about the assembly and Tasting the Future visit their website

You can also see the report of the Local Food Mapping Workshop we held in July

Chris at Seeds of Change

City Farmers – Harvest update

Since winning the ‘How can Britain feed itself?’ GeoVation Challenge, City Farmers, have been incredibly busy. Below, Helen and Peter give an update of what they’ve been doing:

After attending the Incredible Edible Lambeth Harvest Party and reflecting on this growing season, we realized how quickly CF_logo_final_websmall2time has passed, and how much City Farmers has done over the past six months.

In Spring, funding from both Ordnance Survey’s GeoVation and Timberland’s Earthkeepers funds, enabling us to buy materials and services to get our projects of the ground. So what have we done? It would be impossible to list all the amazing projects we’ve been part of, but here’s a taster of what we’ve been up to:

  • We’ve participated in several community events, giving out growing starter packs and advice.
  • We have started two new community gardens with the residents at Rupert Gardens, with plans to support least seven more new ventures across Lambeth soon.
  • We are providing logistical support to a wide range of existing growing groups, filling a much-needed role in the community.
  • We spoke at Kew Gardens’ Start festival, and represented Incredible Edible Lambeth at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival.
  • We had a stall at the Lambeth Country Show, where we gave away hundreds of plants in exchange for hundreds of completed surveys about growing habits. We also premiered our three maps, and gave advice on growing in our community.
  • We’ve helped community projects like the Brixton Energy Co-op and the Remakery in a variety of ways from copy-writing to engineering.
  • We’ve set up new initiatives in the community like upcycling estate windows into greenhouses, and our new project, to be announced this week. Stay tuned; it involves hops, growing and beer…

We have had such a positive six months, participating in exciting projects and talking to inspiring people. Thanks everyone, and happy harvest!

Helen and Pete, City Farmers

You can find out more about City Farmers work by visiting their website

How mapping can help local food groups

In July GeoVation, working with Tasting the Future, held a Local Food Mapping Workshop at Ordnance Survey.  The workshop was attended by representatives from various sustainable food and farming groups, local authorities and universities. GeoVation Challenge winners, City Farmers and Foodnation also took part.

A report on the workshop has now been compiled which captures the views of the participants of the main problems they are trying to solve such as:

  • Understanding and promoting local food;
  • Addressing the demand for land and access;
  • Enabling collaboration;
  • Fragmented distribution of local food.

And suggests solutions as to how mapping could help address these.

It includes summaries on the presentations made by food mapping innovators and links to further information on the demonstrations of OS OpenSpace®, OS OpenDataTM and other data sources. There are also some useful comments on how the workshop could be scaled out to groups.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the workshop. We had some great feedback from you.

‘A very good group of people. An enjoyable and useful day.’

‘The workshop was a stroke of genius!’

If you would like to find out more about what happened at the workshop click the picture below to open the report.

Local Food Mapping Report

City Farmers give away plants at ‘Big Lunch’

plantsCity Farmers, one of GeoVation’s ‘How can Britain feed itself?’ Challenge winners, made an appearance at Lambeth’s Loughborough and Cowley estates ‘Big Lunches’  on Sunday 5 May.   They took with them over 200 plants to give away for free to residents of the estates.

They designed up some stickers to go on each plant with simple care instructions and suggestions for how to use the plants. The plants were used as a way to initiate an informal dialogue about growing, as many of the people taking plants lived in the flats on the Loughborough estate and had little to no experience of Residents with their free plants growing. City Farmers have also set dates for clearing land on Loughborough Estate, with help from the local community, Lambeth’s Community Freshview and the young adult payback scheme led by the London Wildlife Trust.

At the Cowley estate, where there is already an established community garden, they asked for people to sign up to volunteer at the gardens in return for our plants; over 20% promised to give at least one hour of their time. Not a bad result!

Find out more about City Farmers work