Great article in the Ecologist, thank you Eifion!
Supermarket rooftop gardens: an exercise in community building?
26th July, 2011
Eifion Rees reports on the group bringing the heart back to supermarkets with a rooftop vegetable garden
Napoleon described Britain as a nation of shopkeepers, but with corporate interests having conquered where the Emperor failed, these days we’re more like a nation of supermarket shoppers.
The Big Four of almost 30 supermarket chains operating in the UK control 80 per cent of the country’s grocery market. Tesco has 2,715 stores, Sainsbury’s 934, Morrisons 455 and Asda roughly 400. Add to that hundreds of regional and national distribution centres, and vast portions of land either earmarked for development or stockpiled to prevent it, and supermarkets cover a vast area.
Take the market leader’s biggest stores: Tesco Extra hypermarkets – all 212 of them – have an average floor space of 120,000 sq ft. These aircraft hangars of the shopping world alone cover an area roughly the size of 300 football pitches.
All of which means, above the walls of glass and neon logos, there’s a lot of roof space going begging – and that’s something a pioneering scheme found on top of Thornton’s Budgens supermarket in Crouch End, North London, hopes to rectify.
The Food from the Sky community growing project is a low-rise labyrinth of green recycling boxes packed with earth and bursting with all manner of fruit and vegetables. In an outbuilding, oyster mushrooms slowly shoulder their way out of plastic bags. In a far corner of the roof, beyond the wormeries and compost tumblers full of Budgens’ out of date food, purple pod beans wave in the breeze. July’s crop of salad, red mountain spinach, rocket, potatoes, peas, pak choi and much other fresh produce is already on sale in the supermarket aisles below.