Growing green: Salford Council lays groundwork for fruit and veg farm project in abandoned mill

By Chris Higgins

Green-fingered residents are being encouraged to get growing as Salford Council pitches in to open a farm in the abandoned Irwell House printworks next year.

The project, part of the Manchester International Festival (MIF), aims to provide more fruit and veg to local communities identified as some of the unhealthiest in the country.

The Biospheric Foundation is set to receive a £300,000 sponsorship from Salford City Council next week, allowing the farm to open in time for the MIF 2013 in July.

Ian Stewart, Salford City Mayor, said: “People often say they can’t afford to eat healthily because of the cost of fruit and vegetables.

“Salford has some of the poorest health in the country and diet and exercise play a key role in improving people’s well-being.

“Encouraging people to grow and eat their own produce while showcasing Salford as supporting innovative, cutting-edge research as part of this major international festival is money well spent.”

Salford residents are being asked to help with the first phase of the project this weekend, preparing the ground for planting fruit, trees and shrubs in the outdoor ‘forest garden’ spaces.

Vincent Walsh, founder and director of The Biospheric Foundation, said: “This work will help to challenge contemporary thinking about urban food production and ecologies within the inner-city.”

The scheme, brainchild of Mr Walsh and the MIF, is similar to the Vertical Farms venture they attempted in 2011 which created a multi-storey indoor farming space in a derelict Wythenshawe office block.  

A spokesman for the MIF said: “After we did the feasibility studies, we found out it was actually too expensive and not sustainable, which kind of went against the whole principle of the idea.”

The long-term project is hoped to run for around 10 years, opening in time for the 2013 festival which will run between July 4 and July 21.

Other attractions announced for the festival so far include a staging of Macbeth in a disused church and starring and directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, as well as intimate 100-capacity shows with band The xx.

Councillor Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, said: “There’s no other festival in the world which, on the one hand could attract a star of the calibre of Sir Kenneth Branagh, while on the other transform an old warehouse into a community food project.”

Volunteers are being asked to help prepare the ground this coming weekend (December 1-2) and plant trees the following weekend (December 8-9) at Irwell House, East Philip Street, Salford.

To reserve a place, please contact Sarah Hiscock on 0161 817 4517.

Image courtesy of DoimSioraf, with thanks.

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