Urban farming

Researchers from Södertörn University blogs about urban farming and digital practices.

Activism, permanence and change

In our initial explorations of the research in this field as well as our initial visits, one interesting issue has surfaced: the issue of permanence and lasting commitment. Above all, we are interested in the role of design and technology here: to what extent is digital design part of the practices that inspire and structure social movements such as urban farming? The other day, the Swedish journal Dagens Arena discussed why people do not engage in social movements as much as before. This is their analysis:

“Firstly, there has been a transfer of commitment from traditional social movements to smaller and, in many cases, newly established organizations. Secondly, the commitment is less permanent. Many people want to be active in one project or campaign, and then they move on to the next subject or activity when the goal is reached. People are what the sociologist Alberto Melucci called “nomads in the present”. Thirdly, there is no longer an equal sign between commitment and membership. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Many people are reluctant to get involved if it is required to become a member, since membership implies that one commits for a long time.

Fourth, a substantial part of the engagement has moved online. There, the question is not how people should become more active, because new social media are full of networks, such as ‘like campaigns’, political discussions and debates. The question is, rather, how these activities should have a larger impact outside the internet as well. Fifth, several studies, including the Democracy Commission (Demokratiutredningen) a decade ago, demonstrated that class, education and income affect the degree of commitment more distinctly than earlier. Those who really need the force that a social movement can offer is, or in other words tend to be, largely excluded. This is the great challenge of our time for social movements.” [our translation]

It seems that digital media must be designed in line with practices that generate changes that are experienced as attractive, meaningful, and interesting to various social movements such as urban farming. Also, enthusiasm for growing food together needs some further back up. In our application for this project we wrote about digital interaction as an inspirer for action, but the more we learn about urban farming, the more the use of digital media as a resource for stability and commitment over time become interesting. The question is, then, what kinds of technological functionality and design that supports these values and practices.


Excursion to ‘Trädgård på spåret’

Today’s excursion went to Trädgård på spåret, probably the largest urban farm in the Stockholm area. It was raining this morning and it contributed to the strong sense of atmosphere in the place at 9 am, the old rail road tracks in the south of Södermalm in Stockholm, had a very distinct urban feeling.


Reinventing use of urban land

The place is considerably larger than the earlier farms we visited, and interestingly enough the old tracks are placed just beside a very cute allotment garden, which in turn further enhances the distinctive feeling of the place.


The allotment gardens in the background

The tracks are clearly a part of the garden.


The tracks

The pallet rims have their individual sponsors and the gardens also contain a small café and a outdoor scene, created by pallets.The graffiti on the walls makes a nice background to the plants.


Graffiti and greens.



Quick notes from an excursion to four urban farms in Stockholm

We wanted to find out more about what actually goes on in some of the urban farms in the Stockholm area. It is early in the growing season but there were visible traces of activities going on at the urban farms we visited. We wanted to explore various sites.

The first one was Boodla. It is part of a community called Sustopia which is placed in Botkyrka in the south of Stockholm. It is a hub for various projects regarding sustainability and community and related to Botkyrka municipality, thus not a grass root movement.


Boodlas smålotter

The second visit was at Areal 127 in Bredäng. This is an initiative of the local community and it makes use of the local gathering area close to a playground and an open area theatre.


Areal 127


Areal 127

The third site we visited was Folkodlarna i Skarpnäck. This is a site oriented towards the local community, allowing preschool children to use their area to grow crops. The colourful pallet rims below belongs to different kindergartens.


Folkodlarna i Skarpnäck

A fourth site is designed as a forest garden, with permanent plants and herbs.It is situated in Bagarmossen and called Bagisodlarna.