Visual research project on urban gardening in Basel and Vilnius cities.
The way people work determines their way of life. In addition to the classic agricultural areas, which also exist in an urban canton like Basel-Stadt, the way people feed themselves is characterized above all by leisure garden areas, community gardens, private gardens, roofs used as cultivation areas, balconies, front gardens, backyards or temporary uses free areas.
In addition to the cultivation of vegetables and fruit, the social aspect usually also plays an important role. In the community garden, people work together, and the focus is on social contacts. Valuable social networks can also be created in the leisure garden area.
Urban agriculture is currently experiencing a new impetus, which can also be observed in Basel. This undoubtedly has to do with the greater awareness of the role of sustainable nutrition in the city.
In recent years, the need for sustainable food production, transparency, and traceability has also grown in the canton of Basel-Stadt. In response to this, numerous neighborhood markets, farm shops, and community gardens have emerged in addition to existing gardens and leisure garden areas, and various private actors from society, business, and research are involved in a wide range of initiatives and projects for a local and sustainable food supply in Basel-Stadt – for example, the market hall, the stock mill or the Merian Gardens.
Particularly worth mentioning is the latest project “plankton – the vegetable cooperative from the city”, which is supported by the governing council. The project is committed to climate-friendly agriculture adapted to the location, which promotes urban biodiversity and enables the population to participate in the local food system. Get specific previously unused urban areas such as flat roofs, backyards, and lawns for the cultivation of vegetables, fruit, berries, and herbs. The products either go back to the districts as vegetable subscriptions or are used directly on-site.
Another project, the project for regional development “Genuss aus Stadt und Land” (PRE), wants to meet the need for more regionality and authenticity with a growing range of regional products. At the core are concrete sub-projects that invest in the areas of production, logistics or marketing. The investments are largely financed by the sponsors themselves and supported with contributions from the federal government and the two Basels.
The Basel Gourmet Week, which takes place in September, is closely linked to the PRE. This promotes enjoyment, respect for food, the joy of cooking, and good food.
This stage, which is offered to local gourmet crafts, can always be put to better use. In this way, Basel will have the honor of being the Swiss city of indulgence in 2022.
This award is no coincidence. The canton of Basel-Stadt has long been promoting sustainable nutrition with a special package of measures and has set the course for this award with its annual support of Basel Enjoyment Week and PRE.
It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Head of Canton and Urban Development Basel-StadtVisual research project on urban gardening
Foreword by the author
My personal interest in self-sufficiency spans my whole life. In my childhood, I have been observing and slowly learned by helping my grandmother at her small farm. Parallel to that, my mother cultivated an allotment for our family, where my knowledge and experience are also coming from. In my late teens, I started to travel abroad and see various gardening and self-sufficiency activities in towns, and villages. This experience broadened my understanding, that people are doing this activity with what is available at their hands everywhere I go.
Later in life, I moved from my parents to Vilnius and subsequently to Copenhagen where I spent more than 7 years. I have also studied in Newport, Wales, and in London, and traveled in Europe and USA, where I noticed that not only in allotments but also on balconies, on rooftops, or in backyards also young people are cultivating various plants, and that was the changing point in my mindset, that urban gardening activity is not only for middle-aged or elder people. In the last 20 years or so, with the changing economical situation, and general attitude towards the environment, more people looked back to ecological ideas, which are also bringing a bigger meaning but a therapeutic aspect to life in a city.
For this project, I was observing different urban gardening activities in Basel and Vilnius, which gave me a wonderful opportunity to draw parallels in the same activity field. In both cities, I also had a chance to meet people with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Those possibilities, even more, proved to me that the will of producing a harvest with one’s labour is something in common for all people, no matter of cultural, ethnic, or economic background one is coming from. The main difference is the structure of allotments: in Vilnius, they are becoming more of a place to build a proper house for living, since the municipality gives such permits, and cultivation is becoming less common practice there, as a typical 600 m2 land plot is just enough to build a house with a parking space and a tiny space for grass, a few bushes or trees. When observing allotment spaces in Basel, we can see how it is more regulated for the initial purpose of an allotment – to cultivate fruits and vegetables for oneself.
The most impressive is the variety of people’s interests in the cultivation of mushrooms, berries, fruit trees, herbs, root plants, beekeeping, flowers, and many more. Each person finds one’s interest in something specific, that answers to one’s call in carrying out a joyful activity, which is still requiring manual labour, but is fruitful, giving more in return, which is usually more evaluated than harvest itself.