New Research Summary available: Urban horticulture and local food: identity, governance and economy in Bath and Bamberg

© Zentrum Welterbe Bamberg, picture: Jürgen Schraudner
Urban gardening in Bamberg
© Zentrum Welterbe Bamberg, picture: Jürgen Schraudner

CCRI has produced a project summary for a research study that looked at urban horticulture and local food; identity, governance and economy in the cities of Bath (UK) and Bamberg (Bavaria).

In recent years, interest has been emerging around growing food and processing food waste in built-up areas, which has created a dynamic period for research and practice within urban agriculture. Economic, technical or political concerns have also raised interest in issues, such as challenges in identifying and cultivating spaces earmarked for building development, or which have contaminated soil; participation in neighbourhood food growing initiatives to support social cohesion and improve household food security and nutrition; social and entrepreneurial innovations and the development of alternative business models; and distinctions in functional characteristics of different areas of the city such as inner-city or peri-urban areas.

CCRI and the Otto-Friedrich University (OFU) identified two important gaps in current research, which are:

1. research relates to large, often global mega-cities, less frequently to mid-sized, provincial cities; and
2. there are few socio-cultural insights into urban agriculture.

To help plug this gap, between 2015 and 2016, CCRI’s Dan Keech worked with the OFU to carry out a research study to compare the socio-cultural dimensions of urban agriculture (UA) in Bath and Bamberg. Bath and Bamberg were chosen because they are midscale cities and the level of comparability between the two cities is optimal in terms of similarities and learning opportunities linked to differences.

Research findings found a notable distinction in interpretations of what local food is across the two cities. In Bamberg, local signifies food produced within the city limits or drawn from its immediate hinterland, in contrast to Bath’s positioning of local food within the wider region of South West England. Local food is associated with quality in both cities but for different reasons. Local (artisan and niche) products are tied to narratives of Bath as a destination of exceptional gastronomic quality, particularly in pubs and restaurants owned by local brewers (currently experiencing rising export demand for local beer). In Bamberg, local food is associated with familiarity, affordability and consistency in quality. This ensures a solid customer base supported by a long-established supply chain, although the profit margins are low. On the other hand, the premium price of local food in Bath can be prohibitive to some.

In both cities, the main signifiers of quality are origin, price and taste. The need to draw food from further afield in Bath is linked to the structure of agriculture around the city: mainly commodity livestock or grain production. While consumers in Bamberg implicitly know about, and take for granted, the link between local producers and local dining, their principal concern is the taste of familiar and traditional dishes, reasonably priced.

Overall, Bath and Bamberg presented interesting contrasts in relation to UA. Bamberg retains about 20 hectares of inner city commercial gardening with medieval origins, while Bath’s distinguished horticultural sector, which started in a similar period and expanded substantially until the early 1900s, now mainly survives in street names and museum archives. Despite this, we suggest that Bath’s renewed interest UA indicates an openness to expand the way the city’s heritage is valued. In Bamberg, the Gärtnerstadt forms a discreet part of the city’s World Heritage designation. Yet it is geographically and commercially separate from the ‘doll’s parlour’ of baroque and medieval structure of the city that attract most tourists. UA is taken for granted by locals yet not fully explored by tourists.

The research indicated that the multiple environmental, social and cultural functions of UA should be more carefully examined and articulated within processes of strategic city planning and cultural heritage management.

Research methods, findings and conclusions are included in the project summary, which can be downloaded free of charge from our website.

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