Edinburgh Agroecology Coop (EAC) was set up to work towards the transformation of the farmland in front of Lauriston Castle into a food-growing and wildlife habitat enhancement project.

The vision is for a large scale urban food growing project which is nature rich, and which will benefit primarily the communities that live in the local area but also the wider city into the future.

Aiming to address some of the issues around access to local, affordable fresh produce, environmental degradation and lack of opportunities for people in cities to gain experience in food production resulting in a greater understanding of the wider food system.

Lauriston Farm is a 100 acre urban farm situated in North West Edinburgh, overlooking the Firth of Forth, established and run by EAC, transforming the land with a multifunctional integrated land-use strategy focusing on three main themes: 

  1. food production
  2. community
  3. biodiversity 

It is a local response to the growing challenges of climate change, biodiversity collapse and lack of access for all to healthy, fresh, affordable food. 

The vision is to create a biodiverse farm that benefits both people and wildlife, and to be a place where people can learn first-hand how food is grown in a nature rich environment, with multiple points of access for community engagement, events and learning.

Much of the farm is dedicated to food production with the market garden already producing a variety of vegetables and an agroforestry alley crop system being planned for the next year. Across all the food production areas a mix of vegetables, fruit and grains will be grown. 

There are also community growing plots for community groups and organisations, 12 have been established already with plans for approximately 50 plots being created altogether over the next five years.

A community orchard and learning hub are in the plans over the next couple of years. 

Habitat creation and enhancement is integral to the farm and so far close to 10,000 trees have been planted in newly created woodland areas and hedgerows, with the help of over 450 volunteers!, as well as expansion of an existing wetland and creation of new amphibian ponds and wildflower meadows.

Much of the farm has been left open for people to walk around and enjoy the stunning panoramic views over the Firth.

Lauriston Farm was once a productive farm growing grains, field crops and keeping livestock in the mid 1900s. More recently the land was utilised by a tenant farmer from Fife for sheep grazing and silage production. 

In 2019,  EAC proposed to the landowners, City of Edinburgh Council, a new vision for the land, based around food production, enhancing biodiversity and community involvement. EAC felt that this prime arable land in an urban environment could provide multiple benefits for the local communities and wider city. 

The farm is located between some of the most affluent areas of Edinburgh and some of those facing the greatest economic and social challenges. EAC hope to help address some of the challenges facing the communities in those areas as well as providing a model for urban farms that could be replicated elsewhere.

The founding members of the EAC have many years of expertise in food growing, urban biodiversity and landscape ecology, woodland conservation, project management, horticulture, food processing, community development and engagement and seed saving. 

The EAC is a workers co-operative and as such has a horizontal decision making structure, there are currently 4 directors and 6 members of the co-operative.

The farm also has an advisory group that includes representatives from SRUC, NHS Lothian Greenspace, Landworkers Alliance, Nourish Scotland, local residents groups and community organisations.

The project is currently and has so far been funded through a variety of sources, including the Co-op Foundation - Carbon Innovation Fund, Central Scotland Green Network, NatureScot, Awards for All, Mushroom Trust, City of Edinburgh Council and Federated Hermes. The farm will also generate its own revenues, next year launching a Community Supported Agriculture scheme that will provide weekly veg boxes for local residents.

EAC have worked hard to engage local communities who have become involved through multiple routes:

  • An extensive community consultation as part of the project initiation
  • Volunteering opportunities in the market garden, tree planting and nature surveys
  • Learning opportunities around growing your own food and nature-based activities
  • New allotments, initially open to community groups, and soon to be offered to families/individuals too
  • Cultural learning and group activities across the year, including a series of events in 2022 as part of the Dandelion Festival

The community consultation carried out in November 2020  helped shape the future plans for the project. Affordability and buying local were the top two priorities when it comes to food, with 69% of people on a higher income willing to pay extra to lower the cost for those on a low income. Over half of those who wrote about the benefits of the project highlighted learning and awareness of food growing and access to local, healthy and affordable food as the most impactful.

With the successful start of the Lauriston Farm project so far, EAC  have big plans for the future of the farm, including:

  • Launching the Community Supported Agriculture scheme
  • Expanding the growing season / crop varieties with polytunnels
  • Expanding tree planting and agroforestry systems
  • Community engagement programme - nature based and food growing activities
  • Working with local schools 
  • Launching/hosting food and nature-based micro-businesses
  • Planning and developing a community hub building including a seed saving library
  • Improving and expanding nature habitats, including a new wildflower meadow
  • Grains trials
  • Expanding the allotments
  • Developing apprenticeships and accredited learning pathways
  • Research partnerships

You can find out more about Lauriston Fam through the EAC facebook page, twitter or Instagram

Visit the Lauriston Farm website