'FOODTURES' initiative

Substainable social, economic and environmental transformation

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “We are working with the Matthew Tree Project, who are trying to address food poverty in Bristol. They are looking for additional food growing land in the city, and it is council policy to increase the area of land available for the growing of food."

Bristol City Council press release, 26 March 2015

TMTP FOODTURES is a sustainable city-wide plan to fight the underlying causes of POVERTY, improve health and connect communities.

Local food, healthy food, teaching people new skills, providing qualifications, creating jobs, transforming communities. FOODTURES is an exciting pioneering initiative that has the potential to provide a real step-change for society.

The key elements of the FOODTURES initiative illustrated above are:

  • Food growing plots of land in and around the city
  • FOODTURES education Centre built at one of the food growing plots
  • Main food distribution hub for donated food aid and also to enable locally grown food a route to market
  • Own label food production kitchen(s)
  • Overall reduction in food waste via an over-arching logistics system
  • The creation of local 'Good Food Markets' to bring the very best nutritious food to the poorest areas of the city

The FOODTURES initiative is designed to address the underlying causes of poverty by creating an environment for people to have better life chances, with better access to training and development, to improve their life skills and employment opportunities, and to create aspirational jobs for the long term unemployed. It is to contribute toward stronger 'inspired' communities, with more active people working together to tackle their problems whilst at the same time improving the rural and urban environments, which people are better able to access and enjoy, and to facilitate a healthier and more active lifestyle for all. 

The FOODTURES food growing sites are located in Brislington, Bristol (6.5 acre plot) and Vale Lane, Hartcliffe (8.5 acres). The Brislington site is ecologically diverse and rich in soil nutrients allowing us to cultivate it in a number of ways simultaneously. The meadow at the top of the site has good soil for growing and so would be used to produce herbs, vegetables and soft fruits using organic principles. A mixed planting scheme would ensure high productivity as well as increasing fertility and biodiversity across the site. The Vale Lane site is also rich in soil nutrients and conducive to growing herbs, vegetables and soft fruits using organic principles.

Both sites have high amenity value for the local residents, and so would be managed to preserve and enhance community involvement with the land. The design will balance the need for high productivity with aesthetic and environmental considerations, making sure that the site is a beautiful and peaceful place to be for volunteers, workers and visitors alike. The installation of several polytunnels will provide growing and propagation space, ensuring maximum yields across the seasons and also allowing for the sale of plants to the public. An on-site cafe serving teas, coffees and seasonal produce will increase community involvement in the site and provide revenue and employment.

At Brislington, the sloping section down towards Brislington Brook will be cleared of brambles to allow for easier access, and then planted with fruit and nut trees in the style of a forest garden, under planting with perennial herbs and shrubs to create a low maintenance system that mimics natural patterns whilst providing a harvest of fruit and herbs. This would also be a lovely site to create nature trails and walks down to the brook, to engage the local community with the natural landscapes at the doorstep. Our vision is that each plot in the FOODTURES project becomes a place where local people can come and help with the growing of the food, can sign up for work shops, socialise and connect with other like-minded people. We hope local schools, churches, colleges, businesses, and community organisations will get fully involved and be part of making this into the heart of the local community and a place to be proud of. 

In May 2012 there were 6.38 million people under-employed, i.e. they wanted work or were seeking full-time work instead of part-time. Under-employment has not been this high since 1993. In 2011, of the 6 million people under-employed , 2.5 million were unemployed; 2.3 million were defined as economically inactive but wanting paid work; and 1.2 million were working part-time but wanted full time jobs. The number of part-time workers looking for full-time work has doubled since 2004. The huge rise in people working part-time instead of full-time indicates that the issue is the lack of jobs, not an unwillingness to look for work. Policies that focus solely on changing incentives to find work via benefit reform cannot solve this problem (data extract from Joseph Rowntree Foundation; quote from Colin Crooks book 'How to make a million jobs'). 

We aim to teach local people to grow fresh produce to the highest organic standards, so that it can be sold into the local food chain. In addition to the growing of fresh produce, we also plan to have a separate group being taught how to make own label food products in our community kitchen at the Inns Court Centre - food that can be also sold into the local food chain. 

The objective is to create a financially sustainable model that enables us to offer apprenticeship programs to the long term unemployed, training in horticulture, agriculture, permaculture, and food processing skills for clients to acquire the qualifications and experience they need for satisfying on-going and sustainable employment.

Clearly, creating the job opportunities is not enough in itself. Many long-term unemployed people have other issues that provide a barrier to re-entering the labour market. We are therefore developing programs that will take each client through the necessary transformational changes needed for such a lifestyle change.


State of the Art Integrated Food Production



The philosophy that underpins The Matthew Tree Project FOODTURES initiative is a combination of 'best practice' from around the world coupled with the innovation, expertise and the individual nature of the city into which we are working. We do not believe you can just take an initiative from another place and simply 'drop it in'' and expect it to work. But we can take valuable knowledge, ideas and feedback then apply this 'expertly' to the local situation.


An example of the innovation from elsewhere that we are seeking to learn from and use where appropriate is shown in the video below. This was an old disused factory in Chicago, USA, that is successfully developing a 'state of the art integrated food production' system.


The old red-brick building sporting a “BEER” sign may not look impressive, but what is going on inside certainly is. “The Plant” is an indoor vertical farm that triples as a food-business incubator and research/education space located inside an 87-year old meat packing factory in the Union Stockyards of Chicago, Illinois.  The project was partly funded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity with a $1.5 million grant.

Ultimately the plant will create 125 jobs in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, it will be a model for future endeavors to convert old buildings into urban farms, it will provide fresh and local produce, fish, beer and kombucha to the neighborhood, and it will collect organic waste from nearby businesses thereby further alleviating landfills of food waste. In order to make this solution sustainable and adaptable, Plant Chicago will be sharing its financial and technical information in the years to come. These types of urban farms can transform the way our cities run: where we prioritize our funds, how we determine infrastructure, how we build community.