The initiative started in April 2012 as the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh) embarked on an ecological strategic plan to become the first green University. The idea was also to open the university to the public, to make better use of its facilities and to address the lack of open space to grow vegetables in Thessaloniki. Within a total area of 6 hectares, 100m2 land plots are allocated annually through open calls to city dwellers, for a maximum duration of 3 years.
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57001, Thermi, Thessaloniki, Greece
∙ School of Agriculture and Rectorate authorities of AUTh, Aristotle University Farm of Thessaloniki
∙ 2,000 city dwellers with various backgrounds (25% civil servants, 30% private employees, 30% unemployed and 15 % retirees) who have been allocated a plot of land to grow vegetables for self-consumption
∙ 24 AUTh students who work every year in the gardens
∙ Bridging the gap between University and society
∙ Raising awareness on environmental issues and organic farming among the population
∙ Re-connecting people with the land and the cycles of nature
∙ Helping university students to get some field experience
∙ Set up the AUTh ecological strategic plan to become the first green University while preserving land integrity
Legal framework & BudgetThis initiative is implemented by AUTh, which employs an agronomist and 2 farm assistants throughout the year, as well as 24 undergraduate students for 3 months to assist amateur gardeners.
ActivitiesToday, more than 500 plots of land are being culti- vated by almost 2,000 city dwellers. There is no criteria for plot allotment but gardeners must comply with the principles of organic farming and attend a series of seminars on sustainable and environmental friendly practices. Students, the agronomist and the 2 farm assistants provide daily advice and support to gardeners. The latter have to bring their own tools but seeds and seedlings can be provided by the University Farm at a very low price. The seeds and seedlings include commercial varieties, hybrids and some Greek local varieties and landraces. Humus and manure are used for plant fertilisation.
>Innovation & OutcomesThe initiative is great success with city dwellers, despite the hardly accessible location. The number of applications reached 450 once. For some candidates, it is all about the pleasure of gardening. For others, it is a way to have access to fresh and organic vegetables. A few ones also see it as a professional perspective. The benefits are two sided as it is also a great opportunity for students to practice by assisting gardeners in growing their own vegetables.