Gardens of Sancturary at farms, smallholdings and gardens across Britain

by Ben MargolisA full room of participants in the Gardens of Sanctuary session at ORFC 2018

The new Gardens of Sanctuary project was presented to the Oxford Real Farming Conference this week by Ben Margolis from The Grange and Sophie Antonelli from the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens.

Ben and Sophie are working with City of Sanctuary and the Permaculture Association to support growing spaces around the UK to become places of welcome and sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers.

The Grange in West Norfolk is a permaculture LAND centre which has been welcoming asylum seekers since 2012. Several other permaculture sites including the Comfrey Project in Newcastle and Hyde Park Source in Leeds have also been pioneering this work for a number of years.

In the last few years, especially with the increased media coverage of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, there has been a huge increase in the number of growing spaces looking at how they can become places of welcome.

Ben and Sophie presented the research and case studies they have done so far to the conference, which brings together around 800 farmers, smallholders, food activists, researchers and others. The project has so far carried out two online surveys which have shown a huge desire from growing spaces and refugee and asylum organisations to work together to develop therapeutic, learning and integration opportunities.

These surveys also identified several barriers including a lack of knowledge from growing spaces about how to engage with asylum seekers, and concerns over language barriers, trauma and offering appropriate support. Through Gardens of Sanctuary we will be supporting growing spaces with training and a resource pack to encourage and enable them to become places of sanctuary.

Over 30 people attended the workshop and the response was extremely positive. Many people were keen to find out how their own farms and smallholdings could become Gardens of Sanctuary and there were lots of offers of help from GPs, researchers and others.

To find out more about the project please register your interest at

Or e-mail Ben Margolis at [email protected]