Alara Dream Farm

Alex Smith started Alara in 1975 with £2 found on the street.
He is passionate about food (muesli in particular), a keen gardener and very serious about sustainability. He is an active member of various organisations and groups promoting the cause in many ways. In 2009 Alex was nominated a London Leader for Sustainability by Boris Johnson.  This passion for sustainability has resulted over the years in Alara continuously undertaking numerous projects to improve its environmental performance.
Alara Dream Farm is one of the most impressive of Alex’s undertakings. A derelict piece of land has been transformed into a beautiful garden producing masses of fruit and vegetables. The idea spread further and resulted in creating a vineyard, an orchard, a community garden and more to come!

I believe that society is now 'in the rapids' of change to a sustainable future whether we like it or not. What that future will be like can only be guessed at, however food, as a fundamental requirement of society must, I think, be at the forefront of that change.

 For food to move seriously towards sustainability there seem to be two main developments required. The first is that western agriculture, responsible for about 30% of the world’s food production needs to move towards organic agricultural systems as a policy decision with implementation. The second is that food smallholdings around the world, where 70% of food is grown, need to be valued, understood and supported. Committed to do what I can in this transformation to sustainability, the main motivation for me to develop and work in the Alara Dream Farm at Kings Cross is to understand, value and support locally all the other smallholding that provide work and food for billions of people globally. The Alara Dream farm can be viewed then as a smallholding in the middle of London.

 My aspiration is to achieve the main attributes of a smallholding in that it is worked by one family with the support of the community in which it is embedded and that it provides food for the family, for the community and for the market.

The land involved is a series of strips of ground around our factory at Kings Cross, strips that can be found on most industrial estates in the country. The first piece of land we transformed was a strip alongside the rail tracks running north from St Pancras Station. I can stand by the beehives and watch the high-speed trains leave for Paris and Brussels. This strip is now a permaculture forest garden growing a huge variety of food. To use David Holgrens definition it is a "Consciously designed landscape which mimics the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and fuel for provision of local needs".

We also have a small vineyard growing grapes for wine so we can both drown our sorrows and celebrate with Chateau Kings Cross.

There is an orchard with about forty fruit trees including apples, cherries, plums, pears, damson, quince and meddler.

There are also some raised beds for use by community groups and other pieces of ground starting to come into use, one of which has some apricot trees and Japanese wine berry growing on it

 A range of groups have helped with the development of Alara Dream Farm so far including

- London Community Resource Network.
- The London Permaculture Network
- Argent
- Rail Track
- Camden Council
- Capital Growth
- Transition Networks
- Camley Street Natural Park
- Camden Garden Centre
- Camden Composting Network

 I aim to chart how Alara Dream Farm develops over time.
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