Sofia, 11-12 May 2023 - The CityZen Final dissemination event, focusing on "Urban Farming - Policies and Practices for Sustainable Cities and Regions", was successfully concluded in Sofia. Over the course of two days, the event brought together 59 participants, including representatives from CityZen partner regions of Sofia, Central Macedonia, Baixo-Alentejo, Castilla y Leon and Frankfurt Rhein-Main, local stakeholders and the Interreg Europe Joint Secretariat.

The event started with a keynote speech by the Mayor of Sofia, Mrs Yordanka Fandakova, who acknowledged the growing popularity of urban agriculture and its importance for cities. Mayor Fandakova highlighted the challenges policy makers face in adapting existing policies to accommodate this innovative practice, and emphasised the importance of a balanced and integrated policy framework. She congratulated the CityZen project for promoting knowledge exchange, collaboration and innovative approaches to urban farming policies and practices.

The event featured inspirational speakers such as Antoine Duquennoy from the Interreg Europe Joint Secretariat, who highlighted the future prospects of the program and the impact of CityZen in promoting sustainable urban agriculture. Additionally, Daniela Tchonkova from the ARC Fund (Lead Partner) provided an overview of the work and results of CityZen in supporting urban agriculture policies and initiatives across partner regions.

A discussion panel explored the policy changes and action plan outcomes to promote urban farming as a result of the CityZen knowledge exchange. The panelists shared their experiences and discussed the policy changes facilitated by CityZen:
•    Antonia Shalamanova (SOfiaGreen) - Representing Sofia
•    Catia Morgado (Irradiare, Municipality of Beja and CIMBAL) - Representing Baixo-Alentejo
•    Evdokia Mangou (Region of Central Macedonia) - Representing Central Macedonia
•    Ines Mendez (Natural Heritage Foundation of Castilla y León, FPNCYL) - Representing Castilla y Leon
•    Simone Sterly (Institute for Rural Development Research, IfLS) - Representing Frankfurt Rhein-Main

Key highlights from each of the CityZen partner regions are summarised in the following news articles:

SOfiaGreen action for urban farming in kindergartens
Green roofs action in Central Macedonia
Hortas TOP follow-up project of CityZen in Alentejo
Enhancing school gardens in Castilla y Leon
Regionalpark takes action on urban agriculture

During the inspirational sessions, António Bota, President of CIMBAL and Mayor of Almodovar, shared details of the Hortas Top initiative, an educational support application promoting vertical urban gardens in schools in Baixo Alentejo. Other presentations highlighted cases such as dry farming practices to be transferred to Sofia from Baixo-Alentejo by Natasha Marinova, “Community Vegetable Garden 1”, soil fertility, recirculation and efficient water use in Alqueva by Eng. David Catita from EDIA, green roofs on public buildings by Viktoria Rizou and Evgenia Taka from the Municipality of Neapoli-Sykies, successful production and communication of urban farming by Prof. Fernando González-Andrés from the University of Leon, and multifunctional use of agricultural land in the Rhine-Main region by Kjell Schmidt from the Regionalpark RhineMain.

A seed exchange session encouraged networking, in which all participants brought local plant varieties and shared stories about their urban cultivation, specific characteristics such as flavor, color, drought resistance and nutritional values.

Facilitators of the event’s session were Daniela Tchonkova and Denitsa Marinova, ARC Fund, Carla Weber from IfLS, Beatriz Urbano from the University of Valladolid, Natasha Marinova and Bojidar Emanuilov from the "Koren" Foundation and "Community Vegetable Garden 1".

Alongside the dissemination event, the final project meeting of the CityZen partners took place, where all regions expressed commitment to continue their efforts in the field of urban farming.

As a fitting conclusion to the series of events, participants took part in a field visit to 'Blizkata ferma' ('The Nearby Farm'). This family-owned peri-urban farm specialises in regenerative agriculture, growing leafy greens and raising chickens, while promoting farming and cooking skills through summer camps and arts and crafts courses for children and families.

The CityZen Final dissemination event served as a platform to share achievements, insights and experiences in urban farming.  The success of the event demonstrates the community spirit inherent in city farming, which is driving positive social, economic and cultural change.

Find out more:

The Final dissemination event in Sofia was covered by Agro TV  featuring Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Sofia, Antonio Bota, Mayor of Almodovar, CIMBAL,  Jesus Diez, FPNCYL, Konstantin Uzunov, ARC Fund and Natasha Marinova, “Community Vegetable Garden 1”.

All slides are available at the CityZen Library section \ Final dissemination event.