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How permaculture gardens are transforming Uppsala’s urban landscape

Students at the Uppsala University (UU) Campus Garden. Photo by Charlee Salmelin.

This is an interview piece with Ultuna Permakultur at the SLU Ultuna campus in Uppsala, Uppsala University (UU) Campus Garden, and Masud Parvage.


In the vibrant student city of Uppsala, youth have become increasingly enthusiastic about permaculture. Permaculture focuses on diversity and resilience while offering innovative solutions to meet human needs and protect the environment. This article explores Uppsala’s thriving urban farming movement, emphasising on urban gardens as hubs for student communities. By conducting interviews with passionate individuals driving these initiatives, we uncover how urban gardens empower young minds, foster inclusive communities, and drive sustainable practices. Join us as we delve into the role of permaculture in shaping resilient and socially conscious youth-led movements.

Ultuna Permakultur: Pioneering Sustainable Agriculture

Two brothers, Max and William, established Ultuna Permakultur in 2020, a permaculture garden at the SLU Ultuna campus in Uppsala. With the support of enthusiastic students, the garden quickly thrived, serving as a hub for approximately 130 ambassadors. Embracing diversity in both members and crops, Ultuna Permakultur promotes health benefits and resilience by cultivating a wide array of plants. Challenges such as limited resources and weather fluctuations have tested their dedication, but they continue to strive for sustainability through organic practices, donations, sponsorships, and waste reduction initiatives like biochar production. Ultuna Permakultur envisions a future where urban gardens flourish in Uppsala, connecting people to the land and each other, and inspiring sustainable living. The initiative exemplifies community, resilience, and a shared commitment to nurturing the earth.

Uppsala University (UU) Campus Garden. Photo by Charlee Salmelin.

Uppsala University (UU) Campus Garden: Cultivating Knowledge and Community

Two students in sociology (Otilia) and sustainable development (Sagnik) envisioned and created the UU Campus Garden as a social meeting place in nature. Despite initial challenges and the impact of the pandemic, volunteers gather every Saturday to work on the plot near Uppsala’s Botanical Garden. The focus lies on knowledge sharing and community building rather than selling produce. They prioritise reusing and recycling materials and seasonally organise a harvest festival. However, navigating bureaucracy and procurement procedures has sometimes hindered the full implementation of circular processes. Nevertheless, the UU Campus Garden remains determined to create an inclusive space where people can connect with nature and learn sustainable practices. They aim to expand their impact within the university, inspire similar initiatives, and emphasise the importance of community engagement in environmental stewardship.

Bruised food club, Ultuna Permakultur at the SLU Ultuna campus in Uppsala Photo by Charlee Salmelin.

The Story of Masud: Nurturing Self-Sufficiency and Cultural Diversity

Masud, a researcher at the NVI and former intern at SIANI, has a deep connection to agriculture and nature from his upbringing on a farm in Bangladesh. Introduced to a community garden in Uppsala by a fellow student, Masud has been cultivating his 15-square-meter plot at Ultuna Täppförening for over a decade. His garden yields over 200 kilograms of produce annually, providing self-sufficiency and reducing reliance on imported vegetables. Masud emphasizes the social and environmental significance of community gardens, fostering cross-cultural exchange and combating segregation. His personal experiences and expertise in soil science contribute to the diverse range of vegetables he grows, including rare varieties from Southeast Asia. Masud envisions a future where urban gardens are prevalent throughout Uppsala, transforming neighbourhoods into vibrant green spaces and promoting sustainable living.

Masud at his 15-square-meter plot at Ultuna Täppförening, Uppsala. Photo by Charlee Salmelin.

Overcoming Challenges: Barriers to Permaculture Gardens

While permaculture gardens in Uppsala have overcome several challenges to establish and expand urban farming, there are still hurdles that need addressing for long-term success.

One main challenge is regulatory and bureaucratic burdens, often imposing limitations on greenhouse construction and involving complex procurement processes. Streamlining regulations and providing more support and guidance from municipalities would greatly encourage the adoption of urban farming practices.

Another significant challenge is the availability and accessibility of suitable land for urban farming. Finding affordable and accessible land in Uppsala can be difficult, despite Sweden’s ample agricultural space. Collaborative efforts between municipalities, landowners, and urban farming initiatives are crucial to identify suitable spaces and establishing partnerships that benefit all parties involved.

Additionally, the lack of funding and resources poses a hurdle for these organisations. Many initiatives rely on limited budgets, donations, and sponsorships to sustain their operations. Access to grants, financial incentives, and resources for infrastructure development would greatly support the growth and success of urban gardens.

Students at the Uppsala University (UU) Campus Garden. Photo by Charlee Salmelin.

The Future of Urban Farming in Uppsala

Uppsala’s permaculture gardens aim to make urban farming an integral part of the city’s fabric, contributing to sustainable food production, environmental stewardship, and resilient communities. They have set ambitious goals and aspirations that exemplify their commitment to these principles.

One primary goal is to increase food security within the community by providing fresh and nutritious produce through community gardens. Cultivating a wide range of vegetables and fruits ensures a diverse and abundant harvest, reducing dependence on imported food and promoting self-sufficiency, as seen in Masud’s community garden.

These urban gardens also emphasize social integration and inclusion, serving as meeting places for people from diverse backgrounds. In the UU Campus Garden, students with varying backgrounds worked side by side, sharing knowledge and experiences. They foster cross-cultural exchange and collaboration, creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome and valued.

Environmental resilience and biodiversity are significant considerations for the future of urban gardens in Uppsala. By employing permaculture practices such as companion planting, soil enrichment, and water conservation, as demonstrated at Ultuna Permakultur, these gardens contribute to a more resilient and sustainable urban ecosystem.

Education and empowerment are key aspects of the gardens’ visions. They serve as living classrooms, offering experiential learning opportunities and skill development. Particularly for children and young adults, these gardens inspire a reconnection with nature, provide education on sustainable practices, and foster a deep understanding of the interdependence between humans and the environment.

The thriving urban farming movement in Uppsala offers hope, inspiration, and practical solutions to pressing environmental and social issues, showcasing the transformative power of permaculture principles. From Masud’s journey to the collaborative efforts of Ultuna Permakultur and UU Campus Garden, they exemplify how these initiatives cultivate resilient communities and reconnect young minds with nature. These gardens pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient urban landscape by addressing challenges and setting ambitious goals. As the movement expands, permaculture gardens in Uppsala shape a greener, more inclusive society.


These interviews are part of SIANI’s ‘Tune in to Food Systems’ interview series composed of monthly interview articles with experts across fields dedicated to sustainable food systems.

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