Taberner House saffron farm within £1,000 of fulfilling dream

A vision of recreating Croydon as Crocus Valley needs another £1,000 in crowd-funding before the weekend to become a reality.

How the central Croydon crocus fam might look, as imagined by local artist Lis Watkins

How the central Croydon crocus fam might look, as imagined by local artist Lis Watkins

One restaurant has already placed an order for the scheme’s entire first crop of saffron, Ally McKinlay’s idea of turning the site of the former council offices into a pop-up community farm for four months appears to have a commercially viable aspect to it which distinguishes it from many other fund-raisers.

With saffron, a long-cherished spice for cooks, being worth more than its weight in gold – at around £75 per gram – it seems that turning the former Taberner House site into a crocus field for a few months could prove to be the most lucrative horticultural project in central Croydon since the police closed down the marijuana farm in a Waddon semi last year. And the crocuses would be entirely legal, too.

Local resident McKinlay launched the project on crowdfunding site Spacehive at the start of the week and is closing in on the £4,000 target budget to buy 20,000 corms, plant them in 10 tons of top soil, and a few weeks later, with volunteer help, harvest the valuable crop and reinvest the proceeds to seed-fund (sorry) similarly productive pop-up crocus farms in all 24 wards of the borough.

“A pop-up Saffron Farm to share with all of Croydon,” McKinlay calls it.

He has already secured agreement from the land-owners, Croydon Council, for use of a tennis court-sized plot on the site of the former tower block alongside the flyover, where work to build new flats is due to begin in 2016.

More valuable than gold: saffron

More valuable than gold: saffron

The name of the area, “Croydon”, is generally accepted as having derived from the Anglo-Saxon “Croh Denu”, meaning “Crocus Valley”, and refers back to Roman times when they farmed saffron here.

The crocuses are actually easy to grow. “You plant them, water them and leave them,” McKinlay said. It is the painstaking harvesting process which makes the product, saffron, so expensive.

Only one kind of crocus, the Crocus Sativus, is suitable for harvesting saffron. “This project is a community educational tool as the saffron crocus blooms in the autumn and not the spring,” McKinlay said.

“The Crocus Valley brings not only beauty but a chance to boost health and prosperity in every home. It is quite staggering that nobody has thought to farm this jewel en masse and share it with the good people of Croydon.

“It’s simply too great an opportunity to turn down when land in central Croydon – at Croydon Council’s former main office – is made available for a temporary saffron farm.”


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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