A busy graft of a day today has been, all in all we have moved over a ton of organic compost to different peoples gardens around the estate, and again have filled and delivered many pots to our growers houses.
We had the pleasure again of hooking up with Caths kids on Padbury Ave, who were as keen as ever to fill their third raised bed with plants and seeds.
Today was no different, as soon as we arrived at the New Lane UCAN centre we were loading up our cart with plants, soil, raised beds and other horticultural resources. Much of the morning was spent delivering stuff, clearing and filling raised and catching up with some of our growers, providing them with on the spot gardening advice and tips.
In the afternoon we worked with Catherine’s kids, which is always great, as they enjoy gardening and they eat the produce when its ready to crop. For the remaining two hours we began tidying the work area to the rear of the UCAN centre, had a brew and potted on some fruit bushes, all in all a good day and we were only rained on for around ten seconds.
Its been a day of real hard work, and some good laughs along the way, particularly when we have worked with our growers kids bless ’em. Just before lunch time I took five minutes out to crop some produce from the UCAN centres Yarden, as mentioned previously all food grown in the Yarden is given away free of charge to people who have been benefit sanctioned or had their benefits reduced.
After a hearty and well deserved lunch myself and local lad Mark Walmsley continued filling our trolley with soil, raised beds and plug plants and continued dropping off and setting up the beds in a similar manner to the mornings work.
Despite being rained on a couple of times we continued our work and managed to get a fair bit done by the end of the day, and as is the case for the last few weeks I am now at home with my feet up, chilling out with a pint of home made ale, thanks for reading, and catch up with you again soon.
You when you get those days were everything is fiddly and a bit of a struggle? Well today was one of those very days. I hadn’t slept very well last night, and read this morning that it was going to rain on and off all day long, but I decided to go in and try my best anyway.
So with heavy limbs and a half speed mind I set about delivering large pots of edible goodies around the estate. I also managed to crop some edibles that had been growing in the UCAN centre Yarden, said crops were then left in the UCAN centre for people to take free of charge, this was quite effective last year as some of the folk who took the stuff home with them were struggling through real hardships, some had been benefit sanctioned for the flimsiest of reasons and some were removed from disability benefits onto much lower payments.
This is the first of the crops from the Yarden and no doubt there will be more on the way during the coming weeks. Before I go and grab an hour of much needed middle age sleep I would like to apologize for a lack of pictures, my battery ran out after taking two snap, like I say its been one of those slow and struggle-some days.
The day began loading up the van with pots, plug plants, canes and other horticultural resources before making our way up to Breightmet where the stuff was then unloaded into my work area in the alleyway behind the UCAN centre.
Last week if filled around sixty large pots with seeds and plants, today is the day that we deliver these plants to our growers houses. By lunch time around half of the plants had been dropped off.
From half twelve onwards I managed to catch up with Bolton at Home manager Tony Cottam about possible ways of funding and developing our work in 2018, and about delivering some accredited horticultural training to unemployed folk on the estate, as usual a colourful and fruitful meeting with Tony, with plenty to think about over the coming months.
The rest of the afternoon was spent delivering more large potted plants and giving on the spot horticultural advice to some of our growers.
Speaking of some of our growers, its great to see the effort put in by some of this years growers, again some have naturally taken to growing food which is great for us to see in these chaotic and uncertain economic times.
Before I go and have a glass of lovely chilled home made apple wine in the back garden I’d just like to share a few thoughts and reflections about delivering these house to house food growing projects.
We are now in our fourth year of doing this and the number of growers interested in taking part is climbing by the year which to us shows how many people are struggling to meet their daily food requirements.
In order to make these projects more effective and reach out to greater numbers of families we need to look at diverse funding strands, including another crowdfunding campaign which we will be putting together in the early autumn to run throughout winter. We will also be seeking support from the Permaculture community, transition Network, Food for life and other orgs interested in fighting food poverty and helping us to make organic produce available to all regardless of income.
This project has got legs, and I want to make sure that it keeps walking, and whilst there is an ongoing manufactured scarcity that continues to keep millions living in poverty, and land is degraded by industrial agriculture there is a great need for our work to continue, and continue it will!
As some human societies develop over time our lot is made easier in terms of our daily resources by advances in technology and science, we have food security because of it and an abundance of resources to make our lives easier, but on closer in inspection this advancement is more to do with lining the pockets of individuals and corporations others than meeting our basic human needs in a sane and ecologically sound manner. Although we see shop shelves brimming with goods and warehouses full of consumer goods this in no way symbolizes resilience and access to these resources for all, we are using up and burning through that which we should be conserving for future generations of all planetary inhabitants for the sake of a few people profiting from it.
Over time we have let go of more and more of our stock of knowledge and skills relating to home economics and how we perceive and work with our the daily resources that we use to keep us alive and to provide some semblance of health and well being and instead have become passive consumers.
In the not too distant past most daily meals were cooked from fresh ingredients until the food industries and their marketing teams arrived and tricked us into the idea that we don’t have time to cook proper meals, instead we were offered convenience food as an alternative and antidote to our overly busy lives.
This convenience food came in the form of dried foods packed full of E numbers and preservatives, ready meals/TV dinners, and more recently in the form of takeaways that are ordered via your mobile phone or laptop. And whilst our food has been been appropriated and messed with we have begun to lose skills that have been passed from generation to generation, family to family.
As a species one of our primary activities is making things, whether in the workplace or at home, this doesn’t seem to be happening much nowadays, sure enough people will make things in their work, if they are lucky enough to still be employed in a trade where people makes things for a living, outside of work however this is a different thing entirely, as one lad I had a conversation with said to me a few years back ‘If you have been working hard all week why make something when you can buy it and if you cant afford it you can get it on credit’.
In our work what people are missing really shows through when we have taught community members how to cook basic dishes, they have been astounded by the taste and cost and have marveled at the fact that these certain dishes were made with only a few very basic ingredients.
My concern in relation to our loss of knowledge about food and the skills incorporated in growing and preparing food is that we are faced with multiple systemic collapses, both of our agricultural systems and the economics that drives it. Whilst part of me wants to crack open a bottle of home made wine to celebrate the demise of an agricultural model that is destroying ecosystems, and an economic model that both enslaves many locked into it and contributes greatly towards the destruction of the planet, I am deeply worried that because of our collective loss of skills that we are ill equipped to adapt to the changes that lie before us.
Not wanting to sound like a doomsday merchant, if there was a significant climate change weather event that had a detrimental effect on our food production systems, or another credit crunch, many would have no idea where to begin the task of creating some sort of resilience where resources are concerned. And incidentally, the chances of both happening are very high as climate change advances virtually unchecked and the banking sector continues with little in the way of regulation or system change.
During the last few weeks I have had a number of conversations with different folk relating to this, some from a scientific background, some with social and community work backgrounds, and some from academic backgrounds, and the culmination of these conversations are all the same, how should we deal with this situation at ground level?
The solutions to these multiple systemic failures lie in our ability to do things collectively, whether this is growing food, cooking, making things, preparing and preserving foodstuffs. But in an age where we are told society doesn’t exist only individuals and families this task is made all the more harder because people have bought into the bullshit that with everlasting growth there is ever lasting resources, and the insane idea that if we leave everything to the market and its providers that somehow everything will be alright.
From our end of things as a small local community group we plan to run sessions that show people how to build a level of resilience in the face of these multi-systemic failures, over the next few weeks we will be busy putting together a program of resilience that will include guest workshop deliveries from some of our friends who are specialists in specific fields of work, and some which we will deliver ourselves, watch this space!