For some time now myself and others have been banging on about how it wouldn’t be too difficult to generate a localised food economy for Bolton where food is both grown and eaten locally, creating much needed quality employment and enterprise in the process. In part some of my reasons for pushing for this to happen are based on my experiences of growing and processing food from our back gardens, which over the last fifteen years has provided us with high quality food and saved us thousands of pounds. The other reasons are concerns relating to a failing system of production and an illogical and unfair economic systems that governs it
Breaking away from industrial food
There are a multitude of reasons why we need to break away from industrial agriculture, its methods and its use of resources are completely unsustainable and have a huge impact in terms of land degradation and resource depletion. The economic model that governs our agricultural system prices millions of people out of the fresh food market, pushes farmers into poverty and generates huge volumes of waste. Our particular way of breaking away from this destructive model is simply by growing our own food at home or hooking up with local food Hubs and projects.
Growing at Home
I have mentioned this before, but its worth revisiting again, whilst living in a small two up two down in my native Salford during the early 1990s I managed to develop a small and highly productive edible garden in my backyard, for the best part of the year I managed to eat something that I had grown on a daily basis, during the summer I was also to be limit buying produce to things like bananas, pulses and rice, that we are unable to grow with any great success in our temperate climate.
Since living in Bolton however, and having access to more land than a small 14×10 ft growing area I have been able to grow and process a lot more of our food. And on a yearly basis we grow and process hundreds of pounds worth of produce. On one particular year I calculated the value of produce we had grown and processed and it came to over fifteen hundred pounds.
You would be surprised what you can grow and make in Bolton
When we think about temperate climate Bolton with is heavy yearly rainfall we might be fooled into thinking that would only be able to grow spuds and cabbages, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In our garden we grow high value crops such as traditional English Hops, which enable me to make up to five hundred pints of ale every year.
similarly we also grown an Italian grape variety that gives us around twenty bottles of wine a year plus. And being lovers of salads during the summer months we are able to grow lots of rocket, Land cress, mustard, and radishes, saving us around fifteen pounds a week if we were to buy these vegetables from a supermarket.
Some of the more exotic produce that we have been able grow in abundance is the Asian medicinal delicacy rat tail radish pods, After trialling these Radish pods successfully I decided to start growing these pods after conversations with local Asian gardeners who told me that they were unable to buy these edible pods anywhere in Bolton, and that would potentially be a big market for them. it is interesting to note that each plant provides us with hundreds of edible pods, meaning a high output for low input.
We have also successfully trialled making different fruit cordials, again this another low input high value crop due to fruit bushes being perennial and providing us with produce every at very little cost in terms of work and outlay year in year out.
This years challenge: Eating as much Bolton grown produce as possible
As the gardening and growing season is on the verge of beginning, I have decided to set myself a challenge this year, and that is to survive as much as possible by eating produce and products that were grown and made in Bolton. I will document how this challenge goes and provide pictures and instructions of things that we have made successfully. We will also share the inevitable surplus of our efforts with families on low incomes and those struggling make ends meet, this will also be documented across the growing season