For the best part of a decade we have been struggling to try and get people to grow foods in their gardens and yards, and in this time this objective has been partially achieved in that some the people who have taken up growing their own have stuck to it and further expanded on their efforts and are likely to do so for years to come because they have seen the economic viability and the health benefits of both growing and eating their own fruit and vegetables.
Other successes we have had is making available freshly grown organic produce to families who could simply not afford to replace their fruit and veg intake with organically grown. We have achieved this either growing crops on our Hub sites and giving it away to people who have been benefit sanctioned or trapped on low and no incomes. We have also helped people to learn useful and traditional skills that can take with them throughout their lives.
What we are up against
But there is a side of our work that we have discovered and researched throughout our time doing it that paints a formidable enemy in our struggle for community food. Here is a few conversations I have had with people over this period and things I’ve picked up on in different areas. It would easy to just say that a lack of knowledge about healthy food and the economic inequality that perpetuates it and just end it there, but there is greater clarity and other issues attached when we hear it from the people who going through it and experiencing it their selves
‘People used to cook in my day, now they just order a takeaway on their phone that’s delivered to your door within an hour’
‘I can order a massive kebab on my phone for a fiver that is full of meat and vegetables, then cut it up into four large pieces, and that me and the kids sorted for tea. I cant cook ‘owt in the house cos the gas costs money and we are on a card meter, so only use the gas to heat the place’
‘The problem with people nowadays is that use fruit and vegetables like its medicine and they make a point about telling folk about the salad they just ate like its something good, my Mam and Dad didn’t have much money when we grew up but all of our meals were cooked with fresh produce that my Mam bought from the Market’
‘I,m pretty bad with me with food, most of what I eat is chicken, its really cheap in the freezer places, chicken burgers, hot strips, wings, thighs and chinese for £1.50 for a big bag. I just sling it in the oven with some oven chips and sometimes have salad with it’
‘We never really did that much cooking at School and my Mum didnt cook much cos she working all the time so I my microwave a lot, it takes two minutes to heat a tin of beans up and about the same time to make toast, where can you get a meal that you can eat in two minutes’
‘I do four twelve hour shifts a week and am usually too knackered to cook so I have a bacon butty at the canteen at work and a pie at dinner time and when I go home I stick summut in the oven, a pizza or a curry from the supermarket, but always try and have a proper cooked Sunday dinner’
‘I couldn’t eat those eggs from you chickens, at least when I get them from Asda I know where they have come from’
‘I regularly go without meals so the kids get enough’
‘Dont mind getting the kids can of pop, its one of their five a day isn’t it’
‘Since the cooker broke we use a microwave, I cant afford two hundred quid for a cooker, and when I top up my gas card some of it is taken to pay off my arrears’
The problem is the solution
We know that there are multiple interrelated issues related to access to cleanly grown food as the conversation above point out, it would be pointless picking out isolated elements of these problems and trying to work with them when we can begin to deal with all of it directly on an individual basis by growing food in our gardens, yards on on our window sills, and within a community context by getting involved in or starting our own community food growing projects. We know that this solution works, can you think of a more direct way of getting fresh produce onto the plates of those who have scarce or no access to it than growing it yourself? Of course as a community growing group ourselves we can only stress the benefits of this direct and long lasting approach, and in the wake of our work there are now families dotted about our town who are highly likely to always grow some of their own food.
A self seeding food movement
Since I began growing myself in the early nineties there has been a slow and steady increase in people having a go at growing there own. But since the early two thousands the amount of people and groups taking up food growing has rocketed and there are dozens and dozens of community food growing project popping up all over the place.
On top of this the community supported agriculture schemes are up and running up and down the country, incredible edible projects are sprouting up across our towns and cities. As individuals and communities if we want to eat and have access to locally grown food then we cannot leave this to industrial agriculture, the markets, the speculators and share holders. Our interest is our health and well being, their interest is making as much money as possible from you. Carry on growing!