Friday, 4 July 2014

Grow Your Own - while you still can!

How is it that growing your own food is almost a subversive act?

I recently read this great quote on Sutton Community Farm facebook page, taken from This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin Folks:

"The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard."

Yet I’ve recently read a few articles about people in the US growing food on their front lawns, for example, and having it bulldozered by State officials. Here are a just a couple of ‘gone too far now’ stories from

  • In Oak Park, Michigan, officials have charged a woman with growing a “vegetable garden in front yard space.” If convicted, she could spend up to 93 days in jail. 
  •  For 17 years, a couple used their front yard to grow food for their own personal consumption. But in May 2013, Miami Shores Village, Florida amended its ordinance to make clear that front yard vegetable gardens were prohibited. 
  •  Earlier this year, city inspectors bulldozed more than 100 types of plants, including garlic, chives, strawberry and apple mint, being grown by Denise Morrison in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The inspectors said her plants were too tall, but city code allows for plants over 12 inches if they’re meant for human consumption, which hers were. The woman is now suing the city for violating her civil rights.

Even more shocking, is the intimidation by State troopers at this alternative eco-community in Texas. Here, the community's very lifestyle is a threat to the State as they're living self-sufficiently and growing an abundance of food to share with many more people that live there.

When it’s practically illegal to grow your own food, in your own garden or community, then something really has gone wrong with society. How dare anyone stop others growing their own food. We should all be doing it, in window boxes, back yards and allotments all over the world, Then, at least some of our food hasn’t come from the supermarket shelves, but has been picked fresh from the garden minutes before eating – what energy and vitality everyone would be getting then, and so easily. We will all be healthier this way.

SIGN UP NOW to the brilliant-looking Grow Your Own Food Summit, running from 7th-14th July, full of expert interviews, advice and guidance on growing your own food. 

It’s not so hard to grow a few crops in an old recycling box on your front steps, even something as small scale as that could supplement your salads through the rest of the summer. This kind of veg growing box scheme is something the Transition Town Movement do to start people growing something small at home and seeing where it leads. Many Transition Towns also have their own community allotments or orchards, tended to by local volunteers. 

While researching more for this blog, I came across Worthing Garden Share, a great idea to share unused or under-used gardens, or bits of gardens, with keen would-be growers without anywhere to grow. The benefits are more than just having plenty of food to share with both grower and garden owner, suddenly new friendships are formed; those on their own, such as the elderly or ill have company; and yet more of the population becomes more self-sufficent. It’s the way forward.

As it says on their website:
'In World War Two, the nation was able to achieve yields of 40 tons per hectare from allotment and back garden vegetable production. If Worthing achieved this productivity again, it could keep its population of 100,000 in organic fruit and vegetables year round from only 456 hectares of the available 980 hectares of gardens! With a bit of sharing of land, skills, surplus produce, we could build resilience and food security, whatever happens to oil supplies and commercially-grown food prices. We would eat better than we do now, reconnect with the soil and seasons and get to know people in our neighbourhood. 

You don't even need compost and allotment space, you could just try this ingenious idea of growing some edible ground cover in your lawn

Seed swapping days, such as this one earlier in the year, are another regular event, which could also become more subversive if the EU plan to prevent people from exchanging seeds and growing heirloom varieties without being licensed, ever goes ahead. Thankfully there’s a big fight to stop it, sign the petition here, but keep following updates as we’re not out of the woods yet. And why not help plan your own seed swapping even next Spring, saving the seeds from your summer crops to swap with others and grow a more diverse selection of produce. 

And if you want to take your gardening to another level of militancy, check out the next blog on the Wave for Guerilla Gardening tips, coming very soon...