Food connects all life. It is nourishing, provides us with energy and is a basis for wellbeing. Growing your own food is an act of resistance, a way to connect to local land and communities.
I started growing in my horticulture degree. To be very honest, I was a little lost at first. Tending to plants requires you to slow down. They grow in their own rhythms and time. You can’t make a plant grow quicker, it can get pests and diseases and then you’re required to improvise. Gardening is a journey full of surprises. I learned how much time goes into growing vegetables and that it is possible to garden in an urban environment without having a private garden. Experiencing one cycle of sowing, growing, nurturing and finally harvesting changed my connection to food. Since then I’ve incorporated gardening in my everyday life. I’ve found that community gardens are all around the city, they are different in little ways. Some require you to go through a trial process to get access, whereas others are accessible to the public any time. One thing most have in common is the re-claiming of public land, the shaping of local community and of course the growing of plants itself.
There are other types of gardening activism apart from joining a community garden: for example guerrilla gardening, which is defined as the unauthorised cultivation of a piece of land. Doing this requires people power, it is a creative way of protesting the privatisation of public land and and be as simple as scattering wild flower seeds or building temporary planters and growing vegetables.
Why bother growing your own vegetables and fruits if they are available in supermarkets? Depending on who you ask you’ll get various answers to this question. Some grow for pure joy of it, the experience itself. Some grow for the independence, some for variety and others out of necessity. I think there’s nothing quite like harvesting something you’ve sown and looked after. In some cases gardening can even save money. By sharing a community garden you’ll inevitably receive produce from fellow growers, often also access to tools and seeds. It is a way to access locally grown, quality produce for a fraction of the price.
Food policy in the UK is mainly driven by interests of multinational corporations, focuses on large-scale distribution and economic efficiency. Building communities around food forms resilient connections. When forming connections around a basic need, you produce a safety net of food and coalesce into a community that can demand change. You’ll also be adding to growing evidence that food is best grown on a smaller scale by people who care compared to large corporations trying to gain maximum profit.
64% of farmers earn less than 10,000 year. Eight supermarkets control almost 95% of the food retail and farmers receive less than 10% of the value of their products sold in supermarkets.
Taking a part of your basic needs into your own hands is a form a resistance by limiting your dependance on external forces.
I’m not saying we all need to or can garden, but vast expanses of vulnerable monocultures causing fertiliser as well as pesticide pollution, soil erosion and water contamination are not sustainable. Connect to your food, where did it come from? Who grew it and how?
Support farmers that try to make a difference, look for a local CSA scheme (Community-Supported-Agriculture). Maybe you can get a vegetable box delivered or go to the local market to avoid buying as much from supermarkets.
In gardening you are forced to slow down and live with the seasons, slowing down isn’t unproductive but needed when tending to plants. You can even ‘garden’ by going for a walk in a garden every now and then, if the actual process isn’t accessible to you. Focus on how the individual plants grow, observe their lifecycles.
There are different types of activism and I believe gardening is one of them. Re-connecting to local food sources, seasonal produce and cycles is important. You don't need to change your whole life, a little bit goes a long way!
Community gardening without harmful pesticides and fertilisers is earth care, transforming a lawn into a more biodiverse habitat is also earth care. Sharing locally grown food and supporting small-scale farmers is earth care and people care.
Food connects all life. It is nourishing, provides us with energy and is a basis for wellbeing.
How are you connecting to what you eat?