24 Jul 2008

A local community orchard or farm?

News on British farming is rarely cheery - on top of ever worsening news of a world food crisis this news item below is deeply shocking:

UK farming could soon be a thing of the past unless training is overhauled to attract new recruits. Lantra, the sector skills council for environmental and land-based trades, put forward this doomsday scenario, pointing out that 15,900 farming jobs are being lost every year and that 38% of the agricultural workforce is expected to retire within the next 10 years.

Photo: Humphreys End Orchard and below my onions flowering - What causes bulb onions to send up flower stalks? Apparently several things but usually the most prevalent is temperature fluctuation - something we have seen too much of - however while I only got a few onions I did at least get a wonderful display of the flowers!

What will happen in the future? Just as we are really going to need all those skills and knowledge? Our Government has had a deliberate written policy that seeks to import our food - this skills shortage is a direct result of that policy - there are now at last signs that food security is being discussed - still no action yet - but let us hope that leads to a serious look at supporting British farming. Peak oil and climate change are set to increase transport costs and risks to food supplies - we know GM is not the answer as discussed previously on this blog (see here).

Local food solutions?

Regular blog readers will know that I am a fan of projects like Community Supported Agriculture - these will be part of the answer to rebuilding local economies and food supplies - we are fortunate to have a couple of projects locally - see here - however both could benefit from more support - and one is looking for another farmer (see more here).

Allotments are another part of the answer to providing local food - indeed we now have 6 residents in Whiteshill and Ruscombe who have formally requested the Parish to look at the options - I don't hold out much hope immediately but I am confident the pressures will grow - land could be found. See more here from a previous blog re allotments generally. I've also sought to pressure on the Cashes Green Hospital site to ensure many allotments are reinstated there - again we'll see.

Another part of the answer is to grow more food at home - here again we need to question current policies that constantly allow gardens to be built over - sometimes squeezing in several homes - and how do we re-skill people - I met one person yesterday who ended up looking after a neighbours tomato plants last year and when she realised how easy it was and how much fun she went out and got herself a greenhouse.

Anyhow last night I met with a local farmer to discuss options locally - this is an issue I have raised before - see here - Several ideas were muted along CSA lines but also like the urban food projects of WEN (Women's Environmental Network), city farms and community gardens or perhaps a coop. More research is needed but it is possible that we will be able to put together a proposal to start some form of Community Fruit project.

We are lucky to already have a local community orchard - a Parish Council initiative that is literally starting to bear fruit! See more here. However this project could be about linking a set of householders who may or may not pay something and participate in looking after the orchard/fruit in return for a share of the fruit? We are at very early days but do get in touch if you are interested in exploring further. Hopefully in October we will have more info about the next step.

Anyway to finish for now see a great 25 minute video here about permaculture garden.

1 comment:

Rachelle said...

This is a subject close to my heart. If only we could see people using their greenhouses and back gardens instead of seeing decking and disused sheds.

I have a grand crop of horsetail this year, but in amongst all of this are potatoes, beans and herbs. Tomatoes are growing in the greenhouse, despite several missing panes of glass.

We are fortunate enough to have a local orchard that sells soft fruits during summer and apples, pears and plums during the autumn. We also have a local organic farm shop - what bliss! Our village allotments are beautiful and I believe there is a waiting list.

Yet, another of my favourite orchard, which grew many heritage varieties, has been sold for building development. Trees that are older than my father have been pulled out, grubbed up and tarmac'd over. Last weekend was Cherry Aid - putting British cherries back in the spotlight and I learned that we import 95% of our cherries and 90% of our cherry orchards have disappeared.

That was such sad news.

I feel it is so important to pass on these basic skills to our children; I would rather my daughter knew how to grow and cook herself a meal than be able to recite her 5 times table.

I wish you well with your 'community orchard' idea - it sounds great :)