Feeding the masses
An unexpected consequence of the Covid-19 situation has been getting a taste of a different potential future. Roads empty of traffic, wild-flowers exploding into life on every grass verge and skies devoid of noisy, polluting planes.
The crisis also provided a timely reminder of the importance of local small businesses and food producers, as local shops and grocers continued to stock fresh, healthy fruit and veg when supermarket shelves ran empty.
The Ecological Land Cooperative
Last week Radio 4's 'Farming Today' introduced us to the Ecological Land Cooperative (ELC). Nearly half the land in the UK is owned by less than 1% of the population, and much of it is dominated by destructive industrial methods of production. But there is huge potential for the growth of agroecology - agriculture that works together with natural ecology.
The ELC works to develop a network of affordable, low impact, small farms for ecological agriculture that can improve soil health, boost biodiversity and invigorate rural communities. Supporting small-scale, ethically minded farmers, the ELC offers residential farms for ecological land users.
See more about their work here: https://ecologicalland.coop/ or read about their Community Share Investment Offer here: https://www.ethex.org.uk/elc2020
Back in Bristol
More locally, the Avon Wildlife Trust and Grow Wilder have come up with a plan for the urban future: "our vision is to address the climate & ecological emergency by establishing a network of small urban farms that people can access" (see full video here)
Matt Cracknell (manager of Grow Wilder) wrote in the Bristol Cable recently about Bristol's potential to have a thriving local food economy that makes a significant contribution to society.
Bristol actually has some 2000 acres of potential food growing land if you include all other green space (while still leaving space for recreation, back gardens and parks). This might be enough to produce around 60,000 tonnes of vegetables per year – around 15% of the city's annual vegetable requirements.
There are loads of positive projects and initiatives reported in this article, including:
- Bristol City Council's One City vision which has made food a priority. All council land assets are being reviewed in the coming year, which means land will be advertised and people will be able to apply for it through a private tender process.
- Incredible Edible Bristol are trying to get policy changed so people can get leases on land for 'meanwhile gardening', which would be handed back when it was needed.
- Bristol Food Producers have set up a land seekers' survey to connect people wanting land with those who have it, and have been working with the council to identify available land assets that can be redistributed.