"On my recent trip to France looking at incubator farms and access to land, I was discussing with Veronique, one of our hosts from Terre de Liens, the potential of transferring their model to the UK. Veronique, very sympathetically, pointed out that we have a real challenge on our hands here and that she struggles to think of another country where food culture is so lacking.
Veronique is not on her own. Not only am I teased by most of my continental friends about our national cuisine, but most of us involved in the sustainable food movement go through periods of feeling like social pariahs who are banging our heads against a big brick wall (one plastered with adverts for shiny cheap corporate food products). Chatting to people recently though, on our stalls at events and on land army trips, however, has made me wonder if this is starting to change.
Our Land Army trips have evolved from being pleasant days out in the countryside to a real hub for discussion and information exchange. Days involving people from a wider variety of backgrounds and where the hearty organic soup sparks off further conversation, interestingly often about what made half of the volunteers go vegan over the last few years or months (which makes me feel a little old – but happy!).
I’m also finding we’re increasingly being asked questions in these situations that lead to really interesting conversations. In the past it’s sometimes felt like we’re trying to introduce topics that people don’t necessarily want to talk about - like fairness to farmers and the climate change impact of chemical fertilisers or the meat and dairy industry. But recent topics volunteers have brought up include the impact GM potatoes have on soil health; the huge potential growing and eating fresh veg has for health and wellbeing (often raised by people in the medical profession); the role of climate change in the recent slug explosion; how to build soil fertility in stockfree organic systems and what indeed stockfree farming means.
This last one we are getting asked about a lot at the moment – probably because we’ve been attending the multitude of vegan festivals in Manchester – but either way it’s an issue that seems to be of interest. So rather than keep the interesting discussions to ourselves and because we’d love to see more stockfree organic growers all over the North West, we thought we’d invite you along to our stockfree, organic Farmstart site at Woodbank in Stockport - to take the discussion into the fields (and see if we can persuade you to become a grower!).
So if you fancy coming along on Saturday 24th June to find out more, meet some of the growers, tell us your thoughts about it all and get your hands dirty for a couple of hours if you fancy it, drop us a line to sign up to come on one of the tours. These are at 11 and 12, and there'll be an opportunity to get stuck in - so wear clothes you can get muddy in! Places for this day are limited so please book your place by emailing email@example.com.
The main focus of the day will be stockfree organic growing, but we’d be interested to know your thoughts on the UK food culture and whether it is changing too. It’s a change I’ve always hoped for and believed is possible, but have to admit I never really thought I’d see. So, while I realise there’s still a lot of work to do for the true food revolution to happen, I’m pretty excited about it and up for a chat and a plan of how to spread the word further and wider over some weeding".