So here I am back in Manchester. See photo of me on the big boat home (as promised for Lupe and Mateo), where I got too excited about being in the middle of the sea to write up the summary of the whole trip, and instead spent a whole day on deck talking for hours and hours about it (and my whole life!), which was a really lovely ending to my journey. This has been an amazing trip for me. I have learnt loads from some truely inspirational people, who are showing that it is possible to make the changes that we want to make here in the Northwest.
Amayuelas, begins Meliton (addressing a group who have hired the hostel for a few days training), is a village. It's not a commune or a hippy project, it's a place where some people run small rural enterprises and are also friends, other people are neighbours, and other people don't talk to each other at all – just like any other village!
I'm not quite sure how this works, so I thought I should let you know that I have just added a bit to the Sunseed entry (incase you've read what I put there a while back and miss the rest of the exciting write up because you don't know to look!). So here I am in Amayuelas de Abajo, a village near Palencia (hours and hours and a fair bit chillier from where I was last).
Mikel is the president of EHNE Bizkiai (Basque country) and a farmer. I heard him speak at the FACPE jornadas outside Granada, but I decided to give him his own blog slot, partly because the FACPE entry is already very long and partly because it was a really practical solution type example - and is it's own story (or two). I also feel that his view point on the co-ops and SPG certification etc., as tools for social and political change, is very akin to our view at Kindling.
So how to tell you everything I have learnt in the last five days at Sunseed without rambling on for pages and pages? I'll give it a go! Sunseed was set up 25 years ago as a place to research, develop and demonstrate low-tech low cost technology to try and combat desertification. It has developed over the years to become more focused on educating people here in Europe about sustainable living in general (through demonstrating sustainable production and consumption of food, energy, water and, well, everything really).
So on the 23/24th Oct I got to go to an event (Jornadas) organised by FACPE (the Andalucian Federation of Consumers and Organic Producers), for consumers and producers co-ops in the region. Over hearing conversations while we waited for the start, about the price of potatoes and how to get commitment from buyers made me feel at home and like I'd come to practical and producer led event and I wasn't disappointed. It was an inspirational weekend involving a range of co-op models, scarey facts mixed with viable and radical initiatives, and great food and company.
Just a quicky before I write up the last two visits in order, to say I've had an amazing 10 days. I've learnt loads - from practical skills to lessons about working/living in community. I've met a great bunch of people doing many different things, talked loads about Kindling (our support network is growing by the day!), and challenged myself with all sorts. I'm not sure what has given me more white hairs, my very close encounter with a whole bunch of wild boar or singing my Dad's mushroom song at the 25 year celebration!
Mas Franch is a beautiful environmental education centre (and more!) based just outside Girona. The project is in a moment of change and there are lots of new possibilities. In my very brief visit to them before leaving Catalunya to head down south, I got to hear a bit about the history of Mas Franch, some lessons learnt and hopes for the future, as well as getting to help out with the cleaning out of the fresh water swiming pool (though sadly it was a bit too nippy for a dip!).
A school menu with 95% of the ingredients organic and locally sourced (if not from within 20 km, then from within Catalunya) - is that possible? It seems to be for Ecomenja - a small business based just outside Barcelona working with three schools and two nurseries and supplying 650 meals a day. That may not seem like many meals for a school caterer the size of Manchester Fayre, but 95% is pretty impressive (especially considering they only started last year) - so I thought I'd see what I could learn, and find out their views on scaling up.