Now more than ever, we need to grow our own food

Image by Brenna Quinlan – Permaculture illustrator, educator, mover, shaker –

At the start of the COVID-19 crisis when people fearing they would have to self isolate started to buy a bit extra just in case, it knocked a finely calibrated ‘just in time’ food supply chain out of kilter. The result was empty shelves for some product lines. The sight of empty shelves prompted more in the way of people stocking up which only made the situation worse.

At the time of writing, we’re just a few weeks away from the end of the transition period for leaving the EU and the UK government and the EU are still trying to negotiate a trade deal! Over the last few years, there has been talk of what could happen to our food supply on this side of the Channel in the event of a no deal situation. Shortages of fresh vegetables and fruit plus price rises are seen as a likely consequence if a trade deal can’t be agreed in the little time that remains.

Both of these show how fragile the ‘just in time’ food supply chain we rely upon is. When everything works, it can guarantee a year round supply of fresh vegetables and fruit amongst other foodstuffs. This incredibly complex operation, developed and refined over decades, has consigned the practice of seasonal eating that was familiar to those of us growing up in the 60s and 70s to the dustbin of history. However, as we have seen, it doesn’t take much to disrupt a ‘just in time’ food supply chain. Living in increasingly uncertain times, there is growing potential for disruption from a number of actors.

We’ve had a fair few conversations over the course of this year about the need for us to be able to grow more of our own food. Many people we talk to cite the security of food supply as a major motivation. There has been a definite increase in interest in people growing their own food this year. Part of that was a combination of lockdown and being furloughed giving people more time and opportunity to focus on what they could do in their own backyard. This is probably one of the very few positive things to come out of lockdown…

Being able to grow as much of the food we need as possible is great for food security. However, there’s a lot more to think about. The more control an individual or a neighbourhood has over their food supply, the more independent they can become from an increasingly toxic system. A system that wants more control over more aspects of our lives. A system that wants to divorce us from the natural world and make us increasingly dependent on a technocratic elite for every aspect of our existence.

The more control we have over our food supply and the more of it we can grow for ourselves means we become less dependent on a dehumanised, technocratic system for our needs. This would be the start of a genuine revolution…

Full off grid self sufficiency is what some people we know are aiming for. However, there are many steps along the way. Depending on your circumstances, you can make the full journey or just a few steps along. The point to bear in mind is that only taking a few steps is a start in getting a degree of independence from the system. It may be that just taking a few steps gives you the self confidence and inspiration to go further along the road. If this is being done collectively as part of a neighbourhood project, then the buzz of people bouncing ideas off and learning from each other can really drive things forwards.

The thing is making a start. Obviously with the first few steps, you’re still dependent on outside inputs such as seeds, compost, etc. and by definition, still plugged into the system. Don’t worry, we all have to start somewhere! The thing is, as you learn and gain experience, there’s more you can take control over such as producing your own compost, saving and preserving seeds to use in the next growing season – the list goes on. The aim is to end up with pretty much a closed loop system with little or nothing in the way of external inputs.

Don’t let people tell you that in a supposedly crowded island, there isn’t enough room to enable us to achieve a much greater degree of food self sufficiency. Take a close look around your neighbourhood and it will start to become apparent how much land is underutilised. Be creative about how you secure that land to grow some food. Simply asking permission from the landowner may be enough. If the landowner can’t be tracked down or bothered to respond, a bit of guerilla gardening may be in order. Part of this revolution is about challenging the system of land ownership that over the centuries, has served to deny us our freedom.

These are just a few thoughts. As we go into 2021, we will be writing more about this. As for resources that will help, there are a good number linked to in the right hand side bar of this blog. There’s also a number of previously published posts on here that can offer a few tips and tricks as well as inspiration.


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