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Beyond Consumerism: Derby Food Growing Network

We spoke to Kay Thompson in Derby about how a project she's involved in has adapted to the Coronavirus pandemic, and what her motivations are.

What are the main elements of this project at the moment?

I’ve been sending people seed parcels - we did a seed share earlier in the year when things were normal. Through people’s generosity there were lots left over (though they've all gone now!). I’ve sent them out to new growers. They’d tell me what level of experience they had and how big their plot was and I’d send a suitable quantity of the right kind of seeds.

Also myself and couple of others are making videos to help new growers learn basic techniques they’d need to grow their own food. Really simple stuff, like how to sow some seeds, or grow micro-greens, how to make own containers out of recycling stuff. Digging up your lawn; using garden waste for mulching; making your own seed-and-potting compost for people who can’t go to the shop.

Was this project already started, and how did the pandemic change things?

We were hoping to have lots more physical meetings but not been able. We have different intentions than we‘ve yet been able to bring about. Our main intention was to get a network of people who could support each other, popularise growing and bring it to a wider audience. Growing is really rewarding, good for your health, the planet, and enjoyable. It’s something that can bring you closer to other people as well. Spending time outdoors is great for mental health as well as physical health.
We're hoping to make it a very collaborative project. I want to have lots of big events, get apple presses. There’s a big plot on an allotment site I’ve got my eye on and am talking to the council about to start a food growing project.

There is a lot going on already but not enough, and not enough linking them up or linking up allotment associations with people growing in their gardens. At this early stage not being able to physically meet has been challenging.

What are the underlying values or motivations of this project?

It’s clear that we need to make some sweeping changes in the way we organise society. At the moment we’re sourcing food from across the planet. We don’t need to do that in order to have a really interesting and varied diet.

We need to be more self reliant and imaginative. If everyone in the world lived the way we do we’d need several planets. It’s surprising how much you can grow in this country. There’s a wide variety of crops that will grow in the UK - the project Plants for a Future have more than 500 kinds of edible plants growing on their patch.

Can you imagine your project scaled up to become a mainstream way of working?

This is a real key time that we’re living through now. It has suddenly occurred to a lot of people that the food supply chains we rely on are not as dependable as we assumed they were. And there is a huge upsurge in interest in growing food. I know first ‘cause the number of people in our network has more than doubled in the last 3 weeks.

People asked if I could send them seeds ‘cause they were unable to buy them online, ‘cause seed companies had sold out - I've run out now too. I work for the community volunteering charity TCV and have been posting the videos there too, and traffic on that page has times’d by five in the last 3 weeks.

You can watch Kay’s videos on the Derby Food Growing Network Facebook page.

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