During Food Justice Fortnight, run by our friends at Feeding Bristol, we held an evening of food and conversation based around soil, access to soil/land for growing and social justice.
At EdibleBristol we believe that everyone should have the right to grow some of their own food if they wish to, and we know also that those most at risk of food inequality are those who feel lest able to access that. Our conversation began with our founder, Sara, talking about horticulture and agriculture, and how access to land for anyone was a struggle despite land being all around us. Food justice comes from grassroots activism that begins on the land and we have seen over and again how communities in deep need will take what land they need to grow food when people are hungry. Cuba, Detroit, and others all grew themselves out of hunger using lost, unloved and unused land. Not asking for permission but asking for foregiveness if needed!
As a wealthy city Bristol’s food inequality figures are startling. 1 in 20 Bristolians are at risk every day and that become 1 in 7 in the disabled community. Whilst no one should be expected to become self sufficient overnight, local communities can support each other where land is available. And support both climate and biodiversity crises at the same time.
There were lots of thoughts, but the general take away points seemed to us to be……
Access to allotments isn’t accessible and we need more.
We need a pesticide free future for our city.
That there is a new policy/planning commitment that developments of over 60 homes should have allotment space allocated within them, and that perhaps this ought to look like community outdoor space rather than individual plots.
That sadly allotments rarely foster a sense of community although there are exceptions.
These are all things we will begin wider conversations around!
Chatting about food and soil
Food metres rather than miles-all from the garden at Cultivation Place
Flowers from the garden
And we’ll keep you informed here!! In the meantime some photos of the evening……
Food Justice is a movement that began in the US, and is fundamental to the work of Edible Bristol. Food Justice is the creation of a food system that gives everyone equal access to good, affordable, culturally appropriate food, and recognises that that food must be produced sustainably, with land workers being given fair pay for their work.
Food justice and food sovereignty go hand in hand.
‘We advocate for government policy and legislation to be grounded in a fundamental Right to Food, and to be guided by the six principles of food sovereignty: that food is produced for people, not profit; that food systems operate on a local and regional scale where possible; that control is centred in the hands of local communities; that food producers, farmers and growers are valued; that land-based skills and knowledge are nurtured and developed; and that food production works with nature and not against it. ‘(Landworkers Alliance)
Feeding Bristol are again leading on Food Justice Fortnight and there are lots of events taking place which you will find here.
This includes an opportunity to come along and share a meal, and a tour of our Cultivation Place in Speedwell, and join in with a discussion on the importance of soil for food justice. You can book your ticket here
With thanks to the National Lottery we are able to offer some free courses to people living in certain parts of Bristol. We have chosen the areas based on some work we undertook last year that focuses on things that stop people becoming involved in food growing and gardening, as we believe it is vital to the future of horticulture that gardening becomes accessible and a place everyone feels welcome.
And what do we mean by gardening? It’s not just pretty flowers. with that it’s likely that the word gardening in the uk is really one that is going to be relegated to the past, as when we look at the gardening media, programmes about gardening and gardening events, and see that gardening as a concept appears to be one that is white, middle class, and one that relies on access to land. We don’t think this is fair, or right, as we know that across our towns and cities there are people growing food, growing flowers and tending to spaces for nature, who are from our diverse and marginalised communities. We know that up and down the UK we see refugees and asylum seekers growing food and community on allotments and other community spaces. We also know that most allotment sites are microcosms of the community that surrounds them, and as well as being important for growing and for individuals to feel connected with our planet, they are also vital places for communities to meet and to begin to understand and integrate with each other. They are places where food cultures meet, where a diversity of seeds are exchanged and where generational skills are passed to new people to keep those skills alive.
So with that when we hear communities telling us that they don’t get involved because they don’t recognise themselves in what they see as gardening on TV, in the media and at events, we see that we need to take up the challenge and create a new world that comes from a garden, but a garden where we all feel at home. Where everyone is equal and where food and growing culture is celebrated whilst we work on the acts of food growing and healthy land management. Where gardening doesn’t mean owning land, but where the creation of a garden from lost, unloved space in a city is celebrated and seen as communities finding their their own responses to the huge global issues of the climate and biodiversity, as well as working towards food justice.
Of course there’s more to it than just enthusing and welcoming people. Access to land to grow is becoming more and more of an issue, and further and further from people’s reality. The most marginalised people in cities are always those with least access to land and to nature and when we think about Bristol and it’s high rises it’s not difficult to see that is as true here as anywhere else. Land is at such a premium that it’s nigh on impossible to access it without generational wealth, and again that most negatively affects marginal, or new communities in the city. But surely then that is an ask to our city council and others, to open up land, open up parks and public housing land, to communities wanting to grow. The huge tracts of land that surround our tower blocks, the marginal areas of the city, the railway sidings and space waiting to be developed, are all possibilities with the right policy in place and an understanding that as a species we need to connect with nature and with soil and where our food comes from.
Gardening has become a safe space according to the garden media. We are set to show that gardening and food growing is revolutionary and creates opportunities not just for people to connect, but to create jobs, through education and an understanding that if we are to decarbonise we need land based livelihoods and localised food systems. And this is our hope with these free courses. If people have not had the opportunity to have a go, to grow something, anything, how can they take the opportunities that gardening gives seriously? This is the opportunity to change that!
Eventually we hope this course will be available to all and that paying participants will subsidise free places, but for now check the list below of postcodes that qualify and we look forward to seeing you in the garden!
Courses are free for people from the following postcodes. BS2,BS3,BS4, BS5,BS7, BS11, BS13,BS14,BS16
Once signed up we will contact you and ask 2 questions-what is your postcode and most importantly what is it that makes you feel unwelcome in the gardening world?
Links to courses will be here and will be regularly updated
In March of this year, just as we had received funding to continue our work in the Bearpit, (James Barton roundabout) we were asked by the head of green and blue places in the city, to cease working on the garden as they had come up with a plan that was all about creating a pollinator rich garden where the garden we had worked on since 2016 was.
Now, for sure the garden was, at that point, far from perfect. The ravages of 2017 when the space was inaccessible, mixed with a lack of funding for the garden and then Covid on top of that, when all volunteering in public spaces was stopped, rightly, but the Bristol Parks team, meant that there was a lot of work to do in the space, but having procured funding from an outside source, which would have meant a team in the garden for a day a week, we were excited to bring the garden back to a place where food and pollinator rich planting was abundant.
Unfortunately what seems to have happened since is absolutely nothing. The plants are all overgrown, it’s covered in litter and filth, and it feels immensely disrespectful that a space that had been worked on entirely voluntarily, and which over the years had only cost Bristol Council £7,500 in funding in the first year, has been left to rack and ruin.
What also is of concern is that there was no consultation from the council on this decision, whereas before our garden was designed and planted we had spent days engaging with people in the Bearpit and those who used it regularly. Every single person we spoke to wanted to see nature and food as a part of the garden, which is why the garden was designed as a food forest.
We are really both sad and angry that this has happened. We have sat back and said nothing as we expected the council teams to respect the work that had been done and continue it in some way. But instead we see hugely expensive containers and baskets full of flowers that might be bright but which speak nothing to the climate or biodiversity crisis we have acknowledged.
As COP26 is happening we would like to call on the council to recognise the failure of this space, and a need to do better in public spaces, and especially in spaces that they have removed from community organisations with no consultation at all. The city centre ought to be a place of richness and abundance in spaces where planting takes place, and instead off which looks sad and neglected. From the Bearpit to the area around the Cenotaph and the fountains, the planting is unimaginative and where there could be rain gardens, vertical planting and food, there is nothing more interesting than you might see in a supermarket car park. We have acknowledged climate and biodiversity crises, and yet the city is not seeming to respond.
We would like to add that this is nothing against Bristol Parks department who’s support we have always been grateful for.
But this is a call to return the Bearpit to us, and fund us to do the work to recreate a garden that had international acclaim, brought in visitors from far and wide, and added to the culture in the city centre. And as a reminder here is what it looked like in it’s hey day……
Whilst the weather is cold and the evenings dark, we thought it would be a good idea to create a series of online talks. All the gardeners and food growers who are joining us are people who are gardeners but are also climate, soil and social activists, who’s aim is to, in some way, support both climate and biodiversity crises through their growing practices. We will be adding to this list throughout the season and if there’s anyone in particular you’d like to hear do get in touch and we will see what we can arrange.
All funds raised will be ploughed back into our community work.
Over the last couple of years we have been creating a space for learning at Speedwell Allotments. Cultivation Place will be home, in 2022, to a whole host of events that will support individuals and communities to grow more food, more pollinator friendly planting and also to look at gardening as a response to both climate and biodiversity crises. All our workshops and courses will be run by people who are experts in their fields, with our primary tutor being our founder, Sara Venn.
We also hope to run some events where we can bring people together for discussions that will create real change across the city and bring together networks to offer support and opportunity to all involved in community gardening across the city.
We will release the courses for next year in January, but in the meantime we will be running our How To Grow course one last time for 2021, beginning on October 2nd-the details are in the link below!
For the last few months we have been working hard behind the scenes on a space at our Cultivation Place at Speedwell, creating what is the equivalent of a tiny urban back garden, or a tiny yard space. We are so aware that for many renters, house sharers and flat dwellers, for people from marginalised communities growing food and creating beautiful spaces feels like something they may never be able to achieve, but we are aiming to set out to prove that is not the case and that anyone can grow some of their own food, no matter how pushed for space they might be. Growing and gardening is a space that many people don’t recognise themselves in and we know that it is vital that we change this, and this is, we hope, a start.
This work is being made possible by Linda McCartney Foods, who are celebrating their 30 year anniversary by supporting 6 community garden and learning spaces across the UK. Their kind funding is making it possible for us to offer several 6 week course to 18-28 year olds who feel they would like to learn about growing in rented or impermanent spaces and how to go about it but for whom access to growing education has never been possible due to costs or just general access issues or not feeling that they are seen in that sector. The 6 weeks will include learning on soils, on composts and composting, on growing plants from seeds and propagation, and give the participants the basis of designing small spaces and how to ensure they have all the knowledge needed to take their experience back into their communities and homes.
This course will be practical, hands on experience that will include lots of opportunity to ask questions, experiment within the space that is being built and give all participants the building blocks of good gardening and growing, using ecological principles. We can offer 6 places per course, and the first course will begin on Monday 19thJuly and be from 11am to 3pm.
If you think this is the course for you or someone you might know drop an email to Sara Venn, our lead, and she will get back to you with further information. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. The course will be lead by both Sara and our community facilitator Luke Murray.
To follow what we are up to on this project follow our tags on social media-#GYOwithLinda #EdibleBristol