breath of fresh air

Having been as thoroughly underwhelmed as it's possible to be by a climate change adapation conference earlier this year, I feel almost childish in the inspiration I've taken from this year's Soil Association conference. I feel genuinely lifted.

I've been wanting to hear Vanada Shiva for a long time. She is one of those very few people who can talk about the truly heavy, weighty, driest of subjects and make it as light and accessible as a cake recipe. As is Tim Lang. Luckily much of the first day's discussions are available online to listen to - Vandana's talk is amazing, as is her 90 second demolition of our Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, half way through the second plenary session.



On the many wet Winter Wednesdays, it's easy to feel a bit isolated when you're busy planting, pruning or carrying out any of the other (usually solitary) cold-month tasks. These two conference days have filled the tank back up and more besides. Perhaps it's the choice of Monty Don as President. Whoever made that decision should be sat down, applauded and passed the drink or his or her choice. It was fantastic to see him in such obviously good health after his recent illness, and to feel that we are all going to benefit from the connections he'll be making with growers all over the country, and not just the commercial ones.

I think (if my dim old brain serves me right) that there are around 120000 farmers and 9 million gardeners in England - if being able to feed ourselves sustainably is ever to become reality, it'll be the gardeners who lead that change. Grow even a little of your own food and the doors for many seem to open on all manner of related issues - it's almost impossible to sow, tend and harvest without encountering even a small sense of wonder at the process. It's once a conection is made, that's rarely the end of it. As writer Michael Pollan puts it "growing even a little of your own food is one of those solutions that, instead of begetting a new set of problems - the way "solutions" such as ethanol or nuclear power inevitably do - actually beget other solutions, and not only of the kind that save carbon”. Grow some food and you're likely to cook and eat it, be more likely to eat it together with family and friends, and be more receptive to the importance of your local environment. And every time you do it, it compounds - each small repeated action tends towards habit, and habits have a habit of their own - of holding hands to become a way of being - and if we are looking for a happier life and a healthier world in which to live it we could do with one of those. And with Monty as President I think that's more people engaged, more growers of every kind switched - and that makes that new way of being a little more achievable.

Now, what trees am I going to plant this Winter...

Go to Otter Farm | by Mark D