Who would have thought that gardening and farming would become such radical acts? Radical is a beautiful term that comes from the Latin word ‘radix’, meaning to get to the root of something. When we grow food, we get to the root of some of the fundamental issues in our society. By digging deep, we uproot systems that do not serve us. By nurturing the soil, we create the potential for new beginnings. Planting a seed is a radical act of trust, a declaration that you believe in the future. The whole cycle of gardening with nature is life enhancing.
During the pandemic we have seen a radical revolution in growing. Windowsills, balconies and gardens are being transformed into sites of food production. There are many interconnected reasons for this. With families and workers spending more time at home, we have potentially more time to grow food. Indeed, many seed companies have had to close down their websites to cope with the demand. People are also becoming more aware of the link between good food, health, nutrition and wellbeing. We know that eating processed food is leading to obesity and other illnesses. People want food that is healthy, local and fresh.
Before the pandemic GIY (Grow It Yourself) groups and community gardens were springing up around the country. We were already seeing a rise in the demand for organic food around the world. Transition groups were supporting communities to move towards a just transition in the face of biodiversity loss, soil degradation and climate change.
We know that soils and rivers are being destroyed here and around the world by intensive agriculture and industrialisation. We know there is no such thing as cheap food! Somewhere animals, people and ecosystems are paying a price that the planet cannot afford. We urgently need earth protectors not polluters.
We know that seed banks are increasingly controlled by a small number of multi-national companies. It is critical that communities and farmers maintain control of seed. As the wonderful Indian activist and writer Vandana Shiva says ‘when you control food, you control society. When you control seed, you control life on earth’. We are seeing a resurgence in seed sharing and seed swaps as well as the ongoing and inspiring work of Brown Envelope Seeds and Irish Seedsavers.
Brexit has given us a stark reminder that we are an island without a land bridge to the rest of Europe. It has highlighted our huge reliance on imported food, seed and the enormous carbon footprint of these imports.
Whatever your motivation for picking up a trowel, now is the time. The peaceful revolution is happening all around us in our fields and gardens. This Spring, if you are new to gardening, first map out the area where you want to grow. Cover it with cardboard and manure to suppress the weeds. Start thinking about what you want to grow and find out what seeds and plants are available locally. Join online growing groups and share knowledge. If you can’t grow your own food, support local farmers, growers and markets.
Also remember the other creatures who share your space. Remember to leave space for nature. Check out Mary Reynolds work ‘We are the ark’ and leave areas for wild animals and birds.
Remember that growing is a radical act and our actions are creating the foundations for the generations to come. Enjoy, be radical and stay rooted!
Lisa Fingleton is the author of ‘The Local Food Project’ and she runs ‘The Barna Way’ (Facebook) an eco-social organic farm with her partner Rena Blake.
As published in the Environmental Watch Column, The Kerryman, 3rd March 2021