What was your journey to growing and being involved in food?
The spark of a desire to grow my own food was ignited by the inexplicable excitement of walks around the allotments next to the infant school I attended. The school was very nature-based in those days. Also, my parents dabbled in growing vegetables and always fed us whole foods. However, I didn’t start my own food-growing until in my 20’s – in containers on a flat roof and in various gardens of rented properties, then on an allotment in North London.
In London, I volunteered as a cook at The Food Chain, providing meals for people with HIV & Aids. Later I worked at a Steiner Kindergarten, prepping and cooking soup with and for the kids. At that time, I was studying for an O.U. Psychology degree. This encouraged me to think deeply about how we live and how to create a way of living that actually nurtures our minds and bodies.
Once my second son was born, I started looking for somewhere to become more involved in land and food-based projects. A visit to Bridport followed by an internet search led me to ‘Treewise’, a project started by Kim and David Squirrell and based in Symondsbury. So, we moved down to Symondsbury in 2008. In Kim’s words, I ‘… led the toddler group and became a key contributor to the development of the Kitchen Garden growing and cooking project, teaching and promoting breadmaking, home cooking and healthy eating’.
To give our boys most access to the outdoor learning they loved, we went on to home-educate them. They grew up helping us on the allotment, which has inexplicably proved to be a good basis for Drum and Bass and filmmaking! Having access to spaces to grow has nurtured our bodies and minds beyond the effects of eating good food. This wouldn’t have been possible without forward-thinking landowners, councils and community groups working to make this happen and I am very grateful for that.
When COVID struck, I became involved in donating some of our allotment surplus to the Glut Stall initially at St Mary’s Primary school then at St Swithun’s on a Thursday morning. Peter Wilson approached me about running some cooking classes at the stall, and, because of the pandemic, this morphed into me producing recipes for the stall. Then came the idea of collating these recipes and creating the Bridport Food Matters booklet ‘Cheap, cheerful and achievable Recipes to feed Body and Mind’ produced by the Bridport Local Food Group.
How are you growing produce in a way which takes account of climate change?
I am growing as much food as possible; growing organically, no-dig, mulching, experimenting with perennial & unusual crops, seed-saving, preserving, reducing waste, developing a food-forest. I am one of a group of Bridport Food Matters’ Allotment Ambassadors, which means I am learning, experimenting, and exchanging ideas about how to grow food in a changing climate.
As a non-professional I initially doubted the contribution I could make as an Ambassador. However, I now recognise the importance of sharing home-based growing, preserving and cooking skills. To be a resilient community a major shift around food is required where we are all involved in food production: we need to largely feed ourselves from food we produce locally. It is an exciting and positive way to actually ‘take back control’ rather than the dysfunctional ’solutions’ presented by our dysfunctional leaders.
What do you like about the Red Brick café, where you work part-time?
I like the Red Brick Café’s ethos – sourcing as much of their produce from local suppliers and with an eye on good health and affordability. Working there, I have met a wide range of dynamic people involved in all sorts of local food and environmental initiatives. It has also been amazing for me personally, and helped me be more confident and outgoing and I continue to be inspired by the wonderful women who founded and run the café.
What are your hopes and dreams related to food? And what would it take to do these?
I would like to be more involved on a community level, sharing information and supporting others to grow, eat & preserve food in sustainable ways.
I’d like to do a project to encourage widespread use of low-energy cooking, sharing recipes, and perhaps interesting community groups in making ‘hayboxes’. At Treewise, I experimented with using an insulated ‘wonder bag’ (a type of haybox) which retains heat and therefore slowly cooks food, thus minimising the amount of energy you need to consume. This is excellent for cooking pulses, brown rice, stews, for example.
I would hope to see Bridport become a model community for sustainable living & eating, and to see the landowners redistributing the land to make this possible. I wish we did not have farmland being sold off for housing developments but instead converted to sustainable mixed farms with pockets of actually affordable housing (not linked to house prices). In my dreams we would create a Bridport Basic income so the community can make this happen, and all council and housing association planting would be of edible plants.
There are so many people in the area with the skills and understanding and enthusiasm to be able feed everyone in sustainable ways. If enough people could wake up to the precarious situation we are in and demand a system change, perhaps we will be able to harness that wealth of talent create a sustainable food system before the SHTF! I am always hopeful!
What are the most important things you think we can all do?
I think we can try to grow food everywhere, tell new stories about what is ’the real world’, and recognise the precariousness of our situation and laugh in the face of delay! I think we could all take the time to understand how and why the way we live does not meet our evolved needs, how this is the source of much misery and poor decisions. Grow even more food. Demand the Council has a plan to feed everyone…
I think that there is a lot we can gain rather than lose by mitigating and adapting to climate change. We can gain as individuals and as a community, if we can strengthen our local community and simplify our lives. I think it is important for us to be involved in the community activities – we can then see all the wonderful things people are doing.
Why does Bridport Food Matter, to you?
Our health and happiness relies on having access to good food.
Creating the majority of the things we need to thrive within the local area is key to physical and emotional resilience and addressing the climate emergency.
There are so many inspiring people working to make this happen in the Bridport area.
Image courtesy of Pete Millson