WITH extreme weather conditions recently impacting on veg supplies from across the continent could this prompt more people to grow their own?
Certainly here in Bradford, allotments and gardens in the city and district are abundant with home growers.
According to Bradford Council’s Allotment Service new applications made for an allotment during the period 2014, 2015 and 2016 indicate an average eight per cent increase year on year.
However, January and February comparisons for 2016 to 2017 were showing a reduction of approximately 50 per cent in applications.
So could the veg crisis prompt more to consider growing their own?
Dan Flack, who runs the Grow For Health and Wealth scheme set up by the Westend Centre in Bradford, says: “The only problem is that it is a very seasonal thing to do. People cannot grow their own veg in winter, but to have enough to get you through winter is quite a lot and it is specialist storage.”
“If you go anywhere in Europe they have undercover growing facilities and they have these massive acres and acres of glasshouses.”
Dan says the reason why Britain is lagging behind in terms of veg growing is we removed our glasshouses and began buying our supplies from elsewhere.
“We unfortunately took all of ours down after the Victorian era. When we started buying it in we stopped growing like that. There was a time when country houses had a walled garden and grew their own food,” explains Dan.
He says we’ve gone backwards but, by encouraging people to grow their own, we are moving forward again.
Pip Gibson, co-ordinator of The Cabbage Club project and the Community Development Worker for the Keighley West & Worth Valley Wards, says she began focusing on the ‘grow your own’ ethos a few years ago when local people began showing an interest. “And it’s ‘grown’ on from that!” she adds.
Now in its second year, The Cabbage Club, which Pip is involved with runs sessions twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays along with special open access days throughout the school holidays.
They also do demonstrations and promotional events in community centres and schools at various outdoor locations providing a pop up street cafe.
Explains Pip: “The idea came from numerous conversations with local people about the cultural as well as health dangers of a society that has become addicted to fast food, smart phones, virtual reality and indoor sedentary lifestyles.
“We wanted to “unplug ourselves from the matrix” and provide a shared off grid practical experience with anyone who would benefit from it, regardless of age culture or anything else,” says Pip.
Since starting the project Pip says while there is a growing interest in ‘growing your own,’ more work needs to be done to promote the movement in those communities that would benefit most.
She says the veg crisis generated conversations about veg growing in controlled conditions, irrespective of the weather.
“Our experience shows that growing is at its most effective when undertaken as a part of a collective. Taking part in the shared experience is a massive buzz for our members. Some are too old or infirm to dig or recycle pallets but they can peel spuds and tell their stories and give advice to those who can,” adds Pip.
Robert Ramsden, a development chef with Bradford-based Delifresh, which supplies fresh fruit and vegetables directly to restaurants and the trade through the North of England, says: “We do a lot of things trying to get things grown at home.”
Referring to the time when the veg crisis occurred Robert said at that time of year lettuce and herbs were all imported making it difficult.
“But because we have done a lot of work with a lot of local growers we have maintained a good supply,” explains Robert.
He said items such as tomatoes were ‘decimated’ “but we maintained a Yorkshire supply of tomatoes through winter.”
LED lighting enables local growers to harvest tomatoes while Spain, known as the ‘salad bowl’ at that time of year, struggled because of the severe weather.
While the veg crisis may not have affected our country too much - apart from the rationing of a few lettuces and some other imported produce, Robert believes it has given us a sense of ‘realism’ and made consumers more conscious about where their food comes from.
“They went into a supermarket to try to buy a courgette and couldn’t buy any so it will have brought a bit of realism in respect of where things come from and we should all know that,” adds Robert.