Friday, 6 June 2008

Change is in the air

We are on the brink of an agricultural revolution, my friend Robin said the other day. Robin left his job in IT to start growing food only three years ago. His one-acre walled garden in Southover has been feeding Lewes with Japanese vegetables, via Bill’s, the farmers’ market and Circa, since then. We were talking as we weeded his new 10-acre field at Isfield where I’d dropped in to visit. In just a few weeks he’s already turned this piece of land into an incredible edible landscape, with hundreds of different varieties all interplanted for pest resistance and companionship. This year he’s trying out oats as well as other experimental vegetables.

The idea is also to help people to learn important land-based skills, and the venture attracts regular volunteers from London who appreciate the sanity of manual work in a beautiful setting (now officially proven to be good for you!)

Working with warm soil after a few days of rain has always been a peak experience for me. As we worked a powerful waft of honeysuckle crossed the field and stopped us in our tracks. Robin has also been researching intermediate technology farming solutions such as small pushable tractors, and solar-powered rabbit fences. He spoke of the difficulties of pioneering this approach as solutions are hard to come by in a world where big is best.

Robin is one of the few people I know who is living, now, with a probable future with less oil. People who are able to respond positively and practically to peak oil are few and I am grateful to this man as I know he is one of the people who will feed my family. Meanwhile, we are also on the cusp of an edible garden revolution, with a conference in London about urban agriculture and some inspiring films about backyard food growing. I’m having fun doing my bit for England, with pots out front growing vegetables. And this Sunday, I will be planting a small edible garden in a public place in Lewes. Meet me at the Lewes Arms at 2pm, if you, too, want to participate.

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