Last week we scrubbed up the warehouse into a “rustic” lecture theatre, to host a visit from Capital Growth groups and University College London’s Development Planning Unit , who now run a module on Urban (UA – being the vogue term for all forms of urban food growing).
Student presentations of various case studies reveal how UA, in the Two-Thirds World/ Global South (or whichever moniker you choose to give to what we once called the underdeveloped nations) as well as here in Blighty, are increasingly regarding UA not as an unsightly, embarrassing symptom of backwardness to be controlled, but rather a feature of the landscape to be accepted. Even, where food security issues are really starting to bite, to be encouraged.
The point was made that we would benefit from a kind of counter-colonial knowledge transfer of more developed UA models and techniques. It is in a similar spirit that permaculturalists and organic gardeners seek to reverse the dominant approach to the land – that of dominating it – by instead attempting to listen to nature and work with ecological processes and systems.
Our half-acre of glasshouse may be a fairly hard, synthetic micro-climate, but we have begun the work of inviting the outside environment back in, by sowing nectar-rich flowering strips, potting up nettle planters, and installing a promenade of ladybird and lacewing hotels now touting for trade, all in a bid to strike a balance between aphid pests and their insect predators.
Amidst all the worries and denials about the environmental and social crises crashing around us, it is the realisation that we are, after all, capable of forming mutually beneficial relationships with each other, and with the natural world, that can cause you to sigh out loud. It’s the same sigh I’ve let out this week on seeing the blackthorn blossom burst, and will be repeated with the flowering of the peaches, apples, squash…
Sighs, like yawns, have a certain infectious quality.