Apart from reading at church when I was at school, I'd never stood up to speak in front of a large group of people before. Yet there I was at the Norwich Farmshare Open Evening, talking about my hopes for the Norwich Community Bees scheme.
I was quite nervous, but as I stood up, I suddenly thought "this is so exciting!" Laura, Tierney and Elena had been talking with such passion about the farm and their enthusiasm was infectious. People seemed to be really engaged and it felt like something important was happening. We were starting to think about possibilities, making connections.
I was talking to Elena afterwards, and mentioned an excellent programme I'd heard on the radio - Climate Change Farm - about the Otter Farm where owner Mark Diacono grows foods not normally associated with the British climate - "orchards of pecans, quince, almonds, szechuan pepper, apricot..." It sounds idyllic. On the programme, he talked about how we are so used to growing plants in straight rows with a gap between them; this is done for ease of cropping, yet also causes space for weeds to grow, hence extra effort in weeding, water loss and soil erosion.
At the farm, strawberries are planted in great patches where they support each other and shade out weeds while keeping the soil moist. It's a different way of looking at growing. Elena had also heard the same programme and knew about the farm before. I mentioned a scheme I'd read about in National Geographic where farmers are trying to cross-breed perennial wheat grass with more productive modern annual wheat strains to combat soil erosion caused by the continual cycle of planting, harvesting and ploughing on modern arable farms. From the picture I saw, the perennial wheat's roots looked about twenty times as long as annual wheat. The long roots tap into the deeper, more fertile soil, find water more easily and hold the soil together.
When did I start getting excited about soil? About growing and farming? Since being involved in Transition, it feels like we've put down deep, perennial root systems. Social root systems, linking people together; and root systems of thought, helping us to make connections with things that matter. I'd never thought too much about it, but now I see connections everywhere.
Food and farming are so integral to our lives, so important, it's no accident that Oxfam's new global campaign for food justice is simply called GROW.
Pics: www.landscapeofmeaning.blogspot.com; www.NationalGeographic.com