Tamzin Pinkerton and Rob Hopkins are authors of ‘Local Food, How to make it happen in your community’ – a big, hearty book. In a time when the supermarkets look set on taking over, they give practical guidance on how to set up community projects to help us gain more food independence: food security, self-sufficiency and organic eating are central to their message. ‘Local Food’ is packed with real- life examples of community schemes including farmer’s markets, community gardens and school projects.
Not only a handbook for those looking to create a neighbourhood project, ‘Local Food’ is also an informative, inspiring read that is relevant to the current food-crisis. It seems to me that more and more people are buying local produce, preferring organic food and feeling the need to get back in touch with nature and the soil.
After many years of people growing more dependent on supermarkets for their food and losing touch with where that food comes from, there seems to be a shift occurring, even in the mainstream, back to the 1930s when the ‘Dig for Victory’ movement was beginning as a result of rationing during the Second World War. As Rob Hopkins points out, ‘By the end of the war, 10 percent of the nation’s diet was coming from allotments and back gardens…Nutritionists argue that the nation had never been healthier.’
Even when the government was rationing an average adult one egg and the value of 6 pence of meat per week (with other essentials in equally low amounts) the people of Britain were healthy due to working their own land. For me that shows how much more we could be doing in England today.
Juicing the fruits of labour
This book raises awareness of what is possible and how, with some planning and a few loyal helpers, we can all eat food grown in our local soil. On a personal level I have seen how effective a community project can be. My parents planted an orchard in 2007 with the help of neighbours as part of the Gloucestershire orchard group.
Next weekend we will be picking and juicing the apples from the forty-year old apple trees in the garden; we also have plums, quinces, pears and mirabelles. Everyone involved works hard to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Not only have we created a beautiful organic orchard of splendid trees but our village community is stronger as a result.
‘Local Food’ champions Britain as a nation of potential ‘produce- consumers’ by giving working examples of projects as well as ideas such as ‘The Great Reskilling’ described in chapter two.
‘We need to relearn all the skills and trades that once made up the thriving local food economies of a pre-oil society and that will help us to steer a steady course through the times of unprecedented change that lie ahead,’ they write.
I know that I need training from experienced people to become an active gardener, a preserver and a forager. This book has reminded me that I want to learn about edible wild plants such as blackberries and elderflower to further my current ‘easy nibbles’ repertoire. I also like the idea of a community composting scheme because, even without an allotment, I am adamant that my lovely compost will go to help some needy soil just down the road from my house.
If you are a budding community project organiser, or just an intrigued reader, the personal stories and photographs from established initiatives, as well as the engaging text on climate change, peak-oil, supermarkets, and growing your own food should entice you to get your nose deep in this book. I have!
This review was compiled by Ellen Grant. Ellen was brought up to love animals and plants and when, at the age of fourteen, her family moved to an old farmhouse with fifteen acres of land Ellen was infected with the green bug. She now lives in Bristol and attends Bath Spa University.