Raise be!


Have you noticed these things popping up all over the place?

This one is particularly artificial-looking (I think those carrots have had all their cellulite photoshopped out) but the Raised Bed in all its forms is suddenly the new black all over the (particularly trend-ridden) part of NE London where I live.

I work with schools and community groups to help them set up and run ‘closed loop’ or ‘whole life cycle’ growing systems for food, and I also go and see growing gardens that people have set up for themselves, and it really does seem that people imagine that food simply won’t grow unless it is framed in this way by preservative-soaked planks. Often filled with peat. And surrounded by slug pellets.

I try and tell people all the time that shopping is not the way to save the world, and that most of the equipment they buy is just not necessary, and that all they need to do is to use the earth that’s already there, and start recycling nutrients now by making compost.

Like these, made from pallets, which are a waste product, free, and often to be found cluttering north london corners and alleys. You don’t have to do anything with them, you don’t need any tools, just wire them together, and chuck appropriate stuff in, wait, and nature will do aaaaall the rest.

Most people don’t believe me.  They are wary of the earth, and what it might have in it, and particularly wary of (euch!) eating things that have been in it. They call the earth ‘dirt’, and tell their children not to touch it, and scream if they see anything living in it and say that it smells.

I don’t think other countries have this same degree of alienation from the earth that we do, and I think it’s all bound up with our history ;

Land, that used to be ‘common’, and therefore available for ordinary people to hunt, gather, and grow the means to live, was removed from this purpose into the ownership of  landowners, by a series of enclosure acts, from the 1500s on. The  General Enclosure Act of 1845, one of the last, took 615,000 acres from the poor and gave them 2,200 acres of allotments in return. This process created an underclass of urban poor, ready to be exploited in the mills and factories of the new industrial cities. (see, Mr Eade, I was listening)

The women’s movement of the 1960’s sought to liberate women from the drudgery of cooking with convenience foods, leading to our dependence today on ready meals and pre-prepared foods.

Food distribution businesses, aka supermarkets, have been given free reign to dominate the means of production by politicians whose campaigns they have financed.

Local authorities the length and breadth of the UK have invested our money in the skills and equipment to maintain recreation land for this :

Many people now will not accept food as clean, unless it is wrapped in plastic, they will not eat the apples that grow on urban garden trees, or recognise that the wild rocket they paid two pounds for, is the same that is growing at the edge of their local park.

Business in tanalised wood and manufactured topsoil is booming though.

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