I was listening to a Radio 4 program the other week, about Mao Zedong, his Chinese dictatorship, and the famine which started in 1958. Very simply, in an effort to increase industrial production, Mao Zedong enforced the use of communal kitchens. Many peasants who had previously had their own kitchen gardens, and who had reared their own animals, were forced to eat at the communal kitchens. Private kitchens were abolished. When harvests failed, due to dramatic weather changes and a lack of farm labour, famine struck. Many millions of people died, and many millions more people died then would have, had they not lost their self reliance.
Listening to this reminded me of the various truck strikes that we have had in the UK, due to fuel prices, and the panic buying that has occurred because of them. It is when this happens, that we are all reminded of the supermarket’s 3 day stock supply. Supermarkets are generally 3 days away from being completely empty!
Growing our own food is becoming fashionable again, and as fuel prices and thus food prices continue to rise, even more people will be encouraged to take it up. However, the vast majority of people are still completely reliant, on their weekly supermarket food shop. They are reliant on food which is shipped in from the other side of the world.
The British apple harvest failed this year, and America’s corn harvest also failed. These are just 2 examples…..Although my lovely abundant slugs ate most things in my garden, there were other things that did really well. I’m not saying that my garden is a model permaculture garden at all, but the permaculture principle of having “multiple elements” in a system, is very much highlighted. Variety in crops give stability, because bad conditions for one species are good conditions for another. When one variety might fail, another variety might survive. Apple prices have been effected by the crop failure, but only slightly, because Britain imports so many apples. But what if we had an apple crop failure at the same time that fuel prices soared. What if we could not afford to import foreign apples, or any other foreign food?
Being reliant on supermarkets for food, feels the same to me, as being reliant on communal kitchens. I don’t trust the supermarkets to worry about feeding me – Their goal is to make profit, and feeding people is a by-product. Britain should be able to feed itself, but it needs a lot more people to return to growing.
With this in mind, I bought 2 fruit trees in the market – a hardy pear and a hardy apple. Both are self fertile. I identified an underused area of grass, that I felt could do with a couple of food bearing trees (between a housing estate and a road), and I planted them. I watered them with rotted nettle juice, and mulched them with wood chip, which I adopted from a church compost area from down the road. A couple of people asked me what I was doing, and I said that I felt that the area could do with some more fruit trees. They agreed.
I like to forage, so I consider my act of guerilla gardening, a small step towards providing a secure foraging future. If you live in Tavistock, please don’t tell the council it was me. Thanks.