My whole drift, if you haven’t already got it, is that the skill of growing food for yourself, family and your local community is an essential survival skill. It is part of the localising movement. Industrial food production, industrial processing and industrial distribution, is doomed in the not so long run. It is not only destructive of our precious soils, humus and vital soil life, but is completely inefficient and unsustainable. Growing food with chemicals derived from petroleum is unsustainable, the use of petroleum to power large machinery to grow and harvest the crops is unsustainable, using petroleum to transport food over great distances is unsustainable, the energy required to build and run large supermarkets are unsustainable. The word ‘unsustainable’ means it cannot and will not last by its very nature.

There are several essential life skills and this is one of the big ones. 54% of the worlds population is now urban, i.e. 3.99 billion, who inevitably have a lack of knowledge about growing food. Even where there are fresh meat, grains and vegetables available in cities, the population is cut off from its growing and processing. For many, peas come in frozen packets; meat comes already chopped up and in a packet, or in a bun. Vegetables and fruit come frozen and processed or in plastic rapping; at the very best vegetables on the shelves are ultra clean, neat and in graded sizes on supermarket shelves, and those vegetables that do not fit these aesthetic criteria are thrown away, causing huge wastage. For so many of us we are completely divorced from the production process.

Compost making at Clifton Terrace School

Compost making at Clifton Terrace School

We need to start with children. One of the joys of teaching children how to grow food is their discovery of the plants that are growing.

Peas come frozen in a packet, but the excitement of seeing a pea plant and picking the pods and opening them and finding the fresh peas inside, and even eating them raw, brings them back to the food’s source and their own source.

And even more important, teaching them how to sow dried peas, getting their hands in the good earth and watching them grow – this to my mind is the most important education.

We have been involved in an ongoing permaculture project at our local primary school, which involves a lot of redesigning of the grounds, creating more growing beds for the children to grow vegetables, fruit trees, nuts and strawberries and other soft fruits as well as herbs and flowers. The children are involved in being asked for their ideas and input, as well as learning practically about growing food.

There are plans to create a forest garden and to extend the variety of fruit and nut trees already in the grounds. Some of the planting involves the riparian planting of a large ditch with a pathway through for the children, so they can study birds and other wildlife. There are plans to improve play areas for the younger and older children. There is also an area of native planting that is called ‘Natures Way’, which has two outdoor classroom areas, and which we hope to include a bird watching hide in the future. All these projects are to provide invaluable knowledge and hands-on learning. This is just the sort of opportunities that children need at their schools, as well as their usual curriculum.

Have you ever thought how English-speaking people have different words for the wild animal, and its meat? This dichotomy comes from the words for the live animals and those for the prepared food coming from different languages. When the Normans invaded Britain from France in 1066, they became the ruling class. As a result the Anglo-Saxon peasants, who grew the food, called the animals they farmed, by their Germanic names, Pig, Cow, Sheep, Hen – Picga, Cû, Scēap, Henn and their masters called the cooked food that they ate by their French names – Pork, Beef, Mutton, Poultry etc. – Poc, Boeuf, Mouton and Poule. The English language has therefore further separated English speakers from their food origins.

I hope this book has given you enough education about the miracle of life in the soil and the cooperation between soil micro-organisms and plants, and the practical knowledge to best encourage these natural processes, so that we can grow healthy nutrient dense food, and be healthier ourselves.

Here in New Zealand we are blessed with plenty of good growing land and a low population, unlike many overpopulated countries that are unable to survive without imports of food, like the UK. If we had to, we could survive without any food imports and still have a varied diet and a choice of many different foods. If you haven’t got any land or only a little garden, don’t despair, look at the many of the movements growing food in urban areas in many countries – inspire yourself by learning about the creative movements going on in urban areas around the world and join in, or organise food growing in your area – (see the section: ‘LAND ACCESS’ for inspiration!)

A Community Garden at work

A Community Garden at work

And finally, whether we own some land, belong to a community garden, like in the picture above, live in an urban or rural environment and are able to work land and grow food in all the different ways explained in the section 'LAND ACCESS' we should always remember we are all just stewards and should also be guardians, protectors, regenerators and preservers of the land. New Zealand Māori have this concept imbedded very strongly in their culture, calling it – kaitiakitanga.

As Daniel Procter, Ngati Uepohatu, Ngai Tamanuhiri, Nati Rangiwaho has written:

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitu te whenua A Maori proverb with relation to land and its existence in the Maori worldview, translated: Humankind passes away but the land remains.

The Maori worldview states that we are only but stewards of the land while we walk on the face of the land, we never truly own the land, the land owns us. We are bound to it, as if it was the life blood that sustains us, so the question must be when thinking about Maori land and what its purpose is: Why do we only quantify land in an economic value?"

This concept of looking after the environment and the land, also includes leaving a legacy, a legacy of regenerated soils, improved environment, cleaner waterways, lakes, the oceans and the air and leaving a legacy of re-enlivened soil life, fertility and natural processes.