Life on the Farm

We will be exploring the theme of Food at Envirolution on 21st July, so here is some thoughts on what is happening in Manchester around sustainable food.

One element of sustainability that is sure to get people excited is Food. We all have to eat and can feel instant gratification when we consume good food. With this thought firmly in my mind and a personal love of food, I have always thought it would be at the forefront of any environmental movement.

In a lot of ways Manchester is an exciting and accessible place in regards to food, symbolised with the Unicorn and 8th Day offering delicious sustainable options. Although it is also blessed with many diverse stores offering everything you could wish from all corners of the world within cycling distance of the centre.

The challenge for Manchester is to keep this diversity of food whilst moving to a sustainable localised food system. An event I attended last week asked the question “What if… Manchester was as sustainable as Havana”. With Havana producing 90% of its food needs within Greater Havana there are some interesting comparasons between the two cities, in particular that the greater areas are almost identical in population size but obviously it is not that simple. A report on the event by Manchester Climate Monthly highlighted the difficultly in comparing the situations of two different places. One thing that the talk challenged was the cultural importances of food production in Havana that is not present in Manchester. Is that something that we can develop?

I was lucky enough this year to sit down with a very inspiring individual that was asking me to imagine Manchester (and any other urban environment) like a farm. Pop Up Farm uses the analogy of farms to help envision a sustainable community, using ideas and innovations as the seeds to be cultivated into effective solutions. The idea is to use schools as a hub to bring initiatives to the wider community. I liked this idea as we are hoping Envirolution will generate the same hub effect around Platt Fields Park.

As part of my own internal food revolution I have been spending some time on the farm of the Moss Brook Growers to see the reality behind the lovely locally sourced, organic food we are blessed with in Manchester. I can say first hand that after eight hours of hoeing the fields that we would all benefit from a shift in our understanding and valuing of food and food producers.

In Havana, all levels of production are considered as part of the food system from large industrial producers to all scales of food cooperatives to back garden growing. This total view and bringing together of growers is something that I think would have huge benefits in Manchester.

This is why we are so happy to welcome Feeding Manchester along to this years Envirolution. They are a network of organisations in Manchester that are working towards creating a sustainable food system. Envirolution will be using the summer event to launch an idea of a network of groups, individuals and projects to look at what can be done in and around Platt Fields Park towards making the area more sustainable. I am not a hundred percent convinced that we will be trying to create a South Manchester farm but I bet food will be high up on the list.


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