What a week! What a start to the year, actually. Crazy to think that only 3 months ago not one person in the world had coronavirus. And yet here we are.
Two things have really struck me in the last few weeks, living under the shadow of the virus in Jersey. Firstly, the community as a whole have clearly stepped up to the mark – from Facebook pages, neigbourhood WhatsApp groups for help, free online resources, businesses & volunteers delivering to those in isolation to a centralization of volunteer responses by the government – there is a real sense of community spirit shining through the worry. I love it!
The second thing is the panic buying and stockpiling.
I get it, I really do. Food insecure for a time when I was growing up, I have always had a very protective view over my food sources. As a teenager living alone in my very first flat, the first thing I did when the Gulf War was declared was a massive food shop. When the government advised us to prepare for food shortages as a result of Brexit, I was that person who actually prepared. But this feels different. This time it feels scarily real – because everyone around me is panic buying and stockpiling, instead of laughing at my antics.
My knee jerk reaction was to do the same. But very quickly I stilled. Why? I have a cupboard with the remains of my Brexit stockpile, I have jars of jams and chutneys I’ve grown or foraged, dehydrated fruit from last season and a freezer with a bottom I haven’t seen in years.
However, the real reason I stilled was because I took great comfort in the fact that it’s the start of the growing season here in the northern hemisphere. The seasons slowly roll around again, and the farmers and growers are working hard on replenishing our food stocks.
We have an amazing array of produce in Jersey – from seasonal fruit and vegetables, free range eggs, a whole range of dairy produce from both cow and goat milks, fish and shellfish, beef, pork, lamb and kid as well as salt, breads and patisseries, herbs, beers and wine. I feel that the first step in being food secure is by supporting the local producers – not just when the boat doesn’t come in, or a virus rages through our midst, but with our every day shopping habits. Support them in the good times, and they will be there to support us in the hard times.
The second step of being food secure for me is by growing my own. I have a small plot of land I have rented for 20 years, and in it I have dabbled in self sufficiency – some years with more intention and focus than others. I think this year might be the very best yet! I have grown apple, cherry, greengage, plum, gooseberry, blueberry, rhubarb, redcurrants, raspberry strawberry, artichoke, potatoes, beans, peas, salad, tomatoes, cucumber, courgette, peppers, chilli, onions, shallots, leeks, kale, sprouts, parsnips, carrots, beetroot, spinach ……. actually it might be easier to tell you what I haven’t grown!
Radishes. Who even eats radishes. Yuk.
So I got to thinking – we, the people of Jersey, need to stay home to help protect the most vulnerable. We are worried about food security. For our health and mental well being we should be physically active and out in the fresh air where possible.
My answer – why not encourage the people of Jersey to grow some of their own food!
Whether you have a windowsill, a balcony, a garden or a field – you can grow something. In this way we will connect with the food that we eat, revisit the seasons and see for ourselves the wildlife that depend on our food systems too.
When we moved to this house it had a scrappy piece of lawn that was mostly ignored, and definitely underutilized. A few years in and we decided to replace the lawn with growing beds for food. We turned the turf, used sleepers to create several raised beds, filled them with a mix of soil improver, horse manure and potting compost – and we were ready to roll. Best decision ever! As an early morning riser, I get such pleasure by pottering around the garden in my pjs at dawn, listening to the riot of birdsong. Food is a bonus really.
I then found an online movement called Grow Food Not Lawns – geared up to people who have given over their grass to food. Thirsty and hungry lawns around the globe are being are being swapped out to feed thirsty and hungry people. The time and effort in maintaining pristine lawns are now going into growing food. How awesome is that!
More info on the movement can be found at http://www.foodnotlawns.com
We don’t just need to have a large garden to benefit from growing our own though. Pots of herbs on a windowsill; strawberries in a window box; tumbling tomatoes in a hanging basket; a patio pot with a courgette plant; even sprouting seeds for an immunity boost – all are possible. I have blackcurrants and blueberries in pots in my front garden, and lemon and apple trees in pots in the back garden.
Shall we do it Jersey? Whether you’re a seasoned grower who can give help and guidance or a newbie who doesn’t know a cucumber from a cucamelon, shall we grow together this year?
The starting point is being realistic about the space you have to grow in. Next is to make a list of your favorite fruit and vegetables, then work out what will grow in Jersey – pineapple, mango and plantain are a no, but blueberries, melon, spinach and lettuce are a yes. There are many online seed brochures to look through – or just ask a question on The Good Jersey Life Facebook page.
The great news is that you don’t even need to grow from seed. Places like Bonny’s Country Garden Centre grow vegetables which you can buy as seedlings for a very reasonable price. Bonny’s are running a buy and collect service too (for now) if you give them a call to order over the phone or take up the free delivery services being offered around the island so that there is no face to face contact. But please please – keep to the social distancing guidance. We must protect the vulnerable. And if we can’t access seeds or plants for the next few weeks – we can plan our gardens at least!
Let’s join together on this journey. Ask questions on the Facebook page, send us your pictures of your growing space, struggles and celebrations!