Food and community resilience

On Tuesday the 15th of September, we had a very interesting talk from Adam Stark from The Food Resilience Project in Cootham. Adam teaches religion and philosophy at the Weald School, and is a self-published writer as well as an environmental campaigner, along a list of other accomplishments. The evening started with a movie trailer shown by Carrie Cort, called “The Need To Grow”, a stark environmental documentary film emphasising that “we need to stop playing games and start saving the planet” because to “not take care of our planet [is] no longer an option”. With that setting the stage for the importance and difficulty of maintaining our food systems in the face of the global and climatic changes we are seeing, we moved into hearing about Adam’s initiative.

When Adam lived in Croydon, he was involved the XR. One of the projects they had was a Seed Café, like a tea party, but for exchanging seeds. He explained how these people were passionate about the opportunity to grow veg even in the limited areas available to them in the city, and it was partly this that inspired him to start The Food Resilience Project when he moved to Cootham, because even though we are in more rural areas and might have more space to grow, we all need think about the impact on the environment from our food systems and pay attention to our ecological footprint.

The Food Resilience Project’s overarching aims are both environmental and social, and it’s objectives are to:

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  • get people thinking about how to reduce their carbon footprint by being more aware
  • encourage people to source food locally by sharing surplus of garden produce and store-bought food, and by buying from local producers
  • Be as self-sufficient as possible – even recycling seeds within the community
  • Be community minded

As well as talking about how they started and the aims, Adam told us about some of the specific projects that they are getting up to. He showed us a map where people can put their foraging finds and where allotments and community gardens are – we looked at the Croydon map as an example, but the Cootham map is growing, as it is early days there yet. They are doing some more activism-type activities with some guerrilla gardening and are also helping neighbours to grow veg – Adam told a story about one woman he is heling to grow potatoes because she can’t reach down to the bed.

View Adam’s presentation here

As a take-away message, Adam believes that a successful resolution to climate change will have to put community at the heart. The political ecological system we live in suppresses our reliance on communities and makes us more individualistic, however a result of the pandemic is that communities have been strengthened, and we need make sure that as things return to ‘normal’, we don’t fall back into our individualistic tendencies. We can always do more – food is a human right, and projects like this bring together inclusive and connected communities which will help us build resilience to weather changes into the future. Adam stressed that the “Community” part is essential to finding common ground for people.

In the question period, there were some good observations made:

Tony Whitbread said:  This initiative is really good as growing food is nice and relaxed. It’s easy getting growers together, as talking about the stuff they grow comes very natural. This kind of rebelling is about being nice to people and growing your own food, not about throwing petrol bombs.

Tony Whitbread said:  Allotments came about when the Enclosures Acts took away most people’s common land and common rights.  So today people should feel able to campaign for having an allotment as a human right. Learn more here.

Viv Doussy said:  I got to know Adam through our Extinction Rebellion Arun Valley group.  Then I found out he set up this local Food Resilience Group in Cootham, just outside Storrington.  He lives within walking distance from us and it’s been really lovely connecting up with people just down the road who we would otherwise never have seen or met up with.  It’s just great when we put our surplus courgettes at the front of the house, then get a ping on the WhatsApp to let us know someone down the road is enjoying courgette for their dinner.  Next week I might get a bag of tomatoes hanging from my door and again a ping lets me know that others have surplus they want to share.

In Mark Francis’s words, it’s as much about community resilience as food resilience.

Carrie Cort and Rosemary Couchman both mentioned about how some schools are doing growing with students, making it ‘cooler’ and ‘more modern’.

Carrie Cort and Nicola Peel shared their new project of a pop-up sustainable roadshow, they are planning on taking an exhibit out to parish and school planned events to educate people about sustainability. Their first event is in May in Pulborough. As Nicola said, no one will come to a particular sustainability event, but if they go to a parish or school event, then people will stop by and learn. It’s also a way to get art into the villages, because the prop design is being done by Emma Pike, who has designed for the National Theatre Company, so it will really draw people it.

Tasks and resources shared:

  • For Horsham to get involved, we need to write council, and get a team that would be keen to carry on this project.

Great movie: The Need To Grow.

Horsham District Community Climate Fund The Community Climate Fund is grant funding available to local voluntary and community groups that share our vision of becoming a carbon neutral District. Application deadline 30th October.

Sophie Andrews, “The Allotment Handbook: A guide to Promoting and Protecting your Site”.

Learn more about the Food Resilience Project here.

Written by Victoria Wyllie de Echeverria

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