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This is based on an article by Joe St Clair in the Resurgence & Ecologist magazine.

Down on the farm, a new grassroots initiative is being sown: a simple idea for turning plots of land into sustainable and self-regulating ecosystems that can provide nutritious, healthy, organic food for local communities and also bring those communities together to combat loneliness and engender a sense of comradeship and belonging. And it’s working.

The Food Forest Project is a small, newly formed organisation that has been established to help communities to plant food forests. But it’s not just about growing food for the local community. It’s also about providing food and habitats for wildlife – so it’s a win–win situation for all.

The idea was conceived by Bristol-based Tristan Faith, a specialist in architectural conservation, who shared his vision with me by sketching the concept on paper. “It’s the idea of working with Nature to replenish itself naturally rather than over-working and depleting the soil,” he explained. “It’s all about creating a layered, self-regulating ecosystem. It starts with planting trees that grow to create a canopy layer that shades a mid-layer of fruit trees that in turn shade a shrub layer and a root crop layer, right down into the subsoil. Each layer creates a habitat for different species that enable natural predators to control the insects. It takes around five years for the complete system to stabilise and produce fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, and so on. Once it gets to that level of maturity no further intervention is necessary, because it then becomes self-sustaining.”

Faith’s vision remained a conceptual idea until he found a supportive farmer who kindly donated a suitable plot of land that met the criteria for the project. The land, near Shepton Mallet in Somerset, had been heavily used as pasture for many years. Now the food forest being developed there is creating an organic, biodiverse area of natural habitat that will provide perfect homes for local wildlife. The food forest also helps mitigate the effects of climate change, air pollution and the toxification of soil and water by creating natural spaces that capture carbon, regenerate soil and reduce run-off as well as stabilising erosion through the planting of woodland. No pesticides or fertilisers are necessary once the natural seasonal cycles take over, and the enriched soil will enable organic fruits and vegetables to thrive. These products will then be available for the local community to buy by donation, helping to fund further expansion.

Creating a food forest requires a lot of careful planning if it is to thrive in a self-sustaining manner. Current food-production techniques tend to create huge wastage as well as depleting soil nutrients, so the project focuses on minimising wastage by means of a ‘closed loop’ system. It has been calculated that a large quantity of high-quality and totally organic food can be produced in a small area with minimum wastage. Any excess products can be recycled naturally to further enrich the soil.

The project has another important goal. A large proportion of modern society has lost its connection to the natural environment. In recognition of this, the project has now joined forces with SAFE Collective, an organisation that works with vulnerable and abused young people. Volunteers bring teenagers to the Shepton Mallet site to plant trees and crops and to learn all about sustainable agriculture and food production in a safe, inspiring and natural environment. Introducing vulnerable young people to these and similar activities helps build their self-confidence and shows how they have value in the community.

For more information see www.thefoodforestproject.org

Earth Day 22nd April

is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day

Earth Day 2020 will be far more than a day. It must be a historic moment when citizens of the world rise up in a united call for the creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery that we need to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.

For more information see earthday.org

Our Malvern Hills Car Clubs celebrated its 10th Anniversary recently and issued the following press release.

Press Release, for immediate publication

Malvern Hills Car Clubs is a community-based car sharing scheme, and last week, on 1st April, it held its tenth AGM.  The original plan had been to hold this at the Cube, and to combine it with a birthday party, with members bringing food to share.  Given current circumstances, the meeting was held virtually using Zoom (an online conference facility).

The birthday party atmosphere was maintained by some members arriving with gin and tonic and crisps, or cups of tea and biscuits, and the celebration started with everybody present sharing something that they appreciated about the car club.  One member who has recently returned to the Malvern area after several years of living abroad was grateful that she has not had to buy a car since she came back.  A member who lives in the northeast and works in Ledbury is very happy that he did not need to buy a second car for the time that he spends here.  One couple were pleased that they have not needed to own a car for ten years - since the car club started.  Another member expressed gratitude for the fact that there are fewer cars on the roads, and fewer cars parked on the streets. Several people also mentioned the commitment and devotion of the volunteers who run the club, and the sense of community and connection that being a member of the club creates.

With this being an AGM, the accounts were presented, revealing a small surplus and a healthy bank balance.  However, the car club is not immune to the Coronavirus.  On the contrary, the impact has been immediate.  Members are responding to the lockdown advice and only using the cars for the permitted outings with the result that usage for March was a mere 10% of normal. 

In the short term, the car club’s finances will enable the club to ride out the immediate drop in usage.  The conversation about contingency plans to help the situation was followed by thoughts about the opportunities for the future.  Two different opportunities were discussed, the first related to the Covid-19 effect, and the second to possible expansion plans.

First, with almost everyone moving around less at the moment, some people may decide that they can continue to drive less, and therefore that they do not need to own their own car.  The car club is a very good solution for people who only use a car two or three times a week in normal times.  Similarly, households with two cars may decide that they can manage with owning only one, and use a car club car as a substitute for the second.  There are already many car club members in this situation.

The second opportunity is the potential for partnerships with local villages.  The parish councils of six villages in the area - three in Worcestershire, and three in Herefordshire - have recently declared a climate emergency, and are looking at actions that they can take locally to address this.  They are exploring arrangements with Malvern Hills Car Clubs as one possibility - one which would not only help with climate change, but would also support people living in rural locations for whom transport options are limited.

Notes for Editors

Malvern Hills Car Clubs was founded in 2010.  It is one of the initiatives to come from Transition Malvern Hills.

The club is run entirely by volunteers, which keeps costs to a minimum.

The club covers Malvern, Colwall and Ledbury.  140 households are members, and the club has seventeen vehicles, including one electric car and a pick-up truck.

Website: https://malvernhills-carclubs.org.uk/

How does The Centre for Alternative Technology(CAT) Zero Carbon Britain scenario compare to other models for getting to net zero? Cat's Philip James compares the key changes, choices and technologies from Zero Carbon Britain with the Committee on Climate Change’s ‘Further Ambition’ scenario.

This is from Cat's Clean Slate magazine

Biochar is essentially charcoal made under carefully controlled conditions. By burning carbon-rich compounds in the absence of air (pyrolysis), the volatile and non-carbon components are burnt off, leaving much of the carbon behind as a solid ‘char’.

This has particular properties that make it valuable as a means of storing carbon, especially in the soil. It has been found in stable condition after thousands of years, making biochar a potentially useful tool in carbon sequestration and storage.

Biochar can be made from any readily available carbon source, e.g. wood and agricultural residues such as rice husks, nut shells and beet tops, and the quality of this source material (feedstock) partly determines the properties of the biochar. For example, if the feedstock is nutrient-rich, so will be the char. By-products of pyrolysis include a biogas and a tar, both of which have useful applications.

This description of Biochar comes from The Centre for Alternative Technology's Zero Carbon Britain Report Section 3.6.3 Capturing carbon. See their report for the full details and references.

There are two events on Biochar coming up in the region. select on the image below for more details.

Our Friends at Greenlink have open a new Shop GL2. This shop allows you to refill your wholefoods, toiletries and household cleaning products.

It is at 14 Cowleigh Road, Malvern, WR14 1QD. Select here for a map.

Their Current opening hours are:

  • Tuesday 10 till 7pm
  • Thursday 10 till 5pm
  • Saturday 10 till 4 pm

We are giving a talk on The Centre for Alternative Technology(CAT) new Zero Carbon Report. This will be at 30th March at 8pm.

Due to the Virus Emergency this talk will now be online.

Zoom will be used for this talk. The Zoom link is https://zoom.us/j/544847254 .

For details of how to use Zoom see here.

The slides are available here.

For the full report and lost more information and resources see CAT's own website.