Feeding the Cities

I’ve had quite a productive week of research including reading a great new book by Carolyn Steel called Hungry City. It charts the way cities have fed their populations and have grown to require more than the immediate hinterland to do this. It goes hand it hand with the Industrial Revolution, the invention of the Railways and shipping. In the introduction, Carolyn says it’s taken her many years to write this book. She’s trained as an architect and wanted to look at how food systems shape the cities. I’ve found it a really good introduction to understanding how the world has formed itself around our food systems. The worrying bit of all this is how linked we now are to huge globalised systems which may not be able to cope with shocks of oil price rises (and falls!)

I’ve also started reading Felicity Lawrence‘s new book Eat Your Heart Out, it’s an expose of the food business and looks at different food types in each chapter. I’ve sort of skim read the first chapter about cereals as agriculture crops aren’t really the focus of my thesis but the Vegetables and Meat chapter is shocking. She’s upto speed with the concepts of Peak Oil, Transition Towns and our need to provide resilience for our communities.

The power of the supermarkets and the seemingly weakness of farmers is all too apparent in today’s society. The BBC today is reporting that British milk production is at it’s lowest for 30 years, whilst we are importing more and more from European farms. We have some of the best land for grazing cows but still the system is unable to pay farmers a fair price. Something is wrong and if two dairy farmers are really going out of business each day, we are bound to hit a tipping point where we lose our capacity to provide for ourselves and prices will shoot up as supply drops.

I’ve also been reading through various papers extolling the virtues of Community Supported Agriculture, the need for Food Security, Edible Cities in the USA, Food Strategies, Farm Costs and Food Miles, Wirrals Allotment Strategy… the list goes on. I’ve realised there is far too much stuff out there to read and I’ve got to focus. One way of doing this is using mindmaps. I’ve been using piece of freeware mind-mapping software called unsurprisingly, FreeMind. It allows you to really easy build up mindmaps and is really easy to use. I’d recommend it unreservedly. The best bit is the keyboard shortcuts, you can pretty much do everything without using the mouse.

Finally I’d like to sing the praises of a fabulous magazine/newsletter called The Land. It comes out 2-3 times a year and has a huge range of articles about the countryside, farming, land and planning issues. Their mission statement is as follows:

The Land is written by and for people who believe that the roots of justice, freedom, social security and democracy lie not so much in access to money, or to the ballot box, as in access to land and its resources

It’s all very inspirational and motivating. I really like the non-mainstream way it’s produced and the quality of the illustrations and printing. It’s also got me into Woody Guthrie’s songs from the early part of the 20th century. When we were housesitting Tom Hodgkinson’s house in the Summer he had a double CD of Woody Guthrie songs that I kept listening to. I loved the simple stripped back lyrics and instruments.


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