If supermarkets disappeared tomorrow....

Lynda Brown - 17 June 2013

Sunday found me deluged by people visiting my postage stamp garden as part of Box Gardens open day event; what pleased me most was that everyone was not only taken by the fact that I’d managed to cram in a pond, but I’d also squeezed in some veggies: a modest 1 metre square deep bed (Swiss chard/French beans/lettuce); 3 tomatoes, 1 courgette and 1 asparagus plant; a few climbing beans and sugar snap peas in pots; 2 blackcurrant bushes; and apple and pear tree which were already here.

Not exactly anything to shout about, but it confirmed my long held belief that despite the supermarket stranglehold on our food supply, and the devastating effects it and its bedfellows, industrialised food and farming, have had on our food cultures, that intimate and instinctive connection with food and the urge to grow it, still beats strongly in our collective psyches.

Then, this morning, sitting in my new favourite haunt (Black Cat coffee - cum –second hand book shop in Stroud), I caught a piece in Monday’s Inde about the

Biospheric Project in Manchester

, part of their forthcoming International Festival .

It goes something like this: take one derelict print works, and farm it vertically, such that different food systems feed naturally into each other to generate a range of crops. This prototype includes fresh water fish fed from an in house wormery, using the fish waste to fertilise crops growing on the floor above; whilst hives and chicken coops are planned alongside the polytunnels. The produce, meanwhile, will all be sold in the basement of the adjacent tower block - as Vincent Walsh, the Ph D student who devised the project says, “We don’t work in food miles but food steps”.

No-one is pretending this will solve the world’s food problems, but it’s Brave New World stuff and I love it. Almost the best bit is that it’s based on traditional African agricultural methods (you can see where I’m heading...). As for anyone who fears we cannot exist without supermarkets and their unquenchable global appetites, take heart. After all, no dinosaur lives for ever.

Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.

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