ISSUE 6: April 2022
Cultivate (verb): try to acquire or develop a quality or skill; try to improve or develop Community (noun): the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes or interests in common. - Oxford Dictionary Cultivating Community focuses on ways you can build community around you by regularly connecting with others, involving others in your life and projects and getting involved in events, activities and groups. Through cultivating community you build trust, learn from others, share your passion and knowledge, as well as connect people together. Communities grow stronger through each little action.
Cultivating Community is a forum which offers ideas, inspiration and starting points for you and your community. My hope is that you start projects, community groups and discussions around things you can do together, whether it is a food share group or Momma Bake, a mending/sewing group, a work-share/crop-share group, or whatever you're into.....we are all better together. In this issue of Cultivating Community the focus is on food sovereignty - ideas on creating (semi-) autonomous food systems in your Community.
There has been a lot of talk about food shortages in the near future. I’m not sure whether this will come to pass, but I am sure we are far too dependent on The Machine for our food. As a whole, our society doesnt know how to cook food, let alone grow food. It’s time to change that; it’s time to reskill. First of all, let me say….none of this is easy, none of this is glamorous. As a matter of fact it’s danm hard work, it’s time-consuming, it’s dirty and sometimes quite disappointing, especially if you loose an entire crop due to pests or unfortunate weather. But, it is rewarding to eat your own food and share it with others. When I was a kid my grandfather worked night and day on the farm, there was always something to do, something going wrong, something to be harvested, butchered or processed. When I got up in the morning, he was already outside feeding animals, collecting chicken eggs, harvesting vegetables from the garden. He worked in the fields most of the day until the scorching Louisiana sun forced him inside for the afternoon. Then, after supper, he was out working on the farm again until it was almost dark. This is the reality of homesteading. A wonderful friend of mine figures we are well positioned to manage a food shortage as we live in a farming community, and that once hardship hits everyone will band together to support each other as they did during the bushfires…I hope she is right. If this is the case, though, we would still be looking at a season of shortages in our community – dairy and beef/sheep farms would need to convert some land to growing produce and that would take time, preparing the land and getting seeds in the ground (assuming we have the seeds we need). Other places may not be so fortunate. I am not suggesting you leave food production to others, I am suggesting the opposite - everyone needs to participate in growing, raising and foraging food; otherwise, you are at the mercy of The Machine. There is nothing more basic in life than eating. Think about how vulnerable you are if you do not have some skills around feeding yourself. Is that a position you want to be in? Now, where to start? What you will need, outside of tools, space, etc. is other people. Self-sfficiency is a misnomer…life will never be sufficient if you are alone. You will need others for this endeavor. Build Community - find your people and cultivate those relationships….do it now.
Some ideas on creating food sovereignty in your town
Grow what you can, now – purchase good-quality seeds or get them from someone locally; focus on perennial produce and herbs, and vegetables that are low-maintenance like Swiss chard/silverbeet, pumpkins, perpetual leeks and other alliums (garlic). This will get things going so you can focus on a long-term plan. If you live in the suburbs you can still grow food on your street verge.
Always have seedings on the go - growing your own food requires a constant stream of new seedlings to go in the ground. Things like lettuce and coriander/cilantro will mature and go to seed quickly, so a new batch of seedlings will need to be ready and waiting. The seedling for your next season will also need to be ready when the last crop is finished, so plan ahead - maybe put it in your diary/calendar to remind you or sign up for a digital planting reminder like this one. Protect your seedlings from drying out, from snails and caterpillers. You may have to build a little seed raising stand or keep them in the house in the sunlight.
Save your seeds and create a community seedbank - save the seeds from produce that grows well in your area and store them properly until the next season. Find a communal place to share your seeds.
Grow food together – form a group that gets together at each person’s property to help with large projects; or co-garden with another person/family; create a community garden or verge gardens. Something more formal is Transition Streets.
Get organised - not everyone needs to grow or raise everything on their land, a group can grow an orchard and manage it, a couple people can raise fowl, some can raise goats/sheep, cattle, etc. (those with more land) and some of your community can grow vegetables. Find a way to divvy up the jobs and then share out the bounty.
Preserve, freeze and ferment produce and animal products - learn how to can/jar fruits and vegetables, how to ferment, dry and salt foods to preserve them (I cover some of this in my previous articles). You will need some gear for this, but you can generally find the items you don’t already have around the house/shed from op-shops/second hand shops.
Share your excess within your community – invest in ‘The People’s Bank’ as Catherine Austin Fitts calls it (a whole article on this is coming). Organise a monthly Food Share (previously called Food Swap, pictured below) - get together at someone’s house to share out your excess food, seedlings, seeds (even clothes, books and other items you no longer require) and spend time together. If you still have excess after sharing within your community, sell the rest for cash and reinvest that into your land/garden/animals.
Forage - learn what weeds are edible in your area and incorporate them into your weekly meals. Make sure you can correctly identify edible weeds, most have a look-alike that grows close by. Knowing what dandelion, plantain, chickweed, nettle, purslane and sorrel look like and how to incorporate them into your cooking is a good start. Look for unattended fruit trees when you drive or walk. Create a mental (or physical) map of the weeds and trees in your area.
Get to know local farmers who practice regenerative ag (as they do not rely so much on external inputs like fertilizers, etc.) if you cannot raise your own animals. Shop at farmer’s markets or invest in CSA if you cannot produce your own veg.
If you have chickens, goats, sheep, etc – increase your stock if you have the carrying capacity, and the food products you need for raising and dispatching them.
Find ways to cook that don’t require electricity or gas – wood! I will be writing on this soon.
See if you can share space with others – WOOF (willing workers on organic farms), alternative communities, etc. This is another way to live communally and share work with others.
Do What Works for You The same friend I referred to earlier in this article is a farmer herself; she has cattle, chickens and sheep; she makes her own dairy products from her housecow’s milk; but, she finds growing vegetables tedious. Her solution to this is to stop growing most vegetables in her garden and instead is focussing on wild greens and foraged foods to complement the beef, lamb, chicken, eggs and milk she produces. I think this is a wise choice for her. I’m not suggesting we all live this way - I am suggesting that we all take a step back, look at our lives from a third-person perspective and evaluate what we have, what we need, what we can do without. Managing her food this way makes since for her and her family because they have the land to do this and they thrive on a high-fat, high-protein diet. I, on the other hand, do not have as much space; I also have a partner whom is vegetarian, so basing our meals around meat is unrealistic. Instead, our protein is based around the eggs our hens lay and the majority of what we produce is fruit and veg, with some foraged wild greens. This makes since for us. One more example….a beautiful mom in a nearby community wants to make sure the overwhelming majority of her and her daughter’s diet comes from local producers. She tries to grow food at home but is spread very thin as she is single. So, she makes a serious effort to procure food from people she knows around her that grow healthy, organic foods. This means she spends one day a week visiting those producers to collect their goods. I admire her determination. I also love to see them when they come by to pick up produce. Procuring your food, face-to-face with the person that produces it cultivates community. It also brings the humanity back into a food system. When you go to the shop to purchase goods, it’s clinincal - you have no idea where the products have come from, who grew it, how it was grown, what was sprayed on it or added to it. It also fuels The Machine; fuels the large, international companies that deliver poor-quality products wrapped in plastic at a premium price. These are just examples to get you thinking about what kind of food system will work for you. I invite you to take some time to think about the untimate food system for you and your family, then work backwards to figure out the steps involved in making that image a reality - start at the end and work back. Then, start to implement those steps into your life. Let me know what you are doing to create a local food system in your area. If you are just starting out, let me know what you are interested in and what you want to learn and I will see if I (or someone in my Community) can address that in a future article. Also, I am thinking about posting a few interviews around the topic of autonomous food systems - let me know if that is something that interests you and what topics you would like covered. Much Love - Nikki PS You can now read my articles on Substack