Wednesday 25 April 2018

Can we make a Food Forest in Northwick Park?

From Northwick Park Community Garden Team (FACEBOOK LINK)

A Food Forest in our London Park 
What is a food forest, why should we turn our London Park into one and how and when can this be done?
Our local park Northwick Park is a large community park near Wembley in London Brent. There are many playing fields in the park, where men enjoy playing rugby and football and even fly model aircrafts. If you know it, then you know that it is currently a very barren place, with not enough trees, although  some lovely trees are already established there, such as sloe, hawthorn and elderberry, plus hawthorn bushes, which serve the community foragers. 

Foragers can make hawthorn berry jam and elderberry cordial, for example, from the produce. It is a very time-consuming process, a labour of love, because picking these and turning them into food products is a bit fiddly. Yet, we are not able to buy these things in the supermarket. 

Where was the food before the supermarket?
It was on farms, in parks, gardens and larders and on the weekly market. Today, everything the supermarket sells contains plastic packaging. This is a problem for the oceans where this stuff gets dumped. 

We have been dumping so much plastic there that it comes back up and the fish are eating it; in fact, the fish are contaminated with plastic. Some people are already leaving all the packaging at the supermarket and letting the supermarket deal with their own rubbish. 

Why should we pay council tax to remove the plastic we don’t want?
Imagine all the council tax money being put to use for a good cause rather than on pointless rubbish removal. 

Hence, some people have started to reduce the waste they purchase. This is called ‘a journey to zero waste’.  There are many YouTube videos of young women explaining how to be prepared when shopping so that we can leave the plastic packaging behind. 

The Queen has banned plastic straws and plastic bottles from the royal household!
The Queen has banned plastic from the royal household after she saw what happens to the ocean, the beaches and the fish with all this plastic being dumped in the sea. Do you know that plastic never ever decomposes or goes away, that it is a waste which stays there forever? Long after humans disappear from this earth, our plastic waste will still be here.

Zero packaging is the lovely benefit of having food trees in the park. You have a chance to pick fruit for free and you don’t use plastic packaging. Just bring a box, basket or linen bag and pick as much fruit as you can eat. Only take what you need and leave the rest for others. 

Forest Food is better quality.
Forest food is better quality because we refrain from pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer and so on. We are looking for the ecosystem to take care of these things by itself.  The trees form an underground internet together with the mushrooms and provide a lot of nutrients to the ground. Mixing plant species can have a benefit to each plant too.

The problem with modern agriculture is that there are vast fields of the same crop, i.e. broccoli. This broccoli requires the same food and there is no other plant that can supply this food to the broccoli – there is only broccoli and its needs. So, the need for fertilizers arises. 

Then, if the broccoli is afflicted by a pest, there is no other plant that can stop it and no predator pest which can stop its spread. The pest happily munches away on broccoli as far as the eye can see. So, now there is also a need for pesticides. 

In a food forest we are mixing species and plants and the different varieties of wildlife can help each other out. Food will ripen throughout the year; everybody can pick the fruit when they want some. 

When the vast fields of broccoli are harvested, there will huge machines, which require a lot of petrol. Petrol is required again to distribute the broccoli to the distribution centres and then to the individual supermarkets. Oil is also required for making plastic packaging, pesticides and fertilizers. 

When something happens to the oil supply we will be foodless!
Since so much oil is needed to produce and supply this food, imagine something happens to the oil supply chain? We are all foodless.

With food forests in our parks and food in our gardens, we are slightly more resilient to any supply side issues and we are in control of making food healthier by avoiding pesticides, which can contain cancer-causing substances. 

Naturally grown food contains more antioxidants. This is an umbrella term for the good things that keep us feeling and looking young, as well as preventing disease and stress. On the other hand, toxins do the opposite, they make us age faster, cause stress and can lead to disease. 

Naturally grown food is better for you.
And, in case the food is not being picked, it will fall to the ground and the wildlife can have dinner. Did you know that the hedgehog is extremely endangered and that numbers have declined drastically? The latest statistic I heard was that only around a million were left in the whole of Britain. 

This is because of the pesticide use which kills the wildlife, but also because gardens are paved over or have really strong fences so the hedgehogs have no habitat. Make a little hole in your fence and allow hedgehogs to come into your garden. They mainly eat snails and are part of a well-functioning ecosystem. Bats can keep fruit trees healthy by eating moths, which would otherwise nest in the fruit trees. And[RC1]  bees are important for pollinating the plants because without this pollination we would not get any food. All three are endangered species today. A lot of animals and plants are dying out in this world because of the terrible behaviour of our human species. We must do something to rescue the world. 

If you want to join us and want to hear more, find us on Facebook.
We are happy to help you turn your garden into a food producing garden too with the help of our friends at Permablitz and if you feel as excited as we are about food forestry and gardening, then stay in touch. 

Follow us!
We are 4 food and against waste! 
Your Northwick Park Community Garden Team


Martin Francis said...

I have received this comment by email: Can I offer a few observations on the above posting? The number of hedgehogs has indeed declined in number in recent years from around 30 million animals to circa 1 million currently, not 1,000 as stated. Bats do use trees for their roosts during spring and summer or in winter for hibernation but fruit trees are not usually suitable tree types for many reasons. Bats don't build nests they just use the available tree voids and cracks in which to reside. All bats in the UK are insectiverous so don't eat fruit. More importantly we need to retain our mature trees even if dead or in early stages of decay to provide roosting opportunities for them and also to support other animal, bird and insect life. Decaying large trees are needed to maintain a healthy eco system. Having said all of that, I do support the general principles and aims of the group.

Martin Francis said...

The Garden Team respond: Fruit trees can attracts pests and in a permaculture design we look for natural ways to control pests. Bats are among the best friends to organic farmers They play a role in pest control and attracting bats to farms can make a significant difference to farmers who want to use natural biological insect control, rather than rely upon chemicals that may threaten our environmental and personal health. The fruit trees and the bats work together by fruit trees providing better eco-diversity and attracting insects. The bats help the fruit trees with natural pest control. Spraying pesticides and removing eco-diversity will reduce the habitat of wild-life, including bats. This project is about creating a food forest for the community and with that it will also provide a food source for wild-life, acting as pest control for the organic growing method. We thank you for your support of this project very much!

Re. Hedghogs, yes that is correct, this is a typo indeed and it should read around 1 million and if you could edit this typo please that would be great.

Thank you!