Announcing SoilHack 2017

So my inner soil geek is having kittens right now. I’m SO excited about this gathering…

Soil Hack Gathering Poster Centre

SoilHack Gathering 2017

What: A weekend to share our passion, knowledge, and skills for building healthy soils

When: 27 – 28th May 2017 (arrivals welcome Friday evening)

Where: Brook End LAND Centre, Compton Dundon – near Street and Glastonbury in Somerset

How to book your place: Please email eat@feedavalon.org.uk
About: SoilHack is a knowledge sharing network focused on soil. It is part of the FarmHack movement and has been born out of the need to save what soils we have with the best information possible.
The first national SoilHack Gathering is taking place this summer at Brook End LAND Centre just outside Street (near Glastonbury) in Somerset. We invite you to come to contribute your experiences, share good ideas and learn about soil regeneration. This is a DIY movement where we collectively learn about soils and apply our learning in our own gardens and farms. We try to bring the best research to life and share it horizontally.
The Gathering will involve workshops led by participants with practical experience in soil biology, biochar, agroforestry, cover cropping and more. We will also create a space to explore how to build the SoilHack movement in an effort to defend, repair and build soils that are essential to life. It is a not-for-profit event with financial support to enable access and participation. Contributions are sliding scale between £25 – £125 for the weekend including meals and camping.
To book your place and offer a workshop please email eat@feedavalon.org.uk

Report: Education for Agroecology

OP2 Eduction for AgroecologyI am currently in the process of completing an MSc Political Agroecology with Gaia University. It’s pretty slow-going as a part-time endeavor amongst all my other projects and all the stressful challenges I’ve had to contend with at late!

However, I am excited to share my second Project Report for my Capstone Year. It’s called Education for Agroecology and you can find it here: http://portfolios.gaiauniversity.org/view/view.php?id=9344

In this report, I share the key findings of my research exploring education and agroecology. I have sought to discover successful models from around the world that have been inspiring and supporting people to practice agroecology; the application of ecology to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems. Agroecology has been described as a whole-systems approach to agriculture and food systems development based on traditional knowledge, alternative agriculture and local food system experiences. The field of agroecology has been framed as both a science, movement, and practice.

This report shares the insights into how successful agroecology learning opportunities have been designed, structured and resourced. It also includes commentary on the various curriculums, as well as the common forms of pedagogy (the method and practice of teaching). Finally, it highlights the role of education in accelerating agroecology and gives recommendations to organisers and educators in this field.

I would love to hear your feedback. Drop me an email at nicole@emptycagesdesign.org

EAT 2017: A whole bunch of exciting courses happening this year

I am proud to be the Education and Training Coordinator at my worker’s co-operative Feed Avalon. We do our best to organise accessible community learning in food system skills.

Check out our amazing array of courses and workshops happening this year:

  • FermentationWorkshop1Cooking with Nuts and Seeds – Learn about how to cook with nuts and seeds in this one-day course! We will be sharing wholesome, plant-based recipes with seeds and nuts being the principle ingredients. The course will cover seeds and nuts culinary uses from nutrition to flavour. | Saturday 18th February 2017 | http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/nutsandseeds/

 

  • Grow Your Own Garden – A series of workshops about how to get started in growing your own food. The course will cover how to build raised beds, compost making, seed saving and sowing, fruit tree grafting and other forms of propagation, as well as basic design and planning to make the most of your garden. | February & March 2017 | http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/grow-your-own-garden-course/

 

  • Introduction to Fermentation – In the workshop, you’ll be rediscovering the old methods of preserving food. We’ll be preparing, making and tasting fermented foods from all over the globe; a variety of sauerkrauts, kimchi, sourdough bread and more. | Saturday 11th March 2017 | http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/fermentationcourse/

 

  • apple vegHealth at Every Size – This 5-week course offers a new and compassionate approach to weight and well-being, shifting the focus away from the frustrating pursuit of weight loss in favour of self-care and developing long-term healthy habits. Over 5 sessions, we will explore nutrition, and building a positive relationship with ourselves and with food, in a friendly and supportive group. | 1st March – 29th March 2017. Every Wednesday 10am – 12pm | http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/healthateverysize/

 

  • Nutrition Day School – This day school will explore the links between food, health and well-being, demystifying nutritional concepts and science, and emphasising a sustainable and pleasurable approach to feeding ourselves. | Thursday 30th March 2017 | http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/nutritiondayschool/

 

  • Polytunnel Growing – A hands-on practical course covering all aspects of polytunnel growing- crop choices, crop rotation timing and planning, fertility, watering/irrigation, disease and pest control (including slugs!), propagation, planting sowing, harvesting, and use of space around the outside of the tunnel. | Wednesday 3rd May 2017 | Full details coming soon.

 

  • IMG_6182An Introduction to Herbalism – A two-day place introducing herbalism and plant-based medicines. | Dates TBC | Full details coming soon.

 

  • Weekend Foraging Course – A weekend course introducing the art of wild food foraging. This course will cover foraging safety, plant identification, habitat-care and responsible foraging, as well as an introduction to multiple wild edibles. | Dates TBC | Full details coming soon.

 

  • Vegan Permaculture Design Course – A 10-day course delivered in 2 x 5-day blocks, taking place outside Glastonbury at Feed Avalon’s Education Centre, Brook End. A comprehensive course introducing permaculture ethics, principles and design methods. With Graham Burnett and Nicole Vosper from Feed Avalon. | Sat July 1 – Weds 5th July 2017 & 5 Aug – Weds 9th Aug 2017 | http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/dates-announced-for-full-permaculture-design-course/

Reclaim the Fields European Assembly 2017

Check out the call-out from Reclaim the Fields for the next European Assembly:
http://reclaimthefields.noflag.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/assembly2017-poster-1024x724.jpeg
You are invited to join the European assembly of Reclaim the Fields 2017, which will take place in Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Germany, between 18th and 22nd of January 2017. The meeting will be hosted by the community-supported agriculture project Gartencoop and will take place in the autonomous center “KTS”.

 

***About the assembly***

 

The  assemblies happen every year during winter. Generally they bring together people active in RTF constellation, but everybody is welcome. 
The goals of the assembly are:
  • meet and exchange information amongst the stars and local groups since last year;
  • exchange and debate on themes that matters to us across Europe and beyond;
  • to see where we are at with our European Reclaim the Fields constellation: what was decided last year, for what results, what we need to do to continue, and what future plans we have;
  • to have fun and build relationships between us!

 

The last European Assembly happened in January 2016 in Warsaw, Poland, and was hosted by the Radical Allotment Gardens, the Polish RtF star. You can check the last Reclaim the Fields Bulletin here.

 

***Registration form***

 

If you or your group will join the assembly please fill in the Registration Form. This is very important for the people that do the organisation, so that everything will be prepared good when participants arrive. 
If you have any suggestion for the program, there is a special place in the form where you can let us know in advance about it.

 

***Local context***

 

This year the assembly takes place in the so called “green-city” of Freiburg, Germany. The very contradictory ecologists-capital was strongly part of the uprising anti-nuclear movement, which started by empeaching the construction of a nuclear-plant at Wyhl in the 70’s. But even if throughout the 80’s a militant ecologist, squatting, feminist and antagonistic movement played an important role, social movements decreased progressively, like in most western-european towns, after the wall came down.

 

 
In our days, the 220.000 inhabitant city still has a big amount of alternative institutions and projects, for example in left media (rdl.de, cinerebelde.org, linksunten.indymedia.org), housing (syndikat.org, schattenparker.net), antira-struggle  (aktionbleiberecht.de, iz3w.org, freiburger-forum.net) or alternative food-production (gartencoop.org, lebensgarten-dreisamtal.de, luzernenhof.de).

 

But the “green rebels” from the 70’s are in power, in Freiburg and in the region, and keep cultivating the lie of green capitalism. They are bright actors, within the neoliberal and repressive evolutions we live in.

 

The people welcoming you are involved at the 300-household agricultural-cooperative GartenCoop as well as in different of the abovely named struggles. The social/autonomous Center KTS Freiburg exists since the mid-90’s and has been legalized about 18 years ago. The biggest part of the meeting will take place at the center – some of the program might be visiting farms and projects in the surroundings. We’ll shurely spend time at the asperagus, strawberry and corn-dominated countryside as well – and there is the black forrest in walking distance for walks and talks.

 

***Practical info***

 

Freiburg finds itself between Colmar, Basel and  Offenburg
and is best accessible by train and busses or the A5-motorway. (The two petrol-stations on the motorway are a bit shitty in therms of accessibility)

 

There are many airports in Zürich, Basel/Mulhouse or Strasbourg (all are between 45 and 70 minutes drive)

 

In Freiburg Bus no 11 and Tram no 5 (better) stops at “Pressehaus”. The KTS finds itself behind the railway-bridge above the main road, just  take the stairs to your left behind the bridge.

 

KTS, Baslerstrasse 103, 79100 Freiburg
+0049 /0/ 761 / 400 20 96

 

Depending  on the number of people, the accomodation will be decentralized. About 40 people could sleep at the KTS at most, others will stay at other housing-projects, wagenplatz or private flats. Accessibility for people with a disability is limited in the center. There are bathrooms and a  medium-size kitchen, computer-rooms, screen-printing and a free shop. We will have vegetables from the cooperative-farms and other friends. Hopefully the baking-cooperative can make bread for us.

 

***Contact***

 

Please spread this invitation to the stars in your region.

 

Talk at the People’s Harvest Forum 2016

missionmural1I had the privilege of being invited to speak (via skype) at the second People’s Harvest Forum in San Francisco, USA.  I was asked to speak about Food Sovereignty and Vegan Agroecology.

About the forum:

The People’s Harvest Forum is a grassroots event on working towards food justice and food sovereignty. We speak about the widespread impacts agribusiness has on our society and on the environment, and discuss ways to build alternatives and reclaim our food systems. This forum is unique in that we integrate an animal rights perspective in working towards food sovereignty. It promotes veganic gardening and farming, setting them at the intersection of food justice and animal rights movements.

Food Sovereignty and Vegan Agroecology

Below is a copy of my talk on the day. Please drop me an email if you are keen to connect these struggles too – nicole@emptycagesdesign.org

Hi Everyone,

 

It’s a privilege to be invited to speak for a second time at the People’s Harvest Forum. I’m super jealous I can’t be there. I hope you’ve had a great weekend. It is really inspiring to know events such as these are taking place, with such a strong intersection of different struggles and movements.

 

I have been asked to talk about Food Sovereignty and Vegan Agroecology. I hope to talk for about 20 mins and then leave the time open for questions and discussions within the room. Just to set the context of my work and engagement in this field – I am based in Somerset, in the south west of the UK, where I help manage four acres of land that is designed and cared for on agroecological principles. Our site is “vegan organic” in that we don’t use any inputs from farmed animals or pesticides etc. We grow organic salad and food for events that we host – which are mostly educational courses for folks in our area.

 

Three years ago I helped to start Feed Avalon, which is a workers cooperative set up to to support the establishment of socially-just and ecological food production in our local towns of Glastonbury and Street, and the surrounding areas. There are six of us, all working-class women who survive on low incomes in our community. I am the EAT Project Coordinator, EAT stands for education and training. So I organise courses in food growing and cooking and other related skills (such as community organising and popular education) for low income individuals and families in our area. We also have two community gardens, a hand-built community kitchen and a whole bunch of other projects.

 

Until I turned 21, I had never even managed a garden and I actually learnt how to grow food during a prison sentence. So for me, food growing has been truly transformational and part of this journey has been politicising my growing work and engaging with struggles for food sovereignty.

 

So food sovereignty, I believe, is something you’ve already talked about this weekend and many are most likely familiar with the term. But just to recap for folks: Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It was defined in 2007 at a forum in a village called Nyelini in Mali in Africa. It is important to note that the food sovereignty framework has come from the Global South and was birthed by La Via Campesina. LVC is the international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. LVC is made up of over 164 local and national organizations in 73 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Altogether, it represents about 200 million farmers. It is an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent from any political, economic or other type of affiliation.

 

So that’s a super brief intro to food sovereignty… but for me doing this work… It was really clear for me that while I was really enjoying food growing and community food work, there were still so many people without access to land, so many folks in my area without access to decent food because of poverty… or ultimately that myself and others, were being fed by a global food system that is highly exploitative and destroying ecosystems worldwide, accelerating climate change and so forth.

 

A close friend of mine, Isy who wrote the “Another Dinner is Possible” cookbook wrote that:

 

“Many of these community food projects present us with amazing opportunities to collectively make our lives better, more sustainable, meaningful & interesting. However without a context of explicitly addressing & challenging the global exploitative food system as a whole they are basically reinforcing privilege. The system will not change because a few of us eat better.”

 

Therefore I tried to seek allies who were resisting and attempting to dismantle the capitalist food system. And in March 2011, 10 weeks after coming out of prison, I found Reclaim the Fields, who had their first gathering in the UK that month at a site called Grow Heathrow – a squatted land project set up to fight the expansion of Heathrow Airport in London.

 

Reclaim the Fields is a constellation of people and collective projects across Europe willing to go back to the land and reassume the control over food production. RTF began in 2007 as a kind of youth break-out group at a La Via Campesina gathering. The people that started RTF wanted an alternative to the NGO-dominated, euro-centric, neocolonialist organisations who didn’t think critically about race, class and gender and other issues.

 

I thought I would read the “Who we are statement” written collectively by stars in the RTF constellation (that’s how we like to think of projects – as part of a constellation, looser than a network but somehow more powerful). So I just wanted to set the scene of the this struggle and one of they key actors in Europe. Ok…

 

“We are a group of peasants, landless and prospective peasants, as well as people who are taking back control over food production.

 

We understand “peasants” as people who produce food on a small scale, for themselves or for the community, possibly selling a part of it. This also includes agricultural workers.

We support and encourage people to stay on the land and go back to the countryside. We promote food sovereignty (as defined in the Nyéléni declaration) and peasant agriculture, particularly among young people and urban dwellers, as well as alternative ways of life. In Europe, the concept ‘food sovereignty’ is not very common and could be clarified with ideas such as ‘food autonomy’ and control over food systems by inclusive communities, not only nations or states.

 

We are determined to create alternatives to capitalism through cooperative, collective, autonomous, real-needs-oriented, small-scale production and initiatives. We are putting theory into practice and linking local practical action with global political struggles.

 

In order to achieve this, we participate in local actions through activist groups and cooperate with existing initiatives. This is why we choose not to be a homogeneous group, but to open up to the diversity of actors fighting the capitalist food production model. We address the issues of access to land, collective farming, seed rights and seed exchange. We strengthen the impact of our work through cooperation with activists who focus on different tasks but who share the same vision.

 

Nevertheless, our openness has some limits. We are determined to take back control over our lives and refuse any form of authoritarianism and hierarchy. We respect nature and living beings, but will neither accept nor tolerate any form of discrimination, be it based on race, religion, gender, nationality, sexual orientation or social status. We refuse and will actively oppose every form of exploitation of other people. With the same force and energy, we act with kindness and conviviality, making solidarity a concrete practice of our daily life.

 

We support the struggles and visions of la Via Campesina, and work to strengthen them. We wish to share the knowledge and the experience from years of struggle and peasant life and enrich it with the perspectives and strength of those of us who are not peasants, or not yet peasants. We all suffer the consequences of the same policies, and are all part of the same fight.”

 

Since 2007 RTF has:

  • organized several European camps attended by hundreds of people – these tend to be in places seeking solidarity, such as fighting gold mining in Romania, or defending La Zad, a land occupation resisting an airport in France,
  •    RTF have also participated in global mobilisations with La Vía Campesina,
  •    took direct actions to fight for the land,
  •    and held assemblies each year from Sweden to Catalonia and Hungary.

 

Last summer, we organised a huge international action camp against the building of a mega-prison in Wales. It was hosted at an anti-fracking camp, and bought together people from all different struggles. We blockaded the prison construction site, built new gardens at the camp, and had tens of workshops on subjects like food sovereignty, migrant solidarity, composting gender and more.

 

So for me as a grower, and as someone seeking to build alternative models to industrial agriculture. As well as someone brought up with no land-based skills or heritage, living in the oldest industrialised country in the world, it was clear there was a lot to learn.

 

In order to build the food systems we are desiring, to achieve food sovereignty, it’s clear that we need integrated knowledge systems that draw on both traditional and indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, as well as holistic science and ongoing participatory research. This is where agroecology comes into its own.

 

Agroecology is the application of ecology to the design and management of sustainable agroecosystems. It is a whole-systems approach to agriculture and food systems development based on traditional knowledge, alternative agriculture, and local food system experiences. It has been described as a science, movement and practice.

 

In a past training I undertook with Miguel Altieri and Clara Nicholls, both Professors of Agroecology at the University of California, Berkeley. They shared the key principles of agroecology, that can be applied to different agroecosystems around the world:

 

  • Enhance the recycling of fertility and optimise nutrient availability without reliance on imported fertiliser
  • Create favourable soil conditions for plant growth by managing organic matter, improving soil structure, cultivating ground cover and enhancing soil biotic activity;
  • Minimise the loss of resources by way of microclimate management, water harvesting and soil management;
  • Promote agricultural biodiversity in time and space;
  • Enhance beneficial biological interactions in agricultural systems

 

As you can see – plant-based systems, without farmed animals, can put all of these principles into practice.

 

When I teach on the vegan permaculture course, I ask the students, ‘What is your favourite animal in a permaculture system?” They kind of look at me in horror thinking this course was meant to not be about farming animals. But then I ask them what about wildlife, and suddenly the go-round becomes rich – birds, butterflies, bees, moles, worms… and we begin to see that actually plant-based permaculture systems are rich with animals. They are rich with biodiversity. The difference is the animals interacting with the system are not enslaved, they are not exploited, they are self-determining. And this for me is the most beautiful thing about this work.

 

And while we are transitioning from animal agriculture, attempting to restore ecosystems and build food sovereignty, domesticated animals of course have to have homes and habitats in our landscapes. I’ve done some design work with animal sanctuaries that are planting nut trees, fruit trees and other gardens to help keep their costs down in their work rescuing abused animals, as well as supporting animal health and habitat establishment.

 

What a vegan agroecology could look like is a beautiful, beautiful vision – community gardens and farms, market gardens with quality living soil nourished by composts and compost teas, mycelium and mulching. Mushroom farms. Agroforestry projects, nut trees and fruit orchards, small-scale grain raising, allotments, medicinal plant sanctuaries… hillsides currently grazed by sheep restored into woodlands rich with wild foods for foraging and habitat for wildlife to return. Restored streams no longer polluted by fish farms and industrial agriculture. Over-fished oceans returning to life with incredible biodiversity and health. If these systems were the outcome of a food sovereignty movement, then we would also see social justice and community self-determination for human communities.

 

As an animal liberationist, working in this way by building thriving systems, is nourishing and strengthening. I have fought the state so hard (and still am in my work organising against the prison industrial complex). The industries that commodify animals and profit from their bodies are huge and overwhelming. And defeating them through ongoing grassroots resistance, direct action and campaigns is essential. However, part of this work, also needs to be re-designing our food systems – the biggest exploiter of animals on this planet, and the biggest factor determining our landscapes globally right now – therefore, I hope others can see that working to amplify agroecology and food sovereignty is essential in the struggle for animal liberation and to eradicate all forms of oppression.

 

I was also asked to share a bit about my work so I’ll end with some shameless plugs. I have a website called Empty Cages Design – it aims to bring together threads around permaculture, food sovereignty, veganism and more, as well as struggles against prison and repression. I host an annual vegan permaculture course where participants come together for 10 days in two blocks, to learn about grassroots design methodologies, gain practical skills and experience how it feels in practice. We have a unique bursary system, and unlike many other courses taught in the UK, generally have a much more diverse group coming together to learn permaculture design. I teach with Graham Burnett, who wrote the Vegan Book of Permaculture, who is a fantastic guy committed to using permaculture for liberation.

 

I have also supported the Vegan Organic Network, more intensely in past years. My current projects are developing a distance learning course that could spread veganic agroecology and plant based permaculture principles and strategies more globally and help plug the gap in this learning provision. We are also preparing for our next Reclaim the Fields assembly in Germany this January and continuing to work on a super local grassroots level with Feed Avalon. I also study and work with an organisation called Gaia University, who I can’t recommend highly enough.

 

And finally, I’d like to thank Nassim for their hardwork in making this event happen – and all the other people behind the scenes who I haven’t met yet. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you’ve been inspired this weekend to take action to transform our food systems and our world.

 

New report: How to amplify agroecology

schermafbeelding-2016-11-17-om-10-40-07-e1479376501441A new report has just been released online on how to amplify agroecology. It brings together the insights from a landmark meeting on building the agroecology movement. Over 70 individuals shared the fruit from decades of hard work and activism.

Check it out here: https://www.ileia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/AEF-Report-2016-BAJA-FINAL-1.pdf

They came together to discuss factors for successful amplification of agroecology, as opposed to traditional ‘scaling up’, and identified key lessons from their work.

The four day Agroecology Learning Exchange took place in Uganda and was organised by the AgroEcology Fund and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa in May 2016.

The Wild Community Harvest

hawthornWhat: Make wild food preserves communally. Come learn, share knowledge and skills, socialise, share the work, share the harvest.

Where: Unit C1 Thriveability Hub, Northover Buildings, Glastonbury, BA6 9NU

Wild Harvest Freezer

We will create a wild fruit harvest store, in a freezer, ready for community production sessions on in September.

You can pick and store your harvest in the wild community harvest freezer. This harvest will then be processed later in the month. Blackberries, elderberries, hawthorn, crab apples, etc. We intend to make whole food preserves with organic ingredients where possible so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of healthier foods.

Please call Hannah on 07901638559 if you would like to deposit fruits into the wild community harvest freezer. Jars also welcome – please bring any clean jars with lids and bottles to the storage box outside Unit C1.

Wild Community Harvest Production Sessions

What: We can make jams, cordials, jellies, fruit leathers, dried fruit. Depending on what you would like to make.

When: Thursday 29th and Friday 30th September, 9.30am -6.30pm.

How to get involved: Please call Hannah on 07901638559 if you have any queries or special requests. Please text or call Hannah to confirm you are coming.

Production sessions have a capacity limit of 12 people and these will be permitted on a first come first served basis.

Wild Community Harvest

Inspiring day learning about Pond Design and Construction

Members of my workers’ co-op Feed Avalon and interested local people spent the day learning about pond design and construction with local horticulturist Philip Knight. The one-day course was designed to support people to learn the basics of how to design and build ponds. We learned how to create pond habitats that support wildlife to thrive.

As part of the day, we had the pleasure of visiting Glastonbury Abbey to look at their two contrasting ponds. We saw the medieval fish pond, as well as a larger wildlife pond.

Thank you so much to Philip who taught everyone so much. We hope to use this knowledge to design a series of ponds at Avalon Wildflower Park. The reclaimed BMX track has a fantastic mixture of levels and we hope to create a little wetland paradise for local wildlife. To get involved please email bon@feedavalon.org.uk

IMG_2598 IMG_2627 IMG_2628 IMG_2629 IMG_2634 IMG_2635 IMG_2636 IMG_2638 IMG_2661 IMG_2662 IMG_2666 IMG_2669 IMG_2672 IMG_2675 IMG_2680 IMG_2681 IMG_2689

Learning about Mushrooms at the Red Brick Building Community Garden

Patrick Mallery from the Upcycled Mushroom Company and Feed Bristol taught a one-day mushroom cultivation course this July in Glastonbury. Hosted at the Red Brick Building Community Garden, the course explored the basics of mushroom growing. Folks learned how to inoculate mushroom logs and build mushroom beds. We hope that there can be some mushroom production at the Red Brick Building Community Garden and Avalon Wildflower Park – please join us at our regular gardening clubs to help make this happen!

My workers’ co-op Feed Avalon will be hosting a three-day comprehensive mushroom identification and cultivation in November. If you’re interested please email Nicole at eat@feedavalon.org.uk

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