Earth First! Summer Gathering 2017

Don’t miss this year’s Earth First Summer Gathering that is happening just outside of London. Five days of skill sharing for grassroots ecological direct action – make links, share ideas and get involved in the struggles against fracking, new roads and more. There will be a prisoner support space and letter writing, as well as a workshop on toxic prisons. Plus a SoilHack workshop!

For full details visit: http://earthfirstgathering.org/

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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

Seedy Sunday this weekend

Don’t miss the Seedy Sunday Seed Swap!

Where: Red Brick Building, Glastonbury

When: Sunday 19th March 2017 12-5pm.

What:

FAMILY ACTIVITIES
Forest school, seed bomb making, Willow weaving, Mushroom log inoculation

DEMONSTRATIONS
Saving seeds, How to make Biochar, Composting

STALLS
Seed swap, Local growers, Natural Bee-keeping, Volunteering opportunities, Crafts, Natural dyes, Food networks, Plants

SPEAKERS

1pm Carol Stone – How to save your seeds

2pm Charles Dowding – No dig Organic gardening

3pm Steph Hafferty – Environmentally sustainable Potions for garden, body & home

Why: Join us to celebrate these tiny seedy miracles that bring us such pleasure and are essential to life!

All day Refreshments: Home made soup, Delicious good for you cakes, Teas & coffee

Share the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1359103357484176/

Website: http://www.feedavalon.org.uk/seedy-sunday-2017-glastonburys-community-seed-swap/

Please forward this email to your friends!

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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.

 

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

Call out for support for new local Herbalists without Borders Chapter in Bristol

Below is a call out from a new chapter of Herbalists without Borders in Bristol.

I will be growing and making medicines for the clinic. Help is needed – please drop me an email at nicole@emptycagesdesign.org if you can potentially come down to Somerset to help. I need support in harvesting and drying plants and making basic medicines. Any donations of vodka/oil or other medicine mediums are welcome, likewise an additional dehydrator would be great.

More details about the Bristol project below:

4141472This is a call out for any volunteers who are interested in being involved in our new project: Herbalists without Borders Migrant Support Clinic in Bristol. We are looking for people to help grow herbs, harvest and process them, and any clinical herbalists who want to be involved. The link is to the US website but we are currently setting up a UK website with another London based herbalist, Melissa Ronaldson, who is making links with Hummingbird Project- Calais and Dunkirk – Aid and Solidarity.

Herbalists without Borders in Bristol is a recently set up collaboration between herb growers and clinical herbalists to provide free herbal healthcare for migrants. At the moment this involves Rhizome Community Herbal Clinic and the Asylum Seekers Allotment Project.

This project is affiliated to the UK chapter, which we have just established with other UK herbalists, and is part of the international organisation Herbalist without Borders. This is a non-profit local to global network of volunteers devoted to aiding communities and countries in need impacted by natural disasters, violent conflicts, poverty, trauma or other access barriers to health and wellness.

At the moment Becs Griffiths and Annwen Jones, as part of Rhizome have set up the migrant support clinic within their own existing clinic, and are providing free herbal healthcare to a small number of migrants. Emmy Broughton and Derella Runcie from the Asylum Seekers Allotment Project are beginning to grow the herbs this year.

As this collaboration develops, and the project grows, we want to make connections with other local herbalists and herb growers to make the project more sustainable.

We want to encourage volunteers to be involved in growing herbs, and harvesting and processing wild herbs so that they can be prescribed in the clinic. The idea is to create a holistic approach to healthcare so that volunteers and migrants could be involved in several stages of the project, from growing, harvesting and learning how to use the herbs. We eventually want to run basic self-care workshops which help with improving general health alongside, if necessary, individual herbal consultations with the clinical herbalists. This vision acknowledges that being part of a herbal growing project, making a connection to the local natural environment, and learning the tools of self-care are an important part in improving health and wellbeing.

Setting up the clinic is a deeply rooted act of resistance against an unjust global political system that has created such unjust borders, as well as this government’s introduction of the new immigration bill which further isolates migrants. We believe that herbal medicine is an important part of any healthcare system and can have profound effects.

This is a call out for volunteers who want to be involved in the growing side of the project, or harvesting and processing of the herbs, and to other clinical herbalists who will see migrants within their already existing practise. If you are interested in being involved in this project please email us and we will set up a meeting in the next 2 weeks where as many people interested can attend. Please email: mail@rhizomeclinic.org.uk

We look forward to hearing from those of you interested in joining this project,
Herbalists without Borders, Bristol

First Community Food Forum of 2016!

Written by Hannah from Feed Avalon.

forumjan1A great start to 2016 and what an amazing event this is becoming, moving from strength to strength. As we all settled in, squeezing in the latecomers! We had around 30 participants this time, with an increasing spectrum of skills, offers and requests being shared.

What is sprouting, is a healthy network of folks engaged in the food system. From food growers and land owners, to food producers and hosts of product development spaces, to food outlets and cooks. There was also talk of ‘closed loop’ waste recycling, into compost and worm food!

There were many announcements: Feed Avalon’s up and coming courses, Plotgate CSA scheme launch, Excalibur organic local food restaurant to open on Glastonbury high street in March, Hej Gro looking to expand into a workers co operative, C1 community production kitchen and training space ready to welcome more support and more.

A great networking event with a buzzing atmosphere, as people came together, discussing their ideas and what potential is possible.
Everyone introduced themselves and their interest or offer, to the group. The announcements were made and then everyone took part in a lively activity focused around their current and ideal food patterns. Getting everyone discussing what trends the group had and what challenges can be overcome.

forum2janFood for thought…. Then, food for the belly… Everyone tucked into a wonderful pot luck spread, brought together by the participants, whilst we all chatted and made future plans and arrangement.

A very successful event and we do hope to see you at the next one.

If you are a grower, would like to volunteer, are starting or have a food production business, want to be involved in the food distribution chain, including recycling waste and making soil, also just wanting to learn more about what courses are available, come along to the next event. Join our flourishing community.

Watch this space for details of the next community food forum or register your details with us to receive email updates of our extensive range of workshops and of course, the next community food forum.

We all look forward to seeing you there.

To get involved in helping organise the next Food Forum email: hannah@feedavalon.org.uk

Report on the Reclaim the Fields European Winter Assembly in Warsaw

IMG_964021-24 January 2016 – at the ROD – Warsaw

A group of almost forty participants met over four days in the garden allotments squatted by the ROD collective in the suburbs of Warsaw.

We represented different land projects and forms of resistance across Europe, from Great Britain, Germany, Romania, France, Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria and of course Poland.

We had time for formal discussions in order to find out what stage the different projects in Reclaim the Fields are at: the new website which will soon replace the old, the writing of the 11th bulletin, the importance of using the current communication tools effectively before creating new ones, etc etc.

IMG_9692The other highlights of this assembly were :

  • discovering the social and agricultural context in Poland, with a focus on the garden occupation in ROD.
  • a discussion (with a brilliant video conference over Skype) about how to reinforce solidarity initiatives which aim to provide Kurdish and Syrian communities with non-hybrid seeds for vegetable gardens!
  • A discussion on how to act upon the necessity for a renewal of direct action tactics against GMO in Europe.
  • A projection of a short film about the current situation of agricultural projects in the ZAD in Notre Dame des Landes. Following this a communique was written from the European Assembly in support of the recently evicted peasants and to restate a clear rejection of any attempt to start work on the Zone.

The assembly ended with participation in a food distribution alongside Food Not Bombs Warsaw and followed by a small party at the ROD.

We were superbly hosted by our Polish friends, whose fight to occupy and revive the allotment gardens is inspiring. Do not hesitate to pass by and visit them in Warsaw… and to stay a while. Keep your ears open in case they are threatened by eviction.

Not forgetting to thank the people from the Syrena squat in the city center, as well as the BLA collective who provided the equipment for multilingual translation.

IMG_9673