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Network of community gardens in Ireland

February 13, 2014

The excellent City Garden News has put together a short news item highlighting the growing number of community gardens in Ireland and the many interesting things each are involved in. You can sign up at the network website. Sounds like a plan.

I’ve a horse outside

March 6, 2013

Food fit for a king. Rubberbandits none too pleased! Horsemeat, and more, on the menu of the  High Kings at Tara. I bet you they still didn’t eat their greens. Giddyup, now my baby!

Crop spread, a bit thin round the edges

March 5, 2013

“Emmer wheat, virtually no einkorn (and one has to ask how securely identified any einkorn was), naked barley and a bit of flax– that pretty much sums up Neolithic Ireland, in contrast to the 8 ‘founder crops’ that are meant to characterize the start of agricultural dispersal from the Near East”. Read more from this intriguing study about how the basket of crops unravelled in their spread westward to Ireland.

Famine food, the return of the lumper

March 4, 2013

It never made much inroads north of the border in its pre-famine zenith but now the lumper potato variety is back and being cultivated in the Glens of Antrim of all places. It is back on the menu after an absense of 170 years. Already it has made an appearance at Selfridges as well as Marks and Spencers. I just wonder what the marketing or branding angle is, I can think of a couple. I suppose the planting material came from the national collection at the Tops Centre, Raphoe. Would be interested to know more about the background to that. I wonder how it holds up in the field, to late blight, current soil and climate conditions. Very intriguing. And I wonder when we can expect to see other pre-famine varieties such as the black potato, red cup and the apple put in an appearance

Man and his environment, more intimate than a snail and his shell

February 23, 2013

Or what about this from the English geographer Halford Mackinder, ‘man is part of his own environment, as cheese mites are part of cheese’. Cork University Press are certainly producing the goods when it comes to geographical and historical atlases. Most recently in 2012 they published the magnificant Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. Prior to that in 2011 they published a revised version of the Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape. An exquisitely produced and scholarly treatment on a range of rural issues including the unravelling of potato diversity in the decades prior to the Famine.

In the city, just and sustainable food systems

February 12, 2013

With increasing urban food insecurity and the earlier reported rise in city-based food safety nets I expect this kind of strategy will begin to appear for other cities. The Vancouver Food Strategy is a plan to create a just and sustainable food system for the city. It builds on years of food systems initiatives and grassroots community development, considering all aspects of the food system, from seed to table to compost heap and back again. The strategy has five broad goals to: support food-friendly neighbourhoods;  empower residents to take action; improve access to healthy, affordable, culturally diverse food for all residents; make food a centrepiece of Vancouver’s green economy; and advocate for a just and sustainable food system. Containing detailed descriptions of the Vancouver food system – including 47 community gardens, 17 urban farms, 18 community orchards, 20,000 people using neighbourhood food networks – this comprehensive document is well worth a browse

Agroecology, the nuts and bolts

February 9, 2013

Just what is agroecology all about? Is it a science, a practice, an ideology, a social movement or a transformative political process? Its all this and more according to the many authors contributing to this special open access issue of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. And while the ecological science is now much understood, achieving the other multiple goals of agroecology requires much more attention and effort.

Local food, local solutions

February 8, 2013

Of course one approach to the problem of food insecurity and improving food safety nets in urban areas and enhancing dietary diversity, be it in high or low income countries, is to strengthen local food systems, urban agriculture and community supported agriculture. Don’t know where to start? Regional Food Systems,  Reclaiming Our Food and City Farmer News are good places to start looking.

The bank that thrives in times of recession

February 8, 2013

No obscene bonuses for these dedicated bankers. A recent IDS study has highlighted the rise in the number of food banks and the numbers of people using them in high income countries, an alarming 12% of the population in the United States. It is estimated there are ‘218 operational food banks in 17 countries in Europe. Last year 289,000 tons of food products with an estimated value of €610 million were distributed by 26,000 charities’. There are two food banks in Ireland, one in Dublin, the other in Belfast and it is estimated that 2% of the population utilises the services of a food bank. I would imagine that this is a fairly conservative figure and that many other organisations and charities are providing food safety nets of one kind or another especially in rural areas. Granted they might not meet the criteria of what constitues a formal food bank, but formal or informal it all counts in hard times.

Would be interested in hearing from anyone actively invloved in this important work.

Food security, hunger, what if?

February 3, 2013

In the run up to the next G8 Summit in Fermanagh in July more than 100 charities and organizations have got together to launch the ‘Enough Food If’ campain in an attempt to revive the momentum of the Make Poverty History campaign. But will it make much difference?  Its a big if. Here’s Lawrence Haddad of IDS take on the campaign and its prospects. For organisations like  War on Want, for whom ‘food sovereignty – giving farmers control over what they grow and how they grow it, rather than being controlled by agribusiness and commodity speculators – is the only way to develop food security’ it is a much more structural and intractable problem. This coincides with a couple of other short articles on the current food security debate which revives the seasoned optimists and pessimists argument. Fred Pearce has a short piece on the CG Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog  saying  ‘feeding the world is easy.  The panic about the ability of the world to deliver enough food for seven, eight, nine or even ten billion people is absurd.  Worse, it is driving the agenda of aggressive land-grabbers and agribusinesses — pushing farming into the hands of global commerce’, a case more forcefully put by Frances Moore Lappe in a recent Journal of Peasant Studies article.