We’re all increasingly aware of where our food is from and how it has been grown as it becomes clearer that many aspects of the current food system are unsustainable. Food can travel thousands of miles from plot to plate, causing irreparable damage to our environment. These are facts we certainly can’t ignore, but in our busy lives where we sometimes can’t help but opt for convenience over seeking out local and sustainable food sources, it can seem difficult to do your part to help.
This is where the Gardening and Permaculture Society comes in. Through promoting their values of sustainable living and supporting local food sources, they aim to take practical steps against climate change by growing some of their own food and finding new ways to look after, rather than damage, the environment. It’s also a chance to get back to nature whilst living in the urban sprawl of Manchester, a welcome opportunity for anyone tired of the hustle bustle of city life.
GAPs hold regular work days on their allotment, which is just 15 minutes from Fallowfield, and when I visit them on a chilly Sunday morning they are collecting the last of their spoils of the season including carrots, chard, jerusalem artichokes and cabbage. As we are approaching the end of term they are clearing up the plot, closing it down for winter so that it’s ready to re-plant come the new year. They teach themselves as they go, helping each other out and reaping the rewards. The vegetables they harvest, they either eat together on the allotment or share out to be cooked at home. We all know it can be pricey to keep yourself well fed, and so feeding yourself in this sustainable and cheap way seems sensible and far more rewarding than raiding the aisles in your local supermarket. As well as learning on the job, they also arrange courses where they explain the basics of permaculture, and how to bring its design elements into your own spaces, so there’s plenty of scope to learn new skills.
For those out there who don’t know what the term ‘permaculture’ means (I certainly didn’t) it is a combination of the words ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture.’ It promotes sustainable land use, creating stable and productive systems which provide for human needs whilst respecting the environment. GAPs often puts on film nights, showing films about the global food system and sustainable living to encourage more people to think hard about the impact their lives have on a wider scale. The nights are a chance to get together to learn more about permaculture, as well as being a good chance to unwind with a pint!
In addition to working on their own allotment, they also get involved in other local community ventures, such as fundraising for ‘Food Not Bombs’ who are a group who share free, hot vegetarians meals with the hungry, combatting the massive scale of national food waste by cooking up donations from local shops and protesting against war, poverty and the destruction of the environment. Further afield, they also arrange weekends away, such as a tree planting weekend in Hebden Bridge with the organisation Treesponsibility who aim to replenish the landscape of Yorkshire and Lancashire, providing natural habitats for wildlife as well as food and livelihoods for locals.
There’s something for everyone, whether you’d like to learn more about living sustainably or you’d like to muck in on the allotment. So if you’re interested in getting involved, or simply finding out more, then find them on Facebook or drop them an email at [email protected]. They welcome anyone of any level of ability, and no experience is necessary.