As summer is well on its way and many of us are spending more time at home due to the Covid-19 lockdown, it's time to take a look at how you can supplement your food with healthy, home-grown fresh produce.
From starting small with some microgreens on your kitchen window sill to getting a seasonal job at a local farm – there are at least as many ways you can get involved in growing food as there are vegetables! Benefits range from getting out into the fresh air, improving mental health and learning new skills to free nutrient supplementation.
Starting at home
The organic gardening catalogue had an increase in demand of 800% due to the Covid-19 lockdown, showing that people are really looking at growing food as a measure to increase self-reliance during this time. Those who are lucky enough to have a garden have probably already thought about growing some herbs, vegetables and fruit. But even with just a window sill or kitchen counter, it's possible to grow different sprouts, microgreens such as peashoots and herbs to add vital nutrients to your diet.
Harvest @ Home is a new initiative supporting low income families impacted by COVID-19 in starting to grow food at home. A great way to start for gardening beginners! In the longer term, they are building a wider community for everyone in Oxfordshire to share knowledge and resources around growing. Find out more, follow on Facebook or sign up now.
Replenish Oxfordshire have a collection of resources for home gardeners on their website, for instance a useful guide to gardening on a budget. You can also subscribe to the new Replenish newsletter with seasonal gardening tips and cookery ideas.
If you would like to join a local community of home gardeners that you can ask questions and share advice with, try the Facebook group Co-Grow Ox.
Tag #OxonGetsGrowing and @goodfoodoxford on social media to share your home growing adventures, questions and successes.
Join a community garden
For those without a garden who would like to do more than foraging and growing on window sills, joining a community garden is a great way to get growing while sharing the work and meeting new people. Try the #GoodToGrow map of community gardens to find one near you.
Several community gardens are managing to stay open to volunteers safely during Covid-19 with social distancing measures and strictly managed work rotas. So get in touch with a community garden near you, or contact us if you would like to start a new growing project in Oxfordshire and need advice.
Read more about why it’s critical to keep our community gardens and allotments growing during Coronavirus on the Sustain blog and see guidance for community groups on how to stay open safely on our collection of covid-19 guidance.
Tag #GoodToGrow, #OxonGetsGrowing and @goodfoodoxford on social media to share your community garden updates.
Work on farms
Around the end of March, it became clear that around 90,000 farm labour positions would be needed to pick crops in Britain. Some large farms began chartering flights to bring in workers from East Europe, but many countries being in lockdown it is difficult to bring in enough labour. Small farms who were already relying largely on local, long-term employees had and advantage there and proved that a model that relies on human-scale, regional economies is more resilient in the long term.
Since the Covid-19 lockdown was announced, these local food producers and veg box schemes have seen unprecedented demand. Ian ("Tolly") Tolhurst recently wrote on the Tolhurst Organic blog that "finally I feel that we are valued and respected for how we manage our land and that perhaps our time has come."
In response to a renewed interest in locally produced food, combined with people having lost jobs in the hospitality and events industries, several new initiatives have been launched to connect people in Britain seeking work to farms that need extra hands:
- UK farms have started a #FeedTheNation campaign to help with recruitment.
- Pick For Britain is a website launched by DEFRA to bring together those who are looking for work on UK farms over the harvest period with recruiters who have roles to fill. The website will act as a hub to signpost people to the jobs available.
- British Summer Fruits have a map on their website map showing jobs on farms around the UK.
- And rootstowork.org is a useful site listing jobs in farming and the good food sector.
Tag #GoodToGrow, #OxonGetsGrowing and @goodfoodoxford on social media to share your farm updates and vacancies.
Get Kids involved
Growing at home is also a great way to involve kids and develop their intuitive connection to all things natural & growing. The #LockdownLearning portal has a great collection of resources to support kids in learning more about farming and growing food.
And for schools, Trees for Cities has compiled a collection of resources to introduce food growing into the curriculum, including online resources for remote schooling.
Sign your early years setting, school or college up to Veg Places Oxfordshire to get more ideas and support with your activities.