Sometimes I imagine loads of Presbyterian churches equipped with nice homely (but not expensive) dining rooms and a lounge for lazy Sunday afternoons (instead of drafty halls) and big pots of soup made from vegetables grown on the gardens that used to be their lawns (or from land donated by a church member with spare land).
When it came to dishes time everyone washed them in a relaxed way not eager to rush home, and the men would be in the kitchen just as much as the women. There would not be someone trying to rush the people out of the hall because he had to lock up and wanted to go home. The last person out can lock up.
If there was soup left over it could be frozen and given to people who are sick or poor, there would be boxes of vegetables to distribute to the needy or just for people in church.
‘Petroleum, perhaps the single most important input in modern food production (it serves both as a fuel for tractors and transportation and as the chemical base for fertilizers and pesticides), is gradually becoming so scarce and expensive that many of the assumptions underlying a global industrial food system are now in question. Nearly everything about the way our food system has developed over the last half century – from our ability to manufacture fertility to our capacity to move food to import-dependent nations – could not have occurred without cheap energy, and the degree to which that system can continue in a world of high energy prices is a frightening unknown.’
Paul Roberts, The End of Food
I couldn’t contain myself yesterday and ended up dandering past Castle Gardens, Lisburn looking over the town (sorry, I mean city)and tried to imagine what it would look like with some poly-tunnels for a mini-farm over the various terraces. Above is a quick rough sketch of what I had in mind. I’m not sure it would work, but the terraces below the main part of the park seem to me to be nothing but grass and walls.
Here’s where my imagination sometimes takes me.
If you are going to let Tesco, Dobbies, Sainsbury, M&S and John Lewis build huge stores on the outskirts of town fine – but charge them an environmental tax. Maybe that is included in the rates they pay to the council already etc, but my thinking is that if people should have to pay parking fees for the centre of Lisburn to cut down on congestion in the town centre, why shouldn’t they also pay to use car parks round the Sprucefield site which is often congested?
Or else drop the parking charges in town centres so that its not one rule for the big boys and another for the small retailers.
With the money raised through the environmental tax put a roof over Market Square and turn it into a proper sheltered market, like St. George’s Market so that you can have a market with shelter from the Northern Irish weather. Make this space an independent area with fair rates, not crazy over-priced rates.
Also build a little farm on Castle Gardens, so that it can supply good healthy, organic food in the area (maybe a vegetable box scheme?) to places like the Island Centre, Lisburn College, the schools. Maybe the college could run courses in conjunction with the farm and kids from local schools could come up and learn about growing vegetables, keeping chickens or looking after our dwindling natural resources. You could have cookery classes and a small cafe/shop supplying Fairtrade, organic things. You would need farmers to grow things so it would give a few people work. They could sell the produce down at the market as well.
Walking up, down and around the back streets of Lisburn the other night I was thinking how cool it would be to have an urban farm round the place. All those residential homes, house upon house with small lawns and pebbled dashed walls between neighbours and no kale or brussel sprouts in sight.
There are 3 large lawns in particular beside each other on the Moss Rd that I’d love to turn into lazy beds and grow rocket, kale, raspberries and chard on.
We’d grow nice organic fruit and veg on the lawns during the growing season and on Friday morning’s we’d get a bicycle with a small trailer and do veg box deliveries up and down the Moss Rd.
We’d take your food waste from home and turn it into compost (or feed it to the pigs), open a little Co-op which traded the Fairtrade and eco-goods which we couldn’t grow or produce ourselves.
We could plant different varieties of apple/plum trees on the footpaths and keep bees, chickens and pigs if we could get that organised.
A polytunnel or two? Yes please!
Some big native trees planted?Yes please!
There seems to me to be reasons why an urban farm around Lisburn would make sense, more sense in fact than other ways we use land around our towns.
Surely it would create work for people who are unemployed for one?
People are always (at least as far as I’m aware anyway) going to have to eat and perhaps creating an organic urban farm system in Lisburn or Belfast would be a more sustainable and useful way to create employment than bringing a John Lewis to town?
Sustainable production over unsustainable consumption?
Makes sense to me…