I had gone to my tutorial with Graham with a rough idea with what I might want to do with the project side of things…
I’m a strong believer in growing your own produce, my mums always done it and I think it’s rubbed off me a little. I love anything that grows, but I understand the benefits available to you when growing your own, you’re not ingesting some pesticide/preservative covered produce, it’s a lot cheaper, and it helps the natural wildlife. Bees for example are decreasing in numbers because they’re being killed by pesticides on the crops grown by the big corporations that are trying to grow things fast to feed the masses and ensure it’s all artificially tampered with so that it keeps nicely. But that’s just not how nature should work, in the long term its all doing more harm than it is good, we’re more wasteful than ever as a society, that’s purely because we’re over producing to try and fill demands and so food is rotting and has to be thrown away. But if people just grew their own herbs, fruit or veg it’d be a step in the right direction I believe, for you’re providing nice chemical free plant life that is important for insect life and you’re also only picking what you need when you need it, so nothing’s going to waste.

With that in mind I’d thought of an idea as to how I might create something socially engaging that would try to get people to think twice about growing their own produce.
This was to create a public piece using the moss graffiti technique to spell out ‘grow your own’ accompanied by hanging baskets filled with growing herbs, veg, fruit or flowers, but the hanging baskets would instead be super-market shopping baskets, to link back to my point that we are a consumerist society.

However in my tutorial with Graham he’d questioned who I was aiming at and whether it would actually change anything. I realised that although ideally I would love to get everyone to grow their own that wasn’t really practical, and that realistically its the younger generation I need to focus this on, as we are the generation for change. And that by just placing a piece like this in a space, who’s to say it would really change anything, it doesn’t actively contribute to my own cause. It was suggested that perhaps it would be more socially engaging and raise more awareness/encourage more people of my generation to grow their own produce if I did it myself.

So I needed to rethink my idea and do some research, I began firstly by looking at what’s already being done in  Leeds in terms of the environment/grow your own.

I was able to find a few different organisations within Leeds that I particularly liked, Leeds urban harvest was one (http://www.leedsurbanharvest.org.uk/) they are a voluntary group based in Leeds who group together to collect the soft fruit available around Leeds.
“Fruits are distributed to groups, volunteers and the local community.  Damaged fruits are turned into juice, preserves, jams and chutneys.  Any money raised is put back into the project to help with running costs.”

Groundwork Leeds also work actively in Leeds in efforts to better the natural environment in a number of ways one of which is working actively with youth groups. They “provide a range of projects and services for both primary and secondary schools which help young people develop an understanding of their influence on the planet, and often gets them outdoors exploring the local natural environment.”
also amongst their attributes is improving open spaces to work to reduce crime, providing opportunities for the older generations. “For unemployed young people who are outside the formal education system we provide programmes of training to build their skills and experience and help them into employment.”

another organisation i found was Feed Leeds, a network of organisations that work towards sustainable local food and related issues. “Feed Leeds is currently exploring the viability of establishing a Land Trust to facilitate the establishment of local growing projects, and developing other research and practical initiatives to help promote and support local food growing and consumption in Leeds – for its economic, social, environmental and health benefits.”

I wanted to look into how easy it also might be to obtain my own space to grow, being a student means little money in the pocket to buy or rent any land, but I was able to find that The Parks and Countryside service are keen to support community groups that are interested in growing their own food on the City council website and even provide links to the feed Leeds page, as well as information on allotments, which were a lot cheaper than I expected but in high demand – probably because there’s only 97 allotment sites.

I’d began to think instead about guerilla gardening, not the kind with cute miniature chairs, and miniature trees, as much as I think it’s cute I wanted to see if anyone had actually tried guerilla gardening with actual veg, fruit or herbs and stumbled upon this lady in America: (http://urbanguerillagardener.wordpress.com/) I love her whole concept, and from reading through her posts she seems to see the benefits of natural growth as i do, as well as a somewhat lack of trust in supermarket produce. What I like most of all is she’s just doing what she can, and blogged the experience of this in an effort to raise awareness to people about the benefits as well as struggles of growing your own produce, providing help to fellow growers who may be facing the same issues with climate/hungry critters.

But I’d also found Ron Finley an american based agricultural activist, someone I’m quite disappointed in myself to say I hadn’t previously heard of, but I’m now a big fan of what he does and what he’s trying to achieve by doing it. He’s currently working one city at a time to spread his dream of edible gardens. “In part of this effort, Ron is planning to build an urban garden in South Central LA that will serve as an example of a well-balanced, fruit-and-veggie oasis – called “HQ.” Inspired by the idea of turning unused space such as parkways and vacant lots into fruitful endeavours, this garden and gathering place will be a community hub, where people learn about nutrition and join together to plant, work and unwind.”(http://ronfinley.com)

Unfortunately the problem I face is winter, I want to grow and encourage growth, but not too much will succeed in growing with the current season, so what if I could bring gardening inside? Getting things to grow inside is always easy, pop it on a windowsill make sure it gets enough light and water, hey presto you’ve got a plant. Herbs are the easiest thing to grow all year round, especially indoors, but with a suitable sized container there is no reason why you couldn’t grow things like onions, tomatoes, radishes, peppers, eggplants, small carrots, mushrooms, beans, peas, the odd avocado tree, garlic and bean sprouts… so quite a lot really.

This has all given me an idea to see if I can create my own indoor allotment of sorts, and a grow a nursery of plants in recycled tins/jars and give them to people, or leave them in open spaces with tags attached providing details on the plant and how to care for it, as well as a reason why they should grow it.