Bringing the land to life

Permaculture apprentice Nicole Vosper sees her dreams coming to fruition as her medicine garden takes shape

In my last column I explored how we can redesign our inner landscapes, but as spring arrived my attention moved to material things and putting in place the permaculture design for my family’s food garden, which I had been crafting all winter.

Greenhouses have been cleared of clutter, paths constructed, rainwater butts acquired, seeds ordered and veg beds deeply mulched ready for planting. Implementing the design has given the family a wonderful feeling of full steam ahead, a process as empowering as is it is exhausting.

The most exciting part so far has been building our family’s medicine garden – a large circular space with six different beds representing six body systems and their associated medicinal plants. I’d grown the plants from seed last year and their roots are pushing out of their pots ready for the soil. My partner, mum and I spent hours cutting hazel rods and weaving willow for the edging, chipping wood for paths and moving soil.

When it was complete I felt like I wanted to burst into tears in joy (my journey with the plant kingdom had started with a window box of herbs in a tiny bedsit in Cornwall). But what it also brought up were thoughts about the majority who don’t have access to land. Why would people like my step-dad have to work his entire life to be able to afford land to grow food?

In my part-time job with Somerset Community Food, access to land is the main focus of our project. We have recently been organising public information evenings, mainly for community groups wishing to start allotments and community gardens. Press coverage has generated leads with landowners, and new allotment sites have begun or are in the process of getting started.

The UK has one of the highest concentrations of land ownership in the world with one percent of the population owning more than 70% of the land. So to help with wider shifts in land distribution, I’ve also been organising with a group called Reclaim the Fields, a constellation of people and projects willing to go back to the land and re-assume control over food production through small-scale cooperative production. Meanwhile, on 17 April, Peasants’ Day of Struggle saw a worldwide celebration of small-scale growers.

With greater attendance at food sovereignty gatherings and more and more talk about access to land as a right, exciting times lie ahead.