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'We live in a culture where healthy choices are hard’

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Growing stuff is the new rock ’n’ roll. Well, that is what I tell myself as I get all excited about going down to the allotment to reap and sow, and weed and dig. If you want any garlic, red onions, strawberries or bindweed, let me know. Broccoli isn’t going well, tomatoes are a bit slow and I’m not sure I should have bothered with the yams.

Having said that, the main job this week has been to build a pond. Or to be more precise, to dig a big hole and put some water in it.

My fantasy is that by 2012 my family will be self-sufficient. I am confident we can grow enough vegetables and fruit to live on by then. I admit my hope that the bath-size fish pond will develop into some kind of trout farm may be a bit ambitious but you have to start somewhere, right?

In truth I dig and plant, and water and then dig a bit more, with an enthusiasm matched only by my ignorance. I don’t really know what I am doing but I enjoy it.

I don’t know how many of you grow or bake or make stuff but there is something strangely compelling about turning nothing into something, even if that something is ‘just’ an onion.

The public health drive has long been baulked by the culture we have created around food. We know we want people to eat more healthily but we know that people are too busy, disinterested or lazy to do much about it. But we don’t often talk about what we can do about the ‘culture’ that makes healthy choices hard. It is perhaps beyond our remit?

It is interesting that both Britain and America, more than any other countries, view fast or processed food as liberating. For us it has saved time and effort rather than robbed us of anything. All other cultures and most other countries have retained a sense of value and community in cooking and eating together, and most of them have tried to retain some link with actually growing the food they eat as well. We and the (even more obese) Americans have decided that powdered egg, salted fries and ready meals somehow make us free from the time-consuming nonsense that is cooking.

And so I wonder if, rather than finding any debate around public health floundering on the rock that is ‘modern culture’, we shouldn’t be trying to create a more tangible link to where our food comes from, or valuing the time it might take to grow, cook or share it?

For the past 20 years the public health debate has been underpinned by two main elements – how can we save money for the health service and how can we stop people dying too early? Perhaps it might also start to address another even more fundamental issue: ‘Why do we choose to live like this and what will it take to change it?’ Not the remit of nurses? Probably not, but why not? And if not us – than who?

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Readers' comments (1)


  • I too wish to become self sufficient, well promote self sufficiency to many by way of setting up a workers co-operative growing and selling local produce in an organic way, however when you have to start Checking the provenance of dung Things have gone too far.

    Oddly, though I suffer with CFS and this project I thought would get me back on my feet again, it seems to me that Only the disabled community have any interest in assisting, and as such I'm now having to account for raised and wheelchair accessibility to all areas of this project probably affecting the financial viability.

    Good luck with your allotment.

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