Watch the full 6 days’ transformation from an ex-flowerbed in Hedgemead Park, Bath, to a beautiful community vegetable garden – ‘Vegmead’ – with the fantastic power of Transition Bath volunteers. A huge thank you to all involved, and be sure to stop by and say hello if you’re passing Hedgemead Park. Source; Transition Bath
Video capturing much of the action from the recent Permablitz in West End on National Permaculture Day 2011. You can see a series of swales being built, a pond for future aquaponics installation, the floating chook shed, taro bog and the first of many raised garden beds being constructed. For more info on permablitz and to see lots of great photos from the day be sure to visit the Permablitz Brisbane website: http://blitzbrisbane.org
I do however have some problems with this new localism agenda. As I listened to Blond’s talk, I thought, well is it actually true that we live in a country with not much society, that society has now disassociated? I remember just before the election hearing Eddie Izzard, who had just run all around the country, doing 50-something marathons for charity. He said he didn’t believe in ‘Broken Britain’.. everywhere he had gone people were much more community focused than he had expected. My experience from visiting Transition initiatives is that community is there, everywhere, sometimes more obvious than other places, but the point is that community will organise when it wants to, it doesn’t need permission from government.
In the short film at the top of this post, Cameron says “I don’t believe that civil society springs up of its own accord”. Well there are thousands of community organisations around the country, run mostly by volunteers, Transition initiatives, Low Carbon Communities, Greening groups and so on, none of them waited for permission from government. They certainly sprang up of their own accord. What matters is for the State to offer such projects meaningful support, and to remove the obstacles strewn in their paths.
Of course the cynic might point out that the reason for the Big Society is the sweeping cuts in public spending that are only just beginning. If you replace the word ‘localism’ with ‘privatisation’, it is not that different in some ways from the Thatcher government’s agenda. There is a challenge within it around what people are actually capable of doing in their spare time. Working full time, and also running a school? Working, managing a family, looking after an ailing relative, and running a Community Land Trust? Of course there are incredible people out there who do that, but it will have its limits unless people are supported in other ways too.
An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent
In Transition 1.0 is Now Available!!
In Transition1.0: from oil dependence to local resilience
Available now as a Special Edition 2 Disc DVD set!
‘In Transition’ is the first detailed film about the Transition movement filmed by those that know it best, those who are making it happen on the ground. The Transition movement is about communities around the world responding to peak oil and climate change with creativity, imagination and humour, and setting about rebuilding their local economies and communities. It is positive, solutions focused, viral and fun.
‘In Transition’ has been shown in communities around the world to enthusiastic audiences, and is now available as a special edition 2 disc DVD set, beautifully packaged in entirely compostable packaging, featuring the film itself (with subtitles in Deutsch, Español, Français, Italiano,and Nederlands) and an embarrassment of outtakes and extras, with interviews, films about Transition you’ve been searching high and low for quality copies of, and other gems. It is a must-have for anyone with an interest in this new take on responding to the challenges of the 21st century.
Some photos of a lightening visit to Totnes, Devon the UK a couple of months ago, where I was gracefully given the time to discuss the permaculture worker cooperative research and development with a co-founder of Transition Movement and meet a have a few beers at the train station with the web manager for the network. Also visited the Schumacher College, and spent an afternoon in the library.
Totnes is an English town with a great heritage and an exciting future. The town is well worth a visit. Although the sign at the front of the Transition Towns Totnes entry spells-out, pretty clearly, that for those on a Transition pilgrimage, don’t expect too much. The Transition project has just started, projects are just now being implemented.
The message also made it clear, that Transition is something that only people of their own community can create. There is no formula. No simple framework. What the Transition people do is catalogue some of the ways they and others are trying to make sense of climate change and peak oil, and how that works for them.
I must admit, that I was extremely skeptical of Transition Towns Network, and have published some harsh things. However, I do think its a fascinating and relatively open process and encourage everyone to check it out and get involved.
John Vollmer’s comments to the Sustainable Agriculture and Foods Systems Funders Conference June, 2009
I was born and grew up on a farm near Bunn, NC, and until the 1980’s the economic anchor for our farm was tobacco. So it was for my daddy and granddaddy all the way back to Washington Duke and the founding of the American Tobacco Company in Durham in 1881. For over 100 years tobacco has been the mainstay of small farms just like ours in NC, SC, GA, VA, TN, and KY.
Unhooking from the tobacco wagon
In the 1980’s, however, things were about to change. During this 80’s decade, while serving as the president of the NC Tobacco Growers Association, I had a light bulb moment. We U.S. tobacco growers were not going to win the public relations and political battle that we were engaged in. Regulations and restrictions were coming. Competition from Brazil was eroding our worldwide market share. Public opinion and medical science were on the side of anti-tobacco activists. If our small family farm was to survive past my generation, we had to change how our farm worked and functioned. We had to unhook from the tobacco wagon.
Betty, my wife and business partner and I looked at many ideas. Our first new crop to grow was pumpkins. We offered school tours and sold pumpkins both retail and wholesale. Bear in mind we were still tobacco growers at heart and in practice. This was just a small step toward the change that we would have to make.
In the early 1990s, John Vollmer, a third-generation tobacco and small grain farmer, knew that the outlook for tobacco farming was bleak. Between cuts in tobacco quotas, cheap imports and increased regulations, tobacco farming no longer made economic sense. “My main goal was to keep the farm in the family for the next generation,” Vollmer said.
For Vollmer and his family, that meant “unhooking” from tobacco production and being open to new techniques as they kept an eye on the practical aspects of making a living.
“In 1992,” he said, “we looked at strawberries and saw they were a very good crop.” Moreover, Vollmer had seen the number of farms dwindle in his area from about 250 in the 1970s to just 30. He realized that organic production might provide a means to keep the farm viable. Finally, after learning of the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to eliminate methyl bromide for disease control, Vollmer decided that organic was the way to go.
Heartened by the fact that scientists at North Carolina State University were focusing on organic production to help make farms more profitable, Vollmer started asking for help.
“The extension agents would come to the farm and tap on my head lightly,” he said of their effort to introduce him little by little to the concepts of organic farming. “They’d leave an article on the counter about how chemicals might affect earthworms, and eventually it would sink in.”
Vollmer strongly recommends that other growers move into the process gently, and build up the soil through compost and cover crops. “I knew my soils were in the same condition as everyone else’s – basically sand with a little bit of nutrients and everything burned out. If I was going into organic, I knew I better put something in.”
Vollmer also recommends that farmers thoroughly evaluate what specific equipment they will need for organic farming. In his case, tools such as plastic mulch and drip irrigation helped bring about a successful transition. Now, Vollmer finds organic strawberries easy to grow because the plastic mulch and drip irrigation help with both weed and insect control: The plastic helps conserve moisture, keeps soil disease off plants and helps eliminate spider mites. (The plastic provides a solid layer off which he can use a high-pressure sprayer to bounce insecticidal soap onto the bottom of the leaves.)
While Vollmer does not farm all his fields organically, he has been so persuaded by improvements to soil quality, pH and water-holding capacity, that he applies many of the same techniques, such as compost and cover crops, to his non-organic fields.
Vollmer finds great success from direct marketing, and does not wholesale any product. “Every time we wholesale, we get beat up,” he said. He and his family direct market all of their fresh market vegetables and fruits through five farm stands and at the farm. Bringing people to the farm provides entertainment for families and a boost in profits for Vollmer. On the farm, he and his family offer “u-pick” strawberries and sell strawberry ice cream and strawberry shortcake.
My Introduction to ‘Local Food: how to make it happen in your community’
September 17th sees the release of the first in a series of ‘how to’ books published under the imprint of ‘Transition Books’ (due soon, guides to money, working with local government and cities). Entitled‘Local Food: how to make it happen in your community’it is the work mainly of Tamzin Pinkerton (who wasrecently interviewed here at Transition Culture) with bits from me, and it is really quite brilliant. Rather than being an intellectual exercise, it is really about the nitty gritty of setting up local food projects, drawing largely (but by no means exclusively) from the successes and failures of Transition initiatives around the world. It is packed with examples, tips, links, ideas and inspiration for rebuilding food resilience where you live. ‘Local Food’ is available from Transition Culture (and elsewhere) from September 17th, but you canpreorder it now, and be among the first people to get a copy! To give you a taste, here, in full, is my introduction to the book. There will be two book launches, one in Totnes on October 1st, and another in London, to be confirmed. I’ll keep you posted.
Echoes of a more resilient past. By Rob Hopkins.
Local Food: How to Make it Happen in Your Community
Local Food provides inspiration and practical advice for creating local food initiatives – showing how to restore and establish community networks to generate healthy, locally produced food.
Many people already buy their vegetables as locally as possible, eat organic and seasonal food when they can, and are perhaps even getting to grips with managing an allotment. However, with current economic pressures and mounting concerns about climate change and peak oil, there is a growing feeling that we need to do more to reduce dependence on the global market.
Local Food offers an inspiring and practical guide to what can be achieved if you get together with the people on your street or in your village, town or city. It explores a huge range of local food initiatives for rebuilding a diverse, resilient local food network – including community gardens, farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture schemes and projects in schools – and includes all the information you will need to get ideas off the ground.
Drawing on the practical experience of Transition initiatives and other community projects around the world, Local Food demonstrates the power of working collaboratively. In today’s culture of supermarkets and food miles, an explosion of activity at community level is urgently needed. This book is the ideal place to start.
You can read Rob Hopkins’ introduction to the bookhere.