My copy of Victorian Farm arrived today, courtesy of a online film rental club, who shall remain nameless. I'm probably a little more excited about that than I should admit. Running a self-sufficient farm is something I've secretly dreamed of since I first found John Seymour's book on our family book shelves. Not too many other kids in primary school thought much of this idea, but now that I'm older it seems as though every third or fourth person's been secretly harbouring this dream too.

It may be that the time has come for a lot of us to starting putting our shovels where our mouths are (if you'll excuse the pun) and start farming.

As Rob Hopkins pointed out on his blog recently:
        It is often said that in Cuba, during the Special Period, the country went from needing 1% of its population working         in farming to 20%.  If the same thing is applied to the UK in the event of an energy famine, we would need around 8         million new farmers.
Sharon Astyk a farmer, blogger and author well known in peak oil circles, argued in her book A Nation of Farmers that the U.S. would need 100 million new farmers. If we apply the 20% figure to ourselves here, Liverpool would need a few less, maybe around 87,000.

In order to manage this, we’ll need to start thinking about farming quite differently and instead of hankering for idyllic Welsh farms like the one in the picture above, many in the U.S. and Canada are now turning to urban homesteading. I haven’t read anything yet about how this model might fit in the U.K., but the much smaller average backyard sizes already suggest that it can’t simply be copied here on a large scale.

Allotments still seem to be the most immediate way to go for those interested in growing their own food, but as Transition West Kirby have so wonderfully highlighted, allotment waiting lists are much too long. I haven’t found any data available for allotment waiting lists in Liverpool yet – please share if you know of any – but odds are they are as long.

It seems that a pressure group representing people on waiting lists, The Liverpool Area Federation of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners, was set up. But, while it is still advertised by the Liverpool council, the website no longer exists, many individual allotment sites fail as well.

Another group set up to promote local food production Urbanag, which I’ve been keeping an eye on for a while now, did not have too much news about new projects in Liverpool in 2010, although the Greater Liverpool Food Alliance was launched. However, the Alliance’s Project Dirt page suggests that things could be changing, with a new agenda set for 2011.

Getting sustainable local food systems in place is an urgent task, but also an overwhelming one. 87,000 is a big number. But small steps lead to big changes, as they say and so in 2011 Transition Liverpool is hoping to develop a Liverpool Local Food Guide to raise awareness of the local food already available, and also gather and publicise data on the current state of allotment waiting lists. Don’t forget that our community allotment is also welcoming new volunteers, as is Jaz Jackson’s Dingle Growers project.

Do you know of any other local food projects in Liverpool, or have ideas for how to encourage farming in the city? If so, please let us know.


Big Dig


Transition Liverpool's work project for 10\10\10 was at the Aigburth Allotments on Mersey Road. It was a great day, with lots of digging done in the sun. About 12 grown-ups and 12 kids worked on preparing beds for winter crops and next Spring's planting.