Agroecology in Practice

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The garden in the dry June weather.

After many years studying sustainable food production practices in the UK and having seen several designs of my own come to beautiful fruition I embarked upon my own agroecological project. Agroecology is a rallying call, an inspiration, a collecting point and a word describing forms of food production which puts whole system, ecological thinking at its heart. It’s a term used to describe sustainable agriculture which imitates nature and doesn’t deplete nature’s resources.

My design work in agroforestry, edible woodlands and forest gardening has been a manifestation of agroecology. Another manifestation is the Real Food Garden. With my partner Chloe I have begun the process of developing a highly productive space which also fosters greater biodiversity, soil health, carbon storage and the opportunity to evolve our way of living on the planet. The vision for the Real Food Garden is ‘truly sustainable agriculture which nourishes people and place’

Currently the first phase of the garden is complete: a fully functioning market garden. The Real Food Garden currently utilises a half-acre no-dig system to produce the vegetables for 20 local households. The market garden operates organically (although is not certified organic) producing vegetables which are high in nutrients and very flavoursome thanks to the excellent soil health. We distribute the veg through a small box scheme, farmers markets and supplying a few local restaurants, cafes and shops.

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Our longest standing customer, Irene, picking up from the site.

The key features which make our endeavour special are the mix of organic and agroecological practices such as integrated pest management, encouraging biodiversity, cycling nutrients as well as the no-dig method. No-dig is an approach to growing which is embedded in understanding soil science. No-dig nurtures resilience and health in the soil by not exposing the soil life through tillage. By allowing the soil organisms to develop undisturbed whilst fortifying the soil structure with organic matter. No-dig growing locks nutrients and carbon in the soil, allows soil life to thrive and improves water retention as well as aeration. Additionally it doesn’t rely on the use of fossil fuel guzzling, heavy machinery to produce food, instead using people power only.

We combine this form of soil care with selecting a wide range of annual crops which span a long season to produce high volumes of nutritious food from a small space. With time we are extending the growing of annuals to include a large range of perennials. Some will be integrated into the market garden, bring multiple mutual benefits and some will be planted to form a forest garden, soft fruit area and an orchard. Although the mix of perennials will focus on fruit and herb production a collection of tubers, spices, nuts and other beneficial plants is also being made. In time this will bring a very interesting selection of products to the veg box scheme and form the basis of the demonstration element of the garden.

We are taking bookings for ‘tours and tasters’ on amelia@realfoodgarden.co.uk and will keep you updated with progress on the www.realfoodgarden.co.uk. Please do get in touch if you’d like to know more or would like to explore a garden design for yourself.

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