pale blue dot

"From this distant vantage point the earth might not seem of any particular interest. but for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us.

On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of - every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate or joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions ideologies and economic doctrines. 

Every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilisation, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer.

Every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician. Every superstar, every supreme leader. Every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there, on the mode of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.

Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters, of a fraction, of a dot." 

Carl Sagan. Pale Blue Dot. 


The Locavore Diet: Week 1 - freaking out.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

By Mary Oliver.

H/T to young mr Nicholas Mulvey. 


The locavore diet: all peaches and cream? Not quite…

First published here.

A quick look at how I felt about Day One (July 20th 2015) of the locavore diet. It wasn’t all peaches and cream, needless to say. In fact, not even close.


Today was Day One of the diet and already I've stumbled and fallen. Me and my partner in crime, Jo, agreed that we could eat any perishables still left from the previous week - a transition week, if you will. All the fruit and veg left over from last week are fair game. Great. I, however, live with a person who is very strict when it comes to commitment - and is especially serious about food. Although we've just returned from a weeklong trip to Pembrokeshire - eating very locally (fish, potatoes, laverbread, cockles, salmon, cheese, butter... the list goes on), on Day One he still refused to eat a breakfast of Welsh bread, Welsh butter and Welsh cheese. So we went without. The hardest part for me was not waking up to a hot cup of tea. I stared forlornly into the tea and coffee cupboard, wishing that we'd worked out how to grow those special plants in our climate en masse. Instead, I found a few measly looking mint and lemon balm leaves in the yard and covered them in boiling water - which, in hindsight, is probably a really good practice for the mornings. Drinking a cup of hot water to flush your system – surely my skin will be glowing in days?


When lunchtime arrived we ate halloumi, red pepper and cucumber wraps with a twist of lime. Nothing local about that - but it was within the proviso of using up perishables, so we relaxed into the idea of being in a transition week - at least we has a lemon or two left in the veg basket. 

Then, slowly, as our hunger grew, we started to freak out.

I told him not to worry, I had a great idea. A new organic food shop had opened just down the cycle track from us. We put on our waterproofs and got on our bikes (which felt very fitting when visiting an organic food shop). When we arrived it smelled like incense and was full of people just hanging out - which immediately made my boyfriend leave. He's not one for sandalwood. Sweating in the humidity I asked one of the employees for local produce. Just those, he said as he pointed to a pile of 6 courgettes in a basket. We’re about organic, not local, he said. (cue the benefits-of-organic spiel - from which I felt I shouldn't - or couldn't interrupt). When I explained the project he showed me their stock of various fresh produce, all from Lancashire (all organic), just outside the limits of the research. He said they did have some British quinoa, but he wasn't sure where it was from, and there was currently none in stock. He said maybe a barter system would be good, or growing my own. I sulkily pointed out that this was an experiment and it's possible I might fail, to which he sympathetically smiled and told me to wait until August and September when the shelves will be full. The one thing they did have, after a rummage for watercress and bean sprouts, were eggs. Local eggs. I greedily grabbed the last two boxes, wanting to walk out the door feeling triumphant after all. However the overarching dismay was as wet as my rain sodden hair, and the shopping bag felt extremely light as we plodded on.

The supermarket

Next stop - the local supermarket to see how we'd do there. The fruit and vegetable aisles provided surprisingly good results. Mushrooms from Somerset, Strawberries from Herefordshire, potatoes from Suffolk (might need to check that's within 100 miles actually), tomatoes and spring onions from Worcestershire - and lots of courgettes again. I did buy quite a lot of things that are ‘UK produce’ in my desperation; cider vinegar, rapeseed oil, milk, yoghurt and oats - which I will research now and potentially forfeit once the transition week is over.

On leaving the supermarket I hurriedly called the grower from Sims Hill Shared Harvest - the veg box scheme of which I’m a member, leaving a rushed message asking for a bigger box, and perhaps a swap of some produce which isn't local, for those that are – followed swiftly by a call to another farmer friend who runs the salad bag scheme Edible Futures to sign up (life saver) and a last call to a mate who is the Animal Manager on a therapeutic working farm just up the road, Elm Tree Farm.

"I need your eggs," I whispered, "All of them."

Fortunately these good people talked me through the farmers markets and shops in Bristol to get my local food, complimented by encouraging messages of support.

Maybe it's not going to be so bad after all. Only time will tell.
Read more from Holly here.

The Locavore Test

Blog first published here.

As part of the Going Local Going Green research project we’re embarking on a 100-mile diet – or the ‘locavore diet' as I have come to call it. In other words, only eating food that has been grown, processed and sourced within 100 miles of Bristol.

From the moment we start, I will adopt the locavore test to see if what I'm consuming is local or not. When I walk into a cafĂ© I will conduct the locavore test. When I head to a friends house for a cup of tea – I will ask the inevitable (and occasionally annoying) questions of the locavore test. Before I bake a cake – I'll locavore test the ingredients. It may become a thing. (It also may not become a thing because I fear I’m slowly becoming that person – the difficult one that claims to have a wheat intolerance, or not eat animal products, or who can only eat raw, fallen foods from the trees of Eden and so on.)

How are we doing it?

We’re not crazy – although we may appear to be slipping into some version of mildly odd to the untrained eye. We’re undertaking this project to help us work out what we mean by ‘local’. After all, we are doing a research project that falls under the label of ‘Going Local, Going Green’. When we talk about local, be it the local shops or the local area, what is it that actually makes it local? Is it the fact it’s in walking distance, that it’s familiar to us, or is it more than that? When it comes to food it gets even more complicated. Did I buy it locally?  Was it processed locally? Was it grown or bred locally? Were the seeds local/ heritage/ native to the country or region? Where did the soil come from? These are all things we have to think about (maybe not the soil bit for now). Taking inspiration from the Canadian couple Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon in their book ‘Plenty’, and the amazing food hubs emerging throughout the UK with the Open Food Network, we’re slowly developing a feeling of what ‘local food’ means in the contemporary sense of the word.

What have we done so far?

So far we’ve set dates to start the diet. Then changed them. Then set them again, then changed them again. My initial lassaiz faire attitude is starting to back fire on me as the fear and the list of ‘can’t haves’ slowly builds. We’ve been keeping food diaries in order to start thinking about where our food comes from. We’ve been researching certain products, such as flour, oil and tea to try and find UK born and bred versions of these, which we will report back on as we go. We’re going to keep video diaries, blogs and reviews on how we’re doing once the diet is underway. We’re compiling the aforementioned list of ‘can’t haves’, which will hopefully eventually become a list of ‘substitutes to’.  And we’re mainly talking about it. A lot. To anyone that will listen. Friends, family, strangers and people who might know things that we need to know – like Graham from Bertha’s Pizza who travelled the west coast of the USA in hope to find the best blend of flour for his pizza, or Jo Elliot from First Great Western on why they’ve decided to source from 15 miles around the train tracks in the South West for the food supplied on the train.

But - why?

There are loads of reasons to experiment with eating locally from supporting the local economy to understanding where food comes from. I know there are important elements like carbon footprints and food miles – but my main concern is that we’re supporting farmers that look after the soil beneath our feet. And that the food we eat is tasty.

My reasons:

1. I want to support local farmers and growers
2. I want to be aware of the rich diversity of food in our local area
3. I want to understand the implications of globalisation on our food system
4. I want to reconnect with my food

What do we think will happen?

Who knows? Maybe it will be easy. Maybe it will be really hard.  I’m guessing it will be more of the former due to our location – we’re not based in the Sahara Desert after all.  Yet I do still keep getting these waves of fear. What about coffee? What about tea? What if I can’t find any oats for my daily porridge? What about my hangover cure of a Big Mac Meal with a Coca-cola and packet of salt’n’vinegar crisps? WHAT ABOUT BOOZE?

Below you can find a list of rules we will stoically stick by…. and a couple of caveats. There needs to be some exceptions to the rules, right? Follow us on this blog with the locavore diet tag, or on twitter@goinglocalgreen and we’ll let you know how we’re getting on.


    • All food and drink must be grown and/or produced within 100 miles of Bristol
    • Cornwall is included in the 100 miles (it basically is anyway…)
    • All elements of the food or drink product must be from within 100 miles: if it is bread, the flour, water, oil, salt and any other inputs and ingredients must be from within 100 miles.
    • The same goes for booze. All ingredients must come from within 100 miles of Bristol.
    • If we can’t get the information needed to determine where the whole product is from and we’re buying it from a shop – it’s not allowed.
    • If travelling further afield than Bristol, the 100 miles starts with where the individual is located.
    • Household ingredients that have already been bought are not allowed to be used for the trial period of month one (then we'll see...)
    • When housemates or lovers are cooking for us, the meals are subject to the diet.
    • Coffee shops mean consuming strictly only local teas/ coffees/ drinks. Sorry.
    • Food at work meetings that cannot be avoided. ie. crew catering at Glastonbury or a work meal provided for you.
    • If you are eating out, try to go for the meal and drinks with the most local ingredients. This doesn't mean we get to eat out every night. We promise. 
    • If we can’t get the information needed to determine where the whole dish is from and we’re buying it from a restaurant, but over 50% of the plate is local – it’s allowed. 
    • Family gatherings/ friends for dinner - try and discuss before hand and explain the project - forfeit some food if you know it's not local. 
    • At the pub - only drink locally sourced beers/ wines/ whiskeys etc – don’t forget all of the product’s ingredients are relevant here – some research of ingredients in advance might help. But it might not.
    Wish us luck - this might be tougher than we think. You can follow us here, or on twitter:@GoingLocalGreen

    Going Local Going Green

    I'm working on a research project. You can find out more about it here or at http://www.goinglocalgoinggreen.info/

    I'll be posting up things we learn, blogposts and other updates. But for now, this is what we're doing. 

    Going Local Going Green is a website and project dedicated to exploring what it means to go 'local' and be 'green' in our home town,
     the mighty city of Bristol.

    On this blog you will find articles and information detailing the various experiences of going local and going green in our city of Bristol. You will hear from Jo, Tim, Cai and Holly about the areas in which we are exploring under the overarching themes of nature, food, land, health and economy. We will also explore what exactly 'local' and 'green' means to us, and using our chosen methodology (action learning) we will amble along, digging up information now and then to share with you, and hopefully inspire and connect you even more with the city around us. 

    Follow us on twitter for all the latest news: @GoingLocalGreen


    The child has a hundred languages

    No way. The hundred is there.
    The child
    is made of one hundred.
    The child has
    a hundred languages
    a hundred hands
    a hundred thoughts
    a hundred ways of thinking
    of playing, of speaking.
    A hundred always a hundred
    ways of listening
    of marveling of loving
    a hundred joys
    for singing and understanding
    a hundred worlds
    to discover
    a hundred worlds to invent
    a hundred worlds
    to dream.
    The child has
    a hundred languages
    (and a hundred hundred hundred more)
    but they steal ninety-nine.
    The school and the culture
    separate the head from the body.
    They tell the child:
    to think without hands
    to do without head
    to listen and not to speak
    to understand without joy
    to love and to marvel
    only at Easter and at Christmas.
    They tell the child:
    to discover the world already there
    and of the hundred
    they steal ninety-nine.
    They tell the child:
    that work and play
    reality and fantasy
    science and imagination
    sky and earth
    reason and dream
    are things
    that do not belong together.
    And they tell the child
    that the hundred is not there.
    The child says:
    No way. The hundred is there.

    ~Loris Malaguzzi
    (translated by Lella Gandini here. h/t to Mr Key)


    Hacking it out at the farm

    New entrants to farming in Britain are often faced with a long list of challenges before they even put their wellies on. Defra’s 2013 report, Future of Farming Review, details a vast array of barriers faced by new entrants to farming, and highlights the shocking figure that only 8% of British farmers are first generation.
    Across the pond in the United States, a different phenomenon is occurring: the arrival of the Greenhorns. In farming terms, a greenhorn is a novice or new entrant into agriculture, and this grass-roots group aims to help them. The Greenhorns have been making waves with their 2014 documentary on young farmers, and they are helping to change the landscape of field-to-fork farming by using technology to organise and up-skill new farmers. Recently, the Greenhorns have developed a specific tool to help connect the diaspora of new farmers spread across the United States – it’s called the ‘Farm Hack’, and it has now arrived in the UK.
    What’s a ‘Farm Hack’?
    ‘Farm Hack’ is a concept coined by the Greenhorns. Think ‘i-fixit’ combined with Wikipedia. Lots of problems – and lots of solutions – all on an open-source, easily accessible platform that allows members to interact, debate and build on each other’s ideas. Although the term ‘hack’ evokes images of computers with Matrix-style numbers flashing across the screen and a virus eating your computer from the inside out, it actually has myriad meanings. These range from the ability to cope successfully with something to breaking up the surface of soil. In recent years hack has also come to mean a congregation of people (either online or offline) aiming to take action or work together to solve a problem.
    Taking action and problem solving is exactly what occurred on a sunny spring day last month at Ruskin Mill in Gloucestershire at an event organised by the Landworkers’ Alliance. A group of farmers – some new entrants, some old hands – gathered together to find solutions to their shared problems. From Fife to Devon and Norwich to Pembrokeshire, farmers and those with technical expertise travelled from far and wide to share their knowledge and see how they could help one another address a wide range of issues faced on the farm.

    UK Farm Hack #1
    The Farm Hack was launched by Severine von Tscharner Flemming, the founder of the Greenhorns, with guests of honour L’Atelier Paysan, an innovative group of French farmers, that are reclaiming farming knowledge. The Farm Hack got off to a flying start, with the attentive attendees ready to soak in the energetic atmosphere. The highlight of the morning’s demonstrations was a bicycle-powered mill from Fergus Walker and the Fife Diet. Coined the ‘People Powered Flour Mill’,  it was an ingenious box that looked like a red rocket, and it ground wheat into flour at the turn of a pedal. The afternoon saw a host of inspiring workshops, covering compost tea preparation, 3D printing and how to set up food hubs with the Open Food Network. Alongside all this were welding, blacksmithing and green wood-working drop-in sessions.
    The second day felt like the crux of the event. It culminated in an extremely productive Open Space session that identified projects for collaboration, with a short period devoted to the development of these projects. The Open Space session allowed attendees to get stuck into what they really came for – exploring their ideas, finding solutions and offering help to others. Suggestions were made for regional working groups to skill share and to create training and barter systems, as well as tapping into expertise outside of farming from engineers, CAD experts, coders, academics and architects. These other networks provided an alternative perspective on solving farming problems by framing the issues differently. For example, a blacksmith may have the expertise to fix a broken tool, but an engineer may suggest a different tool with a new shape or a different attachment to do the job better. It was a team effort – and if you didn’t know the answer, there was almost always someone in the room who did! 

    Is technology the solution?
    Technology is often seen as the golden ticket to problem solving. But driverless tractors, drones and robots are not necessarily the answer (despite what the Daily Mail may want you to think). Instead, we need problem-solving tools that can make a real difference in the hour you have at the end of the day when you choose either to sit at the computer or water the tomatoes. The introduction of organisational tools such as Farm at HandTrello and the Farmhack wiki could potentially change the face of farming. Farmbrite is designed for record keeping and is mobile enabled so it is accessible out in the field. The Open Food Network andFarmdrop support small-scale farmers by connecting customers directly with producers in their local area. And there is Buckybox, an organisational platform designed specifically for community-supported agriculture (CSA) projects – my local grower at CSA Sims Hill Shared Harvest was raving about it over the seed beds a few mornings ago. These are tools that allow CSAs to manage their members without ever seeing each other face to face.
    One of the best ideas of the day was to invite older and more established farmers to share their expertise to help find better working systems. Meeting in real life rather than by email meant ideas could flow more freely, connections could be made and interests shared. Farmers need support through shared best practice as well as from new developments in the field. The wisdom imparted from established farmers who have seen it all before is incredibly valuable. Once this group of farmers got going, the ideas were flowing faster than Severine could note them down – a sign that a network of farmers, old and new, focused on solutions and assisted by technological tools is just what the future of farming might look like.

    First published by the Sustainable Food Trust here

    Farming, speed dating and smart phones

    Farmer using tablet
    In the UK the average farmer is 58 years old, which presents our nation with a big challenge. Not only does this suggest that farming is often not seen as a desirable career choice for young people in the UK, but some farmers of this age can find themselves ‘technologically challenged’ due to their generational relationship with technology.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not tarnishing all farmers with the same brush – many farmers and growers out there are extremely technologically adept – and not all of them are young in age.
    Often, when we talk about technology on farms, our immediate impulse may be to think of tractors, machines and even drones – money and energy intensive machinery and equipment created and used to make farming easier and therefore more profitable. But, what about technological systems on a more personal and immediate level, such as internet based tools to help organise the farm?


    Recently I volunteered on Essex Farm in Essex, New York State. Essex Farm is a community supported agriculture project where each farmer has a smart phone and the farm team used the organisational tool Trello to administrate day to day, weekly, monthly and seasonal activity. Each farmer logs on and updates their cards each night. Every morning, over a coffee, Mark – the farm owner and manager, goes through the cards for the day and tasks are prioritised and allocated. Easy – and no scraps of paper in sight.
    Of course, on snowy winter days when the internet struggles, Trello struggles too - but overall it enables the increasingly available every day tool (the smartphone) to help run the farm – a tool that most young people, whether farmers or not, tend to have in their pockets all day, every day.

    Over the pond

    Of course, in the UK we have our own issues with rural access to the internet, which is slowly, but surely, getting better year by year. Yet, farming in the USA is being revitalised aided by the simple fact that the new generation of young farmers grew up with easy access to the magic of the internet and jazzy technological tools previous generations have not seen.
    A grassroots not for profit based in New York state, the Greenhorns, aim to promote and support young farmers using technology such as; audio, video, events and publications (amongst other tools, such as ‘weed dating’ – a farming take on speed dating to help young farmers meet like minded souls) to help enable young farmers, promote best practice and to share successes and importantly – their social lives.
    This farmer driven community has developed tools such as ‘farm hack’ – an internet based community where farmers can share information. Farm hack is based on Open Source principles, allowing an horizontal exchange of information sharing and ideas. A brilliant tool designed and run by those who need it most, the farmers themselves. Farm Hack also enables farmers to build beneficial new relationships with members of the local community with desirable skill sets such as engineers and designers, bringing a social aspect to the mostly internet based tool.

    Join a Farm Hack

    And now for the exciting news… Farm Hack has arrived in the UK. On April 18th the Landworkers Alliance held the first ever Farm Hack outside of the USA. Combined with the CSA network designed to link up community supported agriculture projects across the UK by promoting information sharing, best practice and promote a fairer food system, and some great apprenticeship programmes like the Soil Association’s Future Growers scheme – we’re making steps in the right direction. Watch this space!

    Originally published on the Soil Association's blog here

    Holly is a freelance communications and digital communications consultant working mainly with the food and farming industry and specialising in digital communication, social media and web copy. Follow her on Twitter or connect onLinkedIn.


    faraway nearby

    "Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out the other side and met people there.
     Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone."

    Rebecca Solnit - The Faraway Nearby



    This really nice short on 3 very different women who surf in NYC is dedicated to my very own surfer girl gang who escape to the waves every weekend. Even though I've only been out twice with them, I get it. I really get it. 

    AWAY (short film) from Elisa Bates on Vimeo.