Grow Your Own
The social-media stars to know now are no longer fashion influencers or footballers, but instead farmers and foragers, simply sharing their everyday – from cultivating seasonal produce to cooking outdoors in idyllic countryside locations.
While some have seen this trend as a response to the pandemic, the grow-your-own movement has been popular among the younger generation for some years. In 2018, a UK study showed that 43% of gardeners under 40 grow their own vegetables compared to 32% of over-60s; while The National Gardening Association in the US found that 1 in 3 households and 63% of millennials were growing their own ingredients. These numbers have since increased across the global population (almost half of UK households grew their own fruit, vegetables or herbs last year), with seed sales rocketing (some suppliers even ran out of stock in spring 2020), and many committing to growing seasonal ingredients on windowsills, and in home gardens or neighbourhood allotments.
Meanwhile, in space-deprived urban areas, the potential of vertical and rooftop farms could signal the future of food production. Take Bangkok’s Thammasat University, which is now home to Asia’s largest urban rooftop farm. At 7,000sqm, its design defends against food insecurity and flooding as a result of the climate crisis: ‘Urban rooftop farms are an easy and effective climate solution, and should be the norm,’ landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom told Reuters.
Gather & Grow
Based in Utah, US, Brianne Dela Cruz (gatherandgrow.com) began growing her own to feel closer to her late grandmother, who was an ‘incredible gardener’, at a time when she was also experiencing burnout in her career. ‘I had no clue what I was doing, I just started by planting a few seeds,’ Brianne told The Floristry. ‘When I harvested my first crop, I was so overjoyed! That process of nurturing a plant and tuning into the micro-shifts of a season revolutionised the way I viewed myself, life and the natural world.’
Brianne now teaches others how to read and sense the landscape, to grow their own food and rekindle their relationship with nature. ‘I’ve gleaned so much personal wisdom from the natural world,’ explained Brianne. ‘One of the most beautiful lessons is that nature is constantly changing – within each iteration of a cycle, nothing is quite the same as it was before, which makes life interesting and dynamic. This is a good reminder to live in the present moment and cherish all aspects of life, beautiful or challenging.’
Her mission continues in the form of an historic farmhouse on a half-acre of long-neglected land, which she plans to bring back to life alongside her husband. ‘Our goal is to regenerate the soil and create habitats for native flora and fauna to thrive. We’re installing our landscape in a way that enables us to grow a decent amount of our own food, as well as wild plants we can “forage”.’ The winters are cold and snowy here – a perfect time to try wild teas. ‘Not only is it an easy way to get the medicinal benefits,’ said Brianne, ‘it’s also a way to get to know the plants, their flavour profile and their energy as a living being.’ This sense of give and take, of symbiosis, seems integral to Brianne’s teachings: ‘Let the growing process be an experiment: have fun with it and don’t take failures too hard. Remember, the difference between a master gardener and novice gardener is that a master gardener has killed a lot more plants.’
Do we all have the ability to nourish ourselves and our planet? ‘Growing our food is what our species has done for thousands of years, and only just in the last century have we stopped doing it,’ said Brianne. ‘More and more people are realising how detrimental it is to be removed from the source of our food.’
For chef turned photographer and writer Cliodhna Prendergast (cliodhnaprendergast.com), the movement must extend far beyond our backyards. ‘Something’s got to give,’ Cliodhna told The Floristry, ‘we can’t keep eating un-seasonal, pre-cut food from little plastic containers. [While] growing your own is wonderful… supporting local farmers/growers in the area, keeping the markets alive [also helps] communities remain vibrant and connected, as they depend more upon one and other.’
Cliodhna lives on the rugged west coast of Ireland, surrounded by mountains on the edge of the Atlantic – this landscape inspired her first steps into foraging, seeking out nettles to make soup at age 14, and her much sought-after menus as head chef at Delphi Lodge. ‘I had mushrooms and blackberries, garlic and wild salmon on my doorstep… Waiting for and celebrating each ingredient as it comes into season is a huge part of my life, the food I cook, and the reason I love where I live.’
Indeed, her images read like a love letter to her environment, offering inspiration to her 16.3k Instagram followers (@cliodhnaprendergast) on everything from local fish markets to her favourite spots for cooking outdoors. ‘One of my absolute favourite things to do is to light a small fire while out foraging,’ explained Cliodhna. There is something simple and primal about it – being outside makes you hungrier, food tastes better. [While] early spring can be quite cold and windy, I have a lovely spot – clear of trees yet surrounded by them – where I can safely light a fire. The wood sorrel covers the forest floor like a carpet of green. I have a little three-legged skillet, [on which I would cook] some spring lamb with a gremolata of wild herbs, garlic and sorrel with fire-baked potatoes dripping in melted butter.’
When it comes to foraging for ingredients or eating more seasonally, Cliodhna suggests we learn from nature and the professionals through observation: ‘Notice the seasons, note when things appear and how long they last for… become attuned.’ And she lives by this advice: ‘Connemara slows down in January and February, which means we all have a little more time… We eat game birds, the chanterelles can last into early January, we gather seaweed and wild garlic and walk the hills in the beautiful low winter light.’ For Cliodhna, this is what the natural world teaches us all: care for the land, connect with your inner self, cherish what we have.