Those who see our need to grow more of our own food in the future as harking back to the Dig For Victory campaign need to buck their ideas up, say food policy experts. ‘I get very pissed off when people say “oh, it’ll be just like the war”,’ says Rosie Boycott, former editor of the Independent and now supporting the ‘Capital Growth’ project – a campaign to develop 2,012 new growing spaces in London by 2012. ‘In those days we had loads of orchards, we had loads of farmers, we did grow loads of stuff. At the moment, 70 per cent of the wheat we grow goes to feed cattle which then feed us. And we have no fruit – the fact that Tescos and Sainsbury’s stock apples from New Zealand in September is a scandal, and that has to stop.’
Alan Knight, a commissioner at the Government’s Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), echoed Boycott’s call to drop the war mentality:
‘Dig For Victory sits uncomfortably with me,’ he told a seminar convened by research charity, Garden Organic. ‘Dig For Victory was, “we’re in a crisis, the Germans are coming – stop everything, dig up your gardens, dig up your roundabouts – we’ll beat the Germans… and then it’s back to business-as-usual”. We’re not digging for victory, we’re creating a new form of lifestyle. So don’t dig for victory, because when victory is over you go back to the lifestyle you wanted to protect from the Germans.’
But despite the backlash against nostalgia, gathered experts agree that gardening has a serious and substantial role to play in contributing towards the UK’s food security.
Margi Lennartsson, Policy Director at Garden Organic said that gardening was a rational response to peak oil and food shortages.
‘We firmly believe that gardens should play a key part in securing the future of our food and this must be recognised by Government,’ she said. ‘Gardens are an undervalued and underused resource, and with over 82 per cent of the nation’s households having access to a garden or green space, their potential is huge.’
Boycott said that growing your own would bring other social benefits.
‘The very act of growing starts to breed within you a kind of a resilience, and a sense of your own way of surviving, instead of being in total dependence on the fact that money will always come out of the hole in the wall and that there will always be food in Tescos, because I think the day will come when things will not be quite as clear as that,’ she said.