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The tip of the Iceberg or the start of a brand new venture?

Posted on 03 February 2017

There has been a lettuce of uproar today when it was announced that Iceberg lettuce – and its mate broccoli - is being rationed at some supermarkets across the UK, with poor growing conditions in southern Europe are being cited as the reason for the shortage. 

Personally, I’m very impressed that a humble Iceberg lettuce can break the internet. I thought vegetables had reached their peak a few weeks back when courgettes were trending.

But before you start stockpiling lettuce and popping it on eBay, this may be the perfect time to take a leaf – see what I did there? – out of a gardener’s book and grow your own.

There are many reasons that people grow their own fruit and veggies. Sometimes it’s for pleasure and they enjoy gardening, sometimes it’s a money thing - after all, it is cost effective to grow your own, and sometimes it’s that sheer joy of knowing….I grew that!

I’ve had a go at growing my own tomatoes before – and it’s not the easiest thing to do! It does take patience and regular feeding and watering. Ironically, I don’t even like tomatoes – but my tortoise, Esio-Trot, thought all his Christmases had come at once when I presented him with the first cherry tomato from the plant.

Late last year I visited a rehabilitation centre in Manchester, where Groundwork runs weekly courses to teach gardening, growing and other life skills. I got chatting to a lady called Paula who had been at the residential centre for a few months and during her time there had taken over the running of the small garden.

The garden was predominantly made up of raised beds with various pots here, there and everywhere. Paula showed me all the flowers and vegetables she has grown. It was truly lovely to hear her talking so passionately about something that obviously meant so much to her. 

Paula had even applied for two jobs as a horticulture assistant on the back of the confidence and skills she had learnt. I spent a lovely afternoon chatting to here and when I left she gave me a huge bag of lettuce for Esio (lucky tort wins again!) which was such a lovely gesture.

You see, growing food and gardening is so much more than having a tasty meal at the end of it. It’s about feeling the benefits of the fresh air and the outdoors and learning new skills to pass onto family and friends. It provides an outlet for people to forget their troubles, a space where they can go and grow as people. Community gardens and allotments also provide the outlet for people to meet and make friends, providing much needed social interaction for those who may live alone. 

The Incredible Edible Network is a prime example of people coming together to create a sustainable food economy that the whole community can benefit from. Their network in Todmorden grows fruit, herbs and vegetables that the whole community can share – in places such as the town centre and train station - as well as hosting cooking demonstrations and events to help bring people together to see – and taste – the benefits of homegrown produce, to help strengthen their local food economy.

The Communities Living Sustainably Programme, that was coordinated by Groundwork alongside a partnership of like-minded organisations, was also designed to allow communities to reap the benefits that come from growing, sharing and cooking local produce. Our handy 'Strengthening the local food economy' guide explains this further, with tips of the trade of how communities really can create something special when it comes to sustainable, local grub.  

So, as much as I’ve enjoyed the satirical tweets, I can’t help but think that maybe this Iceberg lettuce shortage is a sub-conscious message to us all that maybe we should get outside and have a go at growing.

Because you can guarantee, that there is someone that lives quite close to you who is looking out their window and seeing their lovely crop of lettuce without fear of never being able to have a ham salad sandwich again.

Unless they put it on eBay of course!

Post by Stacey Aplin, PR and Communications Officer

Groundwork UK