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Rewilding your plate

ecoJersey | Published:

India Hamilton, co-founder of SCOOP The Sustainable Cooperative, introduces us to our Island’s amazing food biodiversity, talks to permaculturalist Mark Forskitt and cooks us a remarkably meal with delicious locally sourced ingredient

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JERSEY is full of edible biodiversity and highly fertile land, but first it is important to understand why. Although islands only make up six per cent of the world’s land mass, they provide a home for over 25 per cent of the world’s biodiversity.

It was on an island that Darwin solidified his thoughts on evolution. Islands, such as Nauru in the Pacific, have such a high resource of fossilised bird droppings that even Jersey farmers would have used it as a fertiliser in the 80s and 90s before the commercialisation of synthetic fertilisers.

Biodiversity is a key factor in protecting the environment and creating new opportunities to support Jersey’s ecological potential.

Among Jersey’s 37,000 vergées of potato and dairy farms, 500 miles of road, 40,000 buildings, 1,000 swimming pools, six reservoirs, 2,000 vergées of sports fields and 100 vergées of graveyards exists our vital biodiversity.

Rewild My Plate, an agricultural investigation supported by the art collective Morning Boat, counted 450 edible land and shoreline plants and 180 plant varieties being grown in the Island’s 675 vergées of organic land and smallholdings.

In conversation with with Mark Forskitt I went off to St. Ouen to meet a dedicated ecologist who is championing biodiversity.

Mark Forskitt is a believer in selfreliance through biodiversity. He lives with his family at The Source – and you quickly learn why its name is so apt. A dedicated permaculturalist, he feeds his family and sells his surplus through his honesty box, Organic Veg Box Scheme and SCOOP.

Could you give me an overview of the varieties that you grow?

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The diversity is more in plant families and species than varieties. I often only grow one or two varieties of most vegetables, though I might trial another if it is new to me or looks to be promising for some reason.

As a certified organic grower, I have to rotate crops, so I group things mostly around families. At any one time, about a third of the main area is in grass.

What does biodiversity mean to you?

At its core, I guess it means thinking in a systems way rather than trying to optimise one thing. That also encompasses thinking beyond the immediate human benefit. It incorporates attending to what is good for the soil and for wildlife.

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Done right, it ought to result in a resilient and abundant flow of produce and life.

How does your production fare in the changing climate?

So far the changes in climate haven’t had much impact. Last year was testing. It was cold, then wet, then dry for so long. But all of those scenarios are comparable with things that have happened in the last century or two.

Growing a large diversity of plants gives a degree of resilience.

You will never be optimal but are likely do well to make up somewhat for the ones that struggle.

I can see a few changes coming. The two that seem most likely are changes in precipitation patterns and the increasing probability of winters without a proper frost. I use a lot of mulch in my system so dry periods are not too much of a serious problem.

The lack of frosts, however, is a concern, as they help to manage some pests and diseases.

What other challenges do we face?

Population growth is regularly accused of being the cause of many problems but, in many cases, it is the way we choose to live that is the problem, as this dramatically alters the size of both our positive and negative impact.

Following the report from the UN, showing a 60 percent drop in species, there has never been a more important time to interact, assist and protect biodiversity and there is nothing easier than encouraging diversity through your diet.

With over 450 vegetables to choose from on this magical Island, instead of eating your five a day, you can aim for 25 varieties a week and start to rewild your plate.

Debbie Cameron

By Debbie Cameron
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