In Britain, we import around 40% of our food.This means, a nation that voted to leave the EU to take control of its affairs, doesn’t have control of its food supply. This leaves us islanders on decidedly shakey ground. My think tank, ‚Bioregion Birmingham‘, has been calling on Birmingham City Council to use its green spaces for food growing initiatives instead of selling it to private developers.

One of the most multi-functional ways we could provide food would be to create ‚forest gardens‘. A forest garden is a designed agronomic system based on trees, shrubs and perennial plants. These are mixed in such a way as to mimic the structure of a natural forest – the most stable and sustainable type of ecosystem in our climate. Only difference is we plant edible, medicinal and fibrous crops that can be used to help meet our needs.

Forest gardens are comprised of mineral accumulating plants and nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs, creating a closed loop of fertility. This means that few, if any, external inputs are required to produce food each year – unlike most modern day agricultural practices. They also improve biodiversity increasing habitats.

Bordesley Green Forest Garden,a 1 acre site, will be a test bed for this theory. So far trees and shrubs have been planted, Next herbs and groundcover will be added. In the next few years, we could be one of the largest urban food forests in the West Midlands.

I recently worked out that the Council’s plan to sell 8 acres of land a year meant there were at least 32 acres of land available, assuming this policy applied until 2020. By my calculations, based on the yields of a forest garden I visited in Scotland, we could produce around 190 tonnes of food each year on 32 acres of land managed as forest gardens. 190 tonnes! To put this into context, Sparkhill food bank has previoulsy reported having to provide a tonne of food each week – or 52 tonnes a year. We could meet the needs of this food bank, only with healthier food, and have enough surplus to make such a scheme self-funding.

To find out more look at our Facebook page: Bordesley Green Forest Garden

Andrew Walton is project co-ordinator for Bordesley Green Forest Garden and founder of the Bioregion Birmingham think tank.

Written by Andrew Walton