Growing your own produce – An important reminder from Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba)

“After Brexit you will suffer…even governments and other organisations are planning to start farming, so Khuddam-Ul-Ahmadiyya should also encourage this”

(Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Al Khamis (aba), on the occasion of the National Khuddam Amla UK Mulaqat, 18/02/17)


Hazrat Khalifatul Massih Al Khamis (aba) has highlighted the ever-changing political dynamics of the world and how this could impact food supplies. Huzoor (may Allah strengthen his hand) referred to how countries around the world are turning their attention towards farming; as uncertainly grows worldwide. Along with this, our beloved Imam also emphasised the importance of members of Khuddamul Ahmadiya to start growing their own produce and participate in self-farming.

This article aims to further discuss the various components which make the call for self-farming so important from a socio-political, economic and environmental point of view – which our beloved Huzoor referred to.

Not our own

Did you know that more than 50% of the UK’s food originates from foreign countries?

Researchers have concluded that the UK’s food self-sufficiency has declined substantially over the last few decades. In comparison to 25 years ago there has been a sharp rise in food and feed being imported from other countries. The EU, south-east Asia and South America are the most common places where the UK sources its food, but studies suggest that increasing reliance on overseas food will only make the situation harder for the UK to become self-sufficient. Data from the National Farmers Union suggests that the UK will be one of the most populated countries in the EU, by the mid-2040s – meaning that UK will only be able to grow food to feed 53% of the population. [1]

Just in recent times we witnessed a shortage of vegetables here in the UK, caused by bad weather in southern Europe, which highlighted this dependence on supply from outside the UK.[2] Though many do not focus on such issues with great importance, nevertheless they are very serious and can have dire consequences. Therefore, becoming self-sufficient in terms of growing food is essential.

A larger footprint

The situation grows increasingly complex as the countries who grow to provide for the UK are themselves troubled with negative environmental impacts. The Journal of the Royal Society Interface found that since 1986, the land used to grow the UK’s produce abroad has grown by 23% to cater for the growing demand. The same Journal found that levels of greenhouse gases and pollution released from foreign soils to produce the UK’s food have risen from 50% in 1987 to 62% in 2008.[3]

Now, if there was a higher self-growing and self-farming culture in the UK we would not have so much demand from outside sources, and in turn the negative environmental impact from outsourcing our food would also reduce.

Out of Europe

With so much uncertainty surrounding the effects of Brexit, it will most surely have direct impacts to the UK’s fruit and vegetable industry – as Huzoor (may Allah strengthen his hand) alluded to. Looking at how low our self-sufficiency is already and how much food comes from the EU, it is obvious how dependent we are on Europe. For example, at the moment the UK imports fruit and vegetables from Spain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, and Poland just to name a few. Brexit will only strain the UK as the food market will be directly impacted- shopping markets are already seeing this as a great concern.

One of the major consequences of Brexit would be that Britain will be unable to produce the fruit and vegetables grown in the UK, if the government cannot come to a deal that allows tens of thousands of Europeans to work on UK farms as seasonal workers. It is said, that if Britain took the EU workers out of the supply chain, UK supermarket shelves will be completely empty from British grown produce within five days! Sue Pritchard, director of the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, warned that no deal over the exit from EU would have a dramatic and instant effect:

“What would be available on the shelves would change dramatically. There will be delays at ports and all along the food supply system – the impact will be felt very, very quickly,”[4]

Another direct impact will be on food prices – which will certainly rise significantly. Following Brexit, the UK will face higher tariffs on fruit and vegetables being imported from the EU; raising the overall price of fruit and veg for us as well.

UK throwing away £13bn of food each year

Food is a valued resource and yet UK households throw away approximately 7.3 tonnes of food every year. Of this, 4.4 million tonnes could have been consumed. Whilst food is being wasted in the UK, there are millions around the world who are suffering from a shortage of food. In fact, many people suffering from food shortage grow their own food anyway, yet still have difficulty providing for themselves (due to adverse weather conditions for growing food).

By growing your own food, the waste will automatically decline as one learns to appreciate the care and effort which goes into growing. Further, growing your own will help to decrease the food wastage during transportation and storage and even the carbon emissions created from importing food. Growing your own vegetables, herbs or fruits and using them as ingredients at home, would only make you value food more. Likewise, you would think twice about wasting your food after all the effort.

Grow Now

With all this dependency on foreign supply, it is vital that we try to become as self-sufficient as possible. Even a minor shock to the political, economic and industrial systems of the world could very easily land the UK (us!) with no food on our shelves. However, there is a solution; one which our ancestors have been using for millions of years – self farming!

Growing your own vegetables and produce is not rocket-science, in fact every single reader of this article can start growing from today! Take Kathleen Frith’s words (the managing director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School) who says:

“growing food is very simple. It takes a little time, but things like tomatoes, lettuce, peppers — basic kitchen crops — are very forgiving. Really, anyone can learn to grow food pretty easily.” [5]

Plus, besides the benefits mentioned in this article like the positive effect on the environment and the reduction in food wastage, there are countless benefits of growing your own food.

You will have fresh, pesticide free, and 100% organic fruit and vegetables which will also be richer in nutrients and minerals as compared to the highly treated supermarket fruit and vegetables. Your food will also taste better as the moisture and nutrients will be retained.

Further, growing your own food is highly rewarding. The satisfaction one receives from picking his own fruit and vegetables is second to none, but you will have to try it to see for yourself !

Countless studies have concluded that food which is grown at home is much healthier and nutritious than that of those bought in supermarkets due to the lack of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides which is usually sprayed on mass produced fruit and vegetables.

Studies have also shown that growing your own food alleviates signs of depression and anxiety [6] –in fact, growing vegetables is an approved therapy for improving mental health. And of course, the physical benefits of growing your own food go without saying!

One of the major advantages of growing your own food is the money you can save. The price of some seeds is extremely cheap, one pack of seeds costs as less as £3 (sometimes even less) which can give you a good number of fruits or vegetables. Also, keep in mind that ‘organic’ vegetables and fruit always cost a lot more in super markets (keep in mind that they are not 100% organic anyway), but if you grow your own you are receiving organic food for free!

Those who grow their own fruit and vegetables will testify to the fact that their shopping bills reduced after they started to grow their own food.

Growing your own food is also a fun activity in which all your family and friends can get involved. From digging up the ground to planting the seeds, and finally harvesting the produce; it is an activity which involves everyone.

MKA Horticultural Society

The greatest motivating factor for us all is the instruction of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih (may Allah strengthen his hands) who has directly advised that Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya should also focus on growing and farming.

In light of Huzoor’s instructions the MKA Horticultural Society has been set up to aid, motivate and help Khuddam in farming and self-growing. The MKA Horticultural Society is a platform for Khuddam to learn and develop their skills in growing their own food whilst sharing one another’s knowledge, experiences and advice.

So keep an eye out for future articles, events and training – watch this space!

 


Article references:

  1. https://www.nfuonline.com/assets/43617
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38666752
  3. Journal of the Royal Society Interface – Published 6 January 2016
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/01/most-of-uks-fruit-and-veg-is-from-other-eu-nations-so-brexit-impact-may-be-dramatic
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/backyard-gardening-grow-your-own-food-improve-your-health-201206294984
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/jun/04/nhs-depression-gardening