And we’re off!

Hello, I’m Rachel, one of the research team on the EQUI-Food project responsible for developing resources so people can get involved with the project. I’m excited this week since we have officially launched the project sharing our webpage, promoting on social media and giving out flyers. More than this I’m so pleased that I get to work with some fantastic people with a completely different set of skills and expertise, who are working across the country and I get to learn a whole heap of new things about soil.

At the beginning of the year our team had never met before. By early March we had come up with a project idea and got our idea funded. We were all excited (if not a bit overwhelmed) to work together on something new that we were all passionate and curious about. We needed to get cracking getting everything ready to go. For the last few months we’ve been turning our proposal into an actual project, filling out lots of paperwork (not so fun), making lots of decisions, doing lots of preparation, scouting out potential sites and buying some materials (lots of fun). My next job is taking these materials, that are now scattered around my house and office, to finalise the growing and monitoring kit to send out to people when they sign-up. 

First version of the kit being developed.

I’ve been a food grower and tinkerer for a while in allotments, but it was my dad that really got me into growing as a kid. We were always mucking about in the garden growing food, but also making space for other creatures like frogs, birds, hedgehogs and newts.

This is where I learnt how magical the soil can be, but also how it’s quite a mysterious in how it actually works and what’s in there. It’s often difficult to understand whether your soil is good or bad for growing or for wildlife or both.

We had this recently when our sprouts didn’t do so well due to club foot, a fungus that lives in the ground for years that allotment growers know all too well means your soil needs lots of nourishing with lime for many years to get rid of it. We didn’t know this and have been growing there for years wondering why our cauliflowers and broccoli were a bit rubbish. Hard to see this kind of fungus, and really hard to know what your soil is up to because there’s lots going on in there.

Recently I worked with artists in London interested in exploring and showing what exciting things live in the soil when we look at samples under a microscope and get up close. Tiny colourful textured wriggling and crawling, sensory worlds emerge.

Urban soils are even trickier since there are so many variables; pots, containers, allotments, vertical growing, parks, verges, and the soil comes from so many different sources, with different pollutants, sunlight and rain fall. I’m curious what we will find in the soil, with some of the more technical analysis that Felicity will be leading on, to the well-being aspects that Beth will help us understand and how Louise and Chloe can help us turn this into future practice will also be important. 

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