We had our first set of classes this week, and boy were they a doozy. From foraging to taking soil samples, a whole lot of new (and very interesting) information was presented and absorbed (well, as much our brains allowed before completely short circuiting).
In Monday’s session, expert Scottish forager and author, Fi Martynoga, paid us a visit. She spoke about the history and practice of foraging, even taking us (literally) out into the field to teach us about local flora we can eat (including hazelnuts!). We also discussed the debate of whether foraged items are nothing more than a trendy thing for chefs to put on their menu or if they are as culturally significant to us today as they had been with our hunting and gathering ancestors.
Tuesday we got into the nitty gritty (quite literally) of soil. From testing some in our allotments to learning about the basic structure, to the impact of different tyre sizes on tractors, as well as the necessity and massive importance of healthy soil, we just about covered it all. I think we were amazed and a bit worried about the future of food production after learning about the current state of soil health in the UK and around the world.
Our guest lecturer, Dr Kenneth Loades of the Hutton Institute, gave us a terrific overview of the importance of soil as well as the research he was doing, including ways to combat soil loss. He also told us a bit about the future of soil, including that if nothing is done to stop or slow soil degradation, be that as a result of wind erosion, mismanagement via a lack of knowledge for proper treatment and cultivation, etc., there are only 60 harvests left before farming will cease to exist (!).
Despite the seemingly impending doom of mankind, we also discussed to be a lot of good things being done to make sure our food sources don’t run dry. Things like urban farming, where communities that may not otherwise see where the source of their food, now have the opportunity to grow and pick what ends up on their dinner plate. And of course, we would be remiss to not touch on the issue of organic versus convention farming, which I think many of us came to the conclusion that there seems to have no definitive answers in terms of which one is truly better for us (nutritionally and in regards to sustainability).
Sunday, a group of us are going to an all-day beekeeping course at the Colstoun Cookery School, which should be quite nice, although I am a bit nervous as I have never been stung by a bee (and hopefully won’t after Sunday -knocks on wood-). Keep an eye out for a recap of my adventures in Beekeeping along with another post next week!