Other Vegan Views articles
Grassroots News Vegan Views 96 (Spring 2003)

In VV95, Malcolm Horne criticised the UK Vegan Society for not providing enough support to grassroots in the vegan movement. This prompted us to ensure that Vegan Views does as much as it can in promoting these groups, so here's a summary of what two are doing.

Vegan Organic Network/Trust (VON/VOT)

They hope to set up a stockfree organic agriculture education, research and development centre with full-time and voluntary staff. No such centre currently exists. Money raised so far is £70,000 from a legacy passed on by the Movement for Compassionate Living, and £5,000 from fund raising. But over £400,000 is needed in total, and they desperately need donations from individuals and groups. Please send donations to VOT, Anandavan, 58 High Lane, Chorlton, Manchester M21 9DZ.

Jenny Hall has completed the first two chapters of a vegan-organic growers' manual, with help from Dave Darlington and Iain Tolhurst, two of the most experienced vegan market gardeners.

They have issued the world's first comprehensive Standards for Stockfree Organic Farming, assisted by the Soil Association. Unlike the Soil Association VOT do not have over 100 paid staff, just a highly motivated voluntary group and generous supporters!

Their magazine, Growing Green International which is sent free to members, now runs to 44 pages.

See VV94: Vegan Shakers for interview with three active VON members.

Plants for a Future (PFAF)

Shaping the Future of Plants For A Future in April 2002 attracted 45 people. There was a site tour with a wheelbarrow picnic. Trees were donated and planted including walnut, fig, dogwood and plum. Fencing maintenance was carried out, a kitchen garden was reclaimed, and a rustic retreat shower facility was built.

South West Permaculture Convergence at PFAF in June 2002 was self sufficient in water - all was collected from a mobile home roof, filtered through a ceramic water filter.

30 people went to the Autumn Equinox Gathering in Sept 2002. There was a full tour of the demonstration gardens and the whole site; a fence maintenance work party to seal off holes in the dear and rabbit fences; constructing the display tables for the plant sales area; and discussions on plants and sustainable living.

The Garden of Love Woodland Gardening Courses in Oct 2002 went through the whole design and implementation process, focusing around an existing one acre woodland patch, "The Garden of Love", dedicated to the memory of Robert Hart, the pioneer of temperate 'forest gardening'. Stephen Nutt was the excellent tutor with input from PFAF on interesting plants to uses. The first weekend looked at surveying techniques and mapping out the site. The second looked at more detailed design on chosen areas within the site and selecting plant guilds for these areas.

Green Woodworking in Oct 2002 was spent creating various items. The tutor, Anthony Walters, brought a pole lathe, a couple of shaving horses and woodworking tools. Everyone created something, from spoons and bowls to tables and a cloche frame. They also looked at an area of woodland and harvested the materials required for the course.

Woodland Working Weekends Nov/Dec 2002 included tree felling, construction of a crooked woodshed and weaving the sides of their treebog.

One Day Tours and Visits PFAF had visits from the Devon Wildlife Trust discussing the Culm Grassland on site, an important wildlife habitat. The Bristol Permaculture Groups and a permaculture course from Exeter also came along for site tours. All site visitors are given welcome packs, including visitors record sheets and the PFAF Quiz on useful plants. The visitors centre is packed with information including all 40 PFAF leaflets and a well stocked library. New leaflets include the PFAF Virtual Catalogue with concise information on 200 of their favourite plants, and a new leaflet by Ken on Plants for a Woodland Edge.

They have completed their Fey Fund grant period and have had over 200 people visits last year. They received a grant from the Devon and West Somerset Key Fund for £25,000 in October 2001 towards capital costs at their Blagdon site and setting up a training/volunteer program. This enabled them to buy tools and safety equipment for volunteers, make a new site entrance and buy a 12-ton digger to construct their car park and lake.

They had many stalls including one at Halwil Junction Mind Body and Spirit Fair 5 miles from the Blagdon site which helped build local relations. Ken Fern of PFAF was invited to join the panel in an Organic Gardeners Question Time event at the Henry Doubleday Research Association AGM, and held a stall there. At first the questions centred around normal organic growing, but towards the end turned more towards permaculture and alternative plants - Ken was in full form giving details of alternative root crops. They nearly ran out of their publications. This was probably their most successful stall of the year.

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Cross-reference: Growing Fruit & Veg