What factors support and promote home-based food-growing in four neighbourhoods in SW Sheffield?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

The Best Growers Charts #6 through #9

Question 18, “What are you currently growing?” had 5 pertinent responses; nothing, medicinal or cooking herbs, leafy vegetables, root crops, fruit and/or berries. A look at the factors that were common to all or most of these “best” growers might be instructive.

In Chart #6 the educational qualifications of those growing all 4 food types, the best growers, are indicated. All but one of the best growers households have a resident with a first degree or higher. Though it is not certain whether increasing levels of education means more likelihood of food-growing within this cohort, it is not unreasonable to expect so.

The high level of educational qualification is reflected in high levels of concern for peak oil and energy prices as well as food supply and food prices. See Chart #7. Contrast this with those 15 with A level or lower qualifications, 7 expressed less than midrange concern for climate change, 8 expressed less than midrange concern for peak oil. Strangely, 10 of the 15 expressed mid or higher concern for energy prices and 9 expressed mid or higher concern for food prices while 8 expressed below midrange concern for food supply. Of the 7 that expressed mid or higher concern for food supply, 5 grow 1 or less food item and none has or is on a waiting list for an allotment though 4 would grow more with a bigger garden.

In Chart #8 we see that the well educated and committed food growers are also committed to cooking fresh local food but less so to buying organic food. This could be due to the availability of homegrown supply as 11 of the 14 grow organically. While 5 have an allotment only 6 expressed a need for more growing space in the form of an allotment or bigger home garden.

Even though all but one of this group have first degree or higher, this is no guarantee of earning power, see Chart #9. Of the 51 surveyed with first or advanced degrees, all of the respondents earning 71k or higher have just first degree, no higher. The 13 with advanced degrees earn 30k or under.

In the case of the less well off of these growers, food purchase choices are likely down to income. If we examine responses to other questions that could be construed as income related, all 4 of those at the 11-20k bracket express midrange or higher concern for energy prices, have done 3 or more energy efficiency measures in the household, and have someone in the home who is retired, unemployed or in part time employment. Only 1 has a full timer in the household and 3 state that they grow to save money. 2 would grow more with free advice or instruction.
Health concerns could also be a motivator for growing with this group. 12 of the 14 best growers do not smoke, 8 exercise 4 times/week or more, 9 drink 3 to 4 drinks per week or less, 13 grow because they want the freshest produce, 11 grow for therapy.

These best growers appear to understand the threats posed by climate change and the connections between peak oil and food supply as well as energy and food prices. The less educated appear to understand this less so and grow less food.

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