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Welcome to the Vegan Organic Network (VON) Newsletter!

'Black kids say to me, what's a garden designer?'  Why it's time to solve horticulture's diversity problem

In 2016, Juliet Sargeant became the first black designer to create a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Her Modern Slavery Garden won gold.

Sargeant said at the time: “I don’t come across any other black garden designers when I’m out and about. But that doesn’t mean black people aren’t interested in gardening and design. I think they do not culturally feel part of the horticultural scene.”

Flo Headlam, who became the first black Gardeners’ World presenter in 2017, says: “It is the moment to be talking about diversity in all walks of life and industries.”

Chayo Melara-Page, 17, has made a Youtube rap video as ‘Bicho Cezar’ for the Vegan Organic Network, filmed on his mum and stepdad’s Manchester allotment. During childhood visits to his father’s farm in El Salvador he developed his love of growing plants: “I’ve always loved plants and gardening and been interested in nature. As a kid, I didn’t play games inside, I climbed trees.

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The Poisoning Of Lake Erie

A Case for Granting Rights to Nature

On 2 August 2014, the 500,000 residents of Toledo, Ohio woke up to a city alert. "Urgent Water Notice! DO NOT DRINK THE WATER. DO NOT BOIL THE WATER." Hours later, local shops had sold out of bottled water. Toledoans scattered as far as 100 km (62 miles) from the city in search of water.

Algal blooms in Lake Erie, the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world, had infused Toledo's tap water with microcystin, a potent toxin that can cause vomiting diarrhoea, and liver failure.

"it has become necessary that we... extend legal rights to our natural environment in order to ensure that the natural world, along with our values, our interests, and our rights, are no longer subordinated to the accumulation of surplus wealth and unaccountable political power."

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Get your gardening/farming tips from Veganic Farmer Jenny Hall, Super Organic Gardener Matthew Appleby and Wildlife Film Maker Piers Warren.

In pictures: sowing sea meadows in the UK to fight climate change

More than 1 million seagrass seeds are being planted around the British Isles as part of a project to restore sea meadows, which are believed to capture carbon faster than tropic rainforests, whilst providing habitats for marine life.

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Fruit Trenches: Cultivating Subtropical Plants in Freezing Temperatures

Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, mandarins, tangerines, grapefruits, limes, pomeloes) are the highest-value fruit crop in terms of international trade. Citrus plants are not frost-hardy and can only be grown in tropical and subtropical climates – unless they are cultivated in fossil fuel heated glasshouses. 

However, during the first half of the twentieth century, citrus fruits came to be grown a good distance from the (sub)tropical regions they usually thrive in. The Russians managed to grow citrus outdoors, where temperatures drop as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius, and without the use of glass or fossil fuels.

By 1950, the Soviet Union boasted 30,000 hectares of citrus plantations, producing 200,000 tonnes of fruits per year.

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Study in the Netherlands shows: An organic arable farming system without animal manure is quite feasible and delivers sufficient yields

The Dutch foundation SPNA agroresearch has just published a sneak preview of a long-term study on plant-based arable farming without animal manure. This study will serve as a benchmark for other studies addressing similar questions with regard to biocyclic-vegan agriculture.

The conclusion so far:

An organic arable farming system without animal manure, that is completely self-sufficient in nitrogen (no external nitrogen supplies) and that uses cut-and-carry fertilizer is quite feasible and delivers sufficient yields. The environmental burden is minimal, energy consumption is low and biodiversity is high.

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Seed by seed, a women’s collective helps reforest Brazil’s Xingu River Basin

When their baskets and bags are full, the group makes their way to the Yarang Women’s Movement Seed House, located between the Moygu and Arayó villages and home to the Ikpeng people of Mato Grosso state. The women finish processing the seeds using a sieve, then lay them out to dry before storing them until an order comes in. Six hours after leaving their villages for the daily seed-gathering walk, the women return home.

For more than 10 years, the 65 members of the Yarang Women’s Movement have steadfastly and meticulously combed the dense forest surrounding their villages for native seeds. The group’s name, yarang, means leafcutter ant in the local language and was chosen by Airé Ikpeng, a leader in the community. “We work like the leafcutter ants who work together, relish seeds, go into the forest, do the collecting. They work with seeds, always as a group,” said Kore Ikpeng, one of the seed collectors, in an August 2019 video produced by Instituto Socioambiental.

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Compost or Mulch?

In vegan-organic growing the soil amendments are nearly all of plant origin. But plant residues cannot feed the crops directly – they first need to be broken down into very simple inorganic substances before the roots of the crops can absorb them. The final stage of this breakdown is carried out by microorganisms – bacteria and fungi.
We can divide vegan-organic soil amendments into two distinct classes, according to where this microbial breakdown takes place. They may be either composts or mulches. In the case of composts most of the microbial breakdown takes place away from the soil in pile of plant material known as a compost heap or, on a larger scale, a windrow. With mulches, however, the breakdown takes place in, or in contact with, the soil where the crops are growing.
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Answering a frequent question: isn’t manure natural?

When promoting plant-based growing, we are sometimes asked by curious newcomers: Why avoid manure? Isn’t it part of natural cycles? Akin to the buffalo on the plains? Here is an example of how I respond to this type of query, through exploring the connection of plant-based growers with the natural world, as well as calling into question the use of manure:

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Piers Warren’s Veganic Gardening Tips for June

  • Keep up with successional seed sowing - a small amount every couple of weeks is better than a lot at once for many fast growing crops such as lettuces, radishes, spring onions, carrots, beetroot, spinach.
  • Give the lawn mowing a break - let it grow a bit longer and you’ll allow some flowering plants to encourage pollinating insects.
  • Pinch out side shoots of vine tomatoes (but not of bush types like Tumbling Tom)
  • Continue to earth up main crop potatoes, but any first earlies you planted ten weeks ago should be ready to harvest now - time for potato salad!
  • If you haven’t already, protect your brassicas from white butterflies with mesh or netting. ‘Cabbage whites’ is actually a general term for the two species Large White and Small White - both of which will lay eggs on your cabbages!
Vegan Cook and Gardener by Piers Warren and other books

Ten lochs across Scotland have been polluted by a toxic pesticide used by fish farms to control fungus, parasites and disease.

Figures released under freedom of information law reveal that more than 22 tonnes of formaldehyde, which causes cancer and is used as an embalming fluid, have been poured into cages to disinfect salmon over nine months in 2019.

The lochs affected include Loch Ness southwest of Inverness, Loch Sheil at Glenfinnan, Loch Lochy near Spean Bridge, and others in Sutherland, Wester Ross, Argyll and the Isle of Mull.

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"Guerilla Grafters" Secretly Graft Fuit-Bearing Branches Onto Sterile City Trees   

A group of food freedom fighters are sneaking out in the middle of the night (and sometimes in broad daylight) grafting fruit-producing limbs onto sterile urban trees, specifically bred not to bear fruit.

Known as the “Guerilla Grafters,” their mission is to provide free, healthy food where it’s needed most – urban food deserts.

Ever wonder why none of the trees in big cities produce anything useful, like nuts or fruit? According to the Guerilla Grafters, it’s because they are intentionally bred not to.

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Wild ambition to turn East Anglia into one of the world’s greatest nature reserves

WildEast aims to become Britain’s first regional nature recovery project, returning 250,000 hectares of land to nature, and potentially seeing the reintroduction of species such as beavers, bison and the Eurasian lynx – which has become the symbol of the organisation.

The core ambition is to reverse the alarming declines in insect, mammal and bird life and restore natural abundance to levels not seen since the 1970s.

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2020 Permaculture Magazine Prize

The Permaculture Magazine Prize is for individuals, communities, businesses, groups and organisations that can demonstrate inspirational work over more than three years.

• We encourage entries from anywhere in the world.

• The closing date for entries is 31st August 2020, 23:59 GMT. Your entry must have been received by this date!

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Veganic Gardeners' Question Time 30th June

Dan Graham is joined by Jenny Hall, Ellen Mary and Piers Warren from the comfort of their own homes, answering gardening questions sent in by the audience.
Get tips, ideas and inspiration on growing your own.
Veganic Gardeners’ Question Time hopes to inspire and bring new ideas to foragers, growers and gardeners alike.
Tuesday 30th June 7pm UK Time Zone 45 minutes
The event will be broadcasted live on YouTube and Facebook, links to be announced.

  • Vegan Organic Network (VON) are an educational charity, founded in 1996, the only U.K based organisation solely dedicated to veganic farming and growing.
  • VON created the first Stockfree Veganic Standards.
  • We network with farms around the world and support veganic farmers and farmers in transition.
  • Encourage vegan companies to source veganic ingredients for their products.
  • VON are co-organising the international conference on Plant-based organic farming, which will be held in the European Parliament in Brussel’s in October of this year, where we hope to influence government policy makers who will be invited to the conference.

Registered charity no. 1080847  
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