Dig for victory, urges Gardiner

“IT’S time again to dig for victory” says Sam Gardiner launching h is annual Primary Schools Gardening Competition

This is the third annual Primary Schools Gardening Competition launched by Sam and he said that the “grow your own” message behind his gardening competition, is not an off-beat or marginal message. “This is not a marginal message but a central or core message we all need to get and to get quickly,” said the Upper Bann MLA.

“At present this country imports far too much of its food. That makes our balance of payments situation worse. Money to feed the country is flowing abroad, out of this country. Importing so much food also means we are far too dependent on other people and other countries. We need far more food security as a country. If there was a problem with food production elsewhere or with shipping lanes, this country would not have enough food. The last war taught us that. In an age when extremes of weather and the costs of transportation are so high, it makes sense to grow more of our own. Even the supermarkets, who have helped create this dependency culture on foreign imported food, are now getting the message and are trying to source more food locally. So this is not a marginal message. We all need to get this message and get it quickly.”

“That is why I set up the Primary Schools Gardening competition and funded it out of my own pocket. The annual first prize is £1,000 so it is worth comp7eting for. In the first year Andrews Memorial Primary School in Comber won the £1,000 first prize with a Titanic themed garden and last year it was won by Carrick Primary School in Lurgan with some of the highest quality vegetables we have seen. Over 40 schools have competed so far. Some of the best entries have come from inner city schools and schools in the middle of big urban estates. The whole emphasis is to teach children from an early age to grow their own. In the future, if they are taught how to garden in school they will have the option of being able to grow their own. I know I learnt how to garden at school and it has never left me. One of the most interesting things we have found as we toured the Primary Schools who entered this competition is that there is a lost generation. It is their parent’s generation. Most parents know little or nothing about gardening. When schools seek parental help for their gardening efforts, they find that they have often to turn to grandparents, usually over 60 years old to get it.”

“That is why the Primary Schools Gardening Competition is so important because, when these primary age children are adults around 2030, just 17 years from now, the world will need to be producing 40% more food that at present. These are not my figures but figures issued by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. By 2050 the world will need to produce 70% more food to feed 9 billion people. In this country, we must massively raise production if we are to avoid going hungry in the future, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says in its Food Security Assessment - climate change, diminishing energy sources, a soaring global population and depleted fish stocks all mean that we can no longer be complacent about our ability to feed ourselves. Before the industrial revolution we produced almost everything we eat. Now we import some 40% of all our food. This is better than ten years ago so it is not a lost cause but it will be if we do not do something about it, especially in light of future challenges. Britain is currently wealthy enough to import food, but who knows how wealthy we will be in 2050 if the balance of economic power in the world shift away from us ?”

“Obviously mainstream farming will need to be geared up to produce more food but “grow your own” has a part to play too, especially when it comes to keeping food bills down for the average family, so important in these hard-hit economic times.”

“That is why I want to see as many primary schools entering the competition as possible. It means more work for our judges but it could make a big difference to these children’s future. “Grow your own” is also a good way to help deliver aspects of the curriculum, from science to economics. It’s time again to dig for victory,” said Mr Gardiner”