INTERVIEW: Nathan King - the Vegelanties
The space we make for ourselves around a meal or working together to plant food, creates the perfect environment for us to learn from each other, young and old, without labels and hierarchies. Rebel food talks to Nathan King about The Vegelanties, a permaculture project in Brighton working with children and running ‘green fingered projects in the city’.
'WEEDING IS ALWAYS SO MUCH EASIER AFTER THE RAIN. DON'T DIG WHEN THE DAYS ARE GREY AND RAINY, USE THESE MOMENTS TO WATCH AND SEE WHERE THE RAIN LANDS. WAIT TILL THE RAIN STOPS AND SEE CLEARLY WHAT HAS TO CHANGE IN YOUR GARDEN'
NATHAN KING - VEGELANTIES
Who are the Vegelanties and what is the project about?
The Vegelanties is a small children’s group that manage an allotment in Brighton, it’s about green fingered projects in the city
Can you tell us a bit about how the idea came about, your inspiration and how you have grown the project?
I have three children under 7 and becoming a parent I have been drawn to those simple things that engage me in my body and out of my busy mind. I planted a cherry tree with my dad about ten years ago and it’s just now starting to give a decent crop, it’s taken 10 years to bear fruit and there aren’t many things that for a child take that long to be satisfied from, and I guess that enjoying all the other stuff that surrounds this connection with the larger cycles, the slower rhythms is what the Vegelanties are exploring.
It started with me and my three and a few of their friends getting muddy and looking for a place to plant fruit trees, a friend needed help with her allotment and then offered us a chunk to look after and touch down, we’ve just grown from there.
I love the idea of children and even adults (or especially adults) learning to get joy and appreciation from doing something that could take 10 years to see any fruit (literally!) How important do you think this kind of patience and connection with these larger cycles is for all of us in our communities?
The larger the cycle the more room there is for ‘’error’’ to occur and not be noticed. Engaging in the larger cycles makes our mistakes seem small and also allows room for fuck ups!
This is a massive statement when you compare to the strict agenda of the status quo, small cycles where there is no room for give. You have to be a machine and never drop the ball. Now I see more and more people trying to change their own patterns, something doesn’t fit and a shift is needed. Those days where you want to throw your dolly out of the pram for no reason but if you do at a fast passes small cycle the world would collapse.
Gardens catch you, dinner tables can catch you. You can wipe it up, cook it again. It’s what used to be a fundamental core of community and our being, even, but has been underestimated.
It’s our tension that anchors our lives, that’s why everything wants our attention. If we can give our tension to elements of the bigger cycles we anchor a gentler world
What inspires you about working with young people and their reaction to this project?
When we get together the kids get a chance to chat about what they want to eat, we then find the seeds and plant them and keep our fingers crossed. On work days we aim for a pot luck lunch where everyone brings something and we share, when there’s time to prepare usually the results are awesome, but either way sharing food around a fire is just on of those ‘’right things’’.
One of the main ethos’ behind the vegelanties is the phrase ‘’learning to teach, teaching to learn’’ it’s a place where we’re all level and exchanging what we have, gardens and dinner tables are perfect places to hold this well. When we get stuck into larger cycles we all level out.
In the act of levelling out I get to not take myself too serious, witness a lighter approach to pretty much everything I’m doing and offer a focused reflection at the same time, it’s a lovely trade.
I think children take to permaculture simply because it’s ‘sense able’, better it’s sense enabling and means that the child adult divide in many ways is bridged.
What you say about gardens and dinner tables being places that hold space for exchange really resonates. When I was a child it was around mealtimes that me and my brothers really learnt to speak up for ourselves and express our ideas and thoughts. How have you seen the kids embrace the chance to talk and exchange when they are in the garden or sitting around sharing food?
At the end of the mornings work we have a little discussion, what worked well and what would you do differently. It helps sharpen the sessions and cap them off nicely. None of the kids I host have a problem expressing themselves but it would be interesting to see how a quieter person found it.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting up a similar project?
I don’t have any advice to offer as yet as this is a very early doors experiment. I’m not even sure what we’re doing yet but it’s great and definitely do it! And share what you find with me, Id love to have extra eyes on similar projects... start small, just you alone at home, as small as you can go. Save seeds from your food and sprout them, then use them to get your kids planting, then their friends, grow it slowly.It is so important to have fruit in your hand that your dad planted with you 10 years ago and looked after till it grew. That is wealth, that is heritage, that is a home with depth.
If you live in Brighton and want to check out the Vegelanties follow them on instagram or Facebook. And if your not in Brighton why not start your own green fingered projects in your community, and if you do come tell rebel food all about it!