My professional life was in social research, promoting health and addressing health inequalities with degrees in Psychology and ‘Epidemiology & Social Research’ from the University of Manchester. Living and working in the inner city, involved in community activities and needing to feel close to nature brought me to forest gardening around the turn of the century. I worked on whole systems for health, healthy cities, healthy ageing, healthier eating, physical activity and interfaces between health and environment eg ‘Local Agenda 21’ and key innovations such as Healthy Living Networks and ‘Exercise on Referral’/social prescribing. I believe forest gardens demonstrate and explore the potential of new ecosystems for food security, climate resilience, closer relationships with nature, and greater health and wellbeing. I voluntarily work as: Deputy chair and a lead forest gardener of the ‘Friends of Birchfields Park’; a BeeWalk, Tree/Nature Walk leader & Friends of the Earth nature activist. I am also involved in Manchester Permaculture Network & Creative Rusholme.
I discovered Forest Gardening during my PDC on a reforestation project in 2012 and have been obsessed ever since. I am quite sure it is one of the keys to us as a race taking our place as stewards within a sustainable socioecological system. My background is in creativity, community empowerment and climate action. I have created and supported the creation of numerous initiatives tackling social and ecological challenges.
Joe McCrohon has a background in food poverty research having volunteered for Good Food Oxford as a food poverty intern and has also been a research intern for the Permaculture Association. Joe has also presented papers at academic conferences on the topic of urban agroforestry and food poverty and has an interest in permaculture, agroecology and works in IT support for the Open Food Network. Joe has a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of East Anglia and a Master’s in Agroecology and Food Security from Coventry University.
I’ve been a gardener all my life, whether planting flowers in the banks of the stream at the end of our family garden as a child, or sourcing inspiration from nature to create wild and cultivated plant combinations in our current garden. Personally, I have found that deliberately connecting with nature a hugely resourcing way of being, and a bit of an antidote to the pressures of work life. I learned about Forest Gardening on an introduction to permaculture course and quickly became hooked. Working with nature (and I include human beings as part of that) to create the beginnings of a self-sustaining edible eco-system and sharing that experience with others provides a much-needed sense of well-being. I love to observe the way ecosystems develop and evolve and take inspiration from this to help with many areas of my work and home life. In my day job, I’m an Emergency Medicine Consultant and also spend some time working in primary care supporting patients and families who have urgent care needs in our local community. I am working with our local hospital to develop an acre of land into a forest garden for our staff and patients to enjoy.
I’ve had an ongoing enthusiasm for growing food since cultivating my very first garden (a tiny backyard in London), then many delightful hours at the ‘lotty’, and more recently designing and planting a forest garden in Devon. In my role as a psychologist in the NHS, I helped in the development of accessible green spaces, and encouraged colleagues and service users to remember the benefits of spending time out in nature. Forest gardens seem to me to be one of the best forms of green space for human wellbeing, community building, and the ecology of our beautiful planet.