Please start by telling us a bit more about what you do.
I am a landscape architect, urban designer and gardener by trade, specialising in edible landscapes, food production and biodiversity planting. I currently run edge: a non-profit which educates on and designs urban food production systems and ecological farming practices.
How did you get into the world of sustainable food?
I learnt from my grandparents who had an acre for food growing and were close to self-sufficient. I drove a desk for many years - albeit in sustainability roles such as bikes, recycling, eco building and ethical finance - before realising I should be outside growing. I later moved to Oxford (from Todmorden) and set up Incredible Edible Oxford (IEO), which was successful with designing spaces for food and with training courses.
What motivated you to have this career switch?
My body was suffering from sitting at a computer all day so physically I craved it! I also wanted the stimulation from people and plants rather than a computer screen and emails. I was also motivated by the positive changes I witnessed in Todmorden particularly around the thriving local food system and the impact it can have on the local economy.
What does a typical week look like for you?
My time is split three-ways between designing, teaching and market garden consultancy, so no two weeks are the same, and I love the variety. For example, teaching courses at our demonstration market garden at Sheepdrove Organic Farm; consulting on the food design element of Letchworth Garden City; or delivering an Urban Food Production lecture to students at Oxford Brookes.
What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
I love the impact that growing food has on people, on places and on biodiversity; so witnessing any of those positive changes is rewarding. Also, that "penny drop" moment when teaching about food production and seeing people get inspired.
And how about the challenges?
Well the weather of course! I travel to a lot of different sites, which isn't the most enjoyable part of my work, but it is a necessary evil.
What advice would you give to people aspiring to get into this sector?
Join one of our free FARMstart courses - or another one day course.
We try to offer training that is accessible, informal and covers the essentials of regen food production and market garden set up, all taught in situ showing real life examples and using my experience from a myriad of growing projects - successful and less so!
And finally, what’s your favourite thing to eat?
I love edible perennials and the variety they offer - my salads usually contain 20+ different plants. I also love incorporating all of our lovely herbs into dishes and using our outdoor pizza oven!
You can follow Rachel via @edgelandscapinguk on Instagram.