Trudie Styler backs <i>IoS</i> allotments campaign

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The Independent Online

Trudie Styler, the film producer and wife of rock star Sting, joined the public figures speaking out against the threat to allotments.

She said her childhood in the countryside had taught her the connection between growing food and eating well. Growing up in a council house in Bromsgrove in the Midlands, her father was a farmer and her mother - herself the daughter of a cook - was obese.

“I believe councils should continue to provide allotments," she said in an interview with The Independent on Sunday.

"I have such memories of my dad and me planting the garden. You have a sense of the seasons."

She added: "We certainly weren’t a privileged family. We were putting food on the table from the garden and that would be dreadful if that was taken away from people. Children need that connection, connecting themselves with nature - ‘How does food grow?’ – and that is all being lost with lack of garden space.”

Now 57, Ms Styler divides her time between her home in New York where her youngest son Giacomo Luke lives, Tuscany, where the couple make wine in their estate, and a Jacobean mansion in Wiltshire, Lake House, where schoolchildren grow vegetables in the grounds.

She says she is wary of the growth of big business (which she terms the “corporatocracy”) and wants people to become more closely connected to the soil and eat natural food.

“I’m 57 now,” she said. “So I’ve lived through a lot of years of seeing people eat more and more poorly, so we’re an affluent society but we’re eating in a very poor way.

"And it goes back to my days of living in my mum and dad’s house. Because my father had that background and my mother was the daughter of a professional cook we ate very well: very simply, but very well. “

As part of a move to counteract the rise of fast food, she has created a range of “ready-to-cook meals” - Lake House Table. Ocado and some branches of Waitrose are stocking the meals such as chicken with baby potatoes and courgettes and peppered beef steak with mash. She defends the hefty prices – £6.99 and £7.99 – on the basis that the vegetables are fresh and the meat farm-assured, but says she hopes they will come down in the long run as the business grows.

The idea of catering for busy diners sprang from her experience as a travelling mother, film producer and actress - and her childhood and present connection to the land.

“I was brought up around a pastoral setting, albeit a council house estate. We had an allotment sized garden where we grew our own," she said.

“We bought the farm with a young family because we didn’t like the idea of them growing up in an urban environment. Lake House Table was really me thinking: ‘Well, we’ve lived this wonderful, idyllic life with being to grow food and cook food and how can we take this into an area of commerce where we could think about time-poor people’?”

She does not like the mainstream food industry: “There’s so much processed food and food that has preservatives and additives so that it has a long shelf life, and I don’t think people consider that something that has a long shelf life can stay longer in your body and that isn’t good for the body.

"We get obesity caused from poor digestion – eating so much the body has not got a chance to digest it before it is eating again. There is so much degenerative illness around."

She says she eats carefully and exercises by doing yoga, swimming and going to the gym. Despite protesting about restrictions on the amount of junk food they could eat when they were young, her children have adopted the macrobiotic diet she favours, she says.

“We might be living longer but I think we’re getting sicker as we stick around longer because we’ve lost a sense of how to take care of ourselves.

“We’ve become very low down on our list of priorities. You know: ‘I’ve got to run to work, I’ve got these meetings, I’ve got to do things for the kids.’ You’re spending all this energy but you’re not replenishing. People are not taking enough time to give themselves the gift that they should be giving to their body.”

Among her "personal heroes" is Jamie Oliver, who backs the Food for Life scheme under which the schoolchildren visit Lake House.

She said: “We’ve adopted a couple of schools and they grow their own veggies in our garden and they watch them grow and harvest them. It’s important to make the connection with what’s coming out of the soil: why is soil important? Why is it important to keep the integrity of the soil?.

“I like to think it’s a way they will learn to nourish themselves, because I do think the Government has let us down on nutritional information.

“I willingly back your campaign,” she added. “It’s very important that we have access to soil. I understand the need for housing for people too, but we can’t give up on nature – or give up on ourselves.”

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