April 2015 is Garden Month and 2015 itself is Year of Soils, so it seems only right to get our knees grubby, our brows sweaty, and our fingers greener than The Hulk’s bum cheeks.

I live in Hull, England. There’s a local company called William Jackson Food Group that’s an umbrella brand for various suppliers of tasty treats, such as Aunt Bessie’s (who make the best frozen Yorkshire puddings in the world) and Jackson’s Bakery, which fills the air with the nostalgic smell of fresh loaves throughout the year. WJFG has a strong corporate social responsibility programme, including everything from members of staff running marathons, to the organisation sponsoring causes that improve the city’s infrastructure. One project that really grabs my attention is the William Jackson Food Group Tree Project, which is tremendous in scope, longevity, landscape development and environmental impact.

It all started in 2013 and, as a 38-year project, isn’t due to end until 2051. The reason for it taking so long is that completion will take place in WJFG’s bicentennial year, by which point it will have instigated incredible positive change throughout its home city. The tree project aims to plant a staggering 200,000 trees (almost one for each member of Hull’s population) in as many open spaces as possible, 1% of which (2,000 trees) took root in its first few months, followed by a further 3,000 as part of National Tree Week in November 2014.

Personally I think this is outstanding, as the amount of planning, man hours, community engagement and resources required over the course of four decades will be enormous. I only found out about the project a fortnight ago, and now I find myself spotting obvious examples of its work. Large patches of what was once scrubland now boast regular lines of saplings; perhaps the odd few won’t survive cold winters and windy weather yet to come, but what’s certain is that a hell of a lot of them will. This project can be nothing but a success, especially when you take into account the community pride and educational value, with WJFG staff, local schoolchildren and members of the public doing their bit to turn this ambitious dream into a reality.

Good health and delayed zombie apocalypse permitting, in 2051 I’ll be 79 years old. Imagine the difference the William Jackson Food Group Tree Project will have made in my lifetime, and the benefits that the mid-21st century generation will enjoy as a result. Trees are beautiful and life-giving, offering everything from a shady patch during summer to the very air we breathe; projects like this are more than a PR exercise, they could very well lead to localised utopias across the world. If you know of one in your area, please let me know by tweeting @sobananapenguin.


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