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Act Local and Think Global

Well what a year it’s been so far...who saw that coming?!

It’s been revealing from the view point of our local CSA Farm; we are well used to staring down the barrel of an industrialised and globalised food system and thinking just how much of it makes no sense if we’re to look towards a more sustainable and resilient future.  It’s been so encouraging to see how when a population is not so rushed off its feet with no time to think, that it evaluates and makes choices that feel good or right - we’ve seen a huge rise in veg boxes and the support of small local business in this time of crisis in the UK and I feel confident it won’t be just a trend but hopefully something lasting and more importantly something propelled from the ground UP.  Proper people power.

We currently function in a world where the real costs of large scale farming and food production such as “the pollution of rivers, the emission of greenhouses gases, the spread of antibiotic resistance, the degradation of the soil, the rise of obesity and the spread of disease” are not linked back to source or reflected in the price of food.  Patrick Holden of the Sustainable Food Trust highlights that although this is the case “consumers are paying in other hidden ways, such as through taxes, health care costs, pollution clean up and water rates. There are also deferred costs, including emissions causing climate change which will have to be paid for by subsequent generations.”  It follows on that if our food system cares little for the health of its soil, its animals and its ecosystem that this will eventually pass on to the consumers of those crops and those animals. Maybe, as we feel more inclined to look after ourselves and prioritise the strengthening of our immune systems against future pandemics, then we will take that choice back to its literal roots from the ground up and ‘undo’’ the system of artificial stimulation and growth that our farming system has become tied to.  If a generation can become a new type of consumer in a matter of weeks in response to a crisis, imagine what we can do in a few months or a year if we put our minds to it?  A local food supply is key to this especially if we are to consider fresh food as something all should have access to for the benefit of our health as a society both inside and out.  

There are some great initiatives that

are working to help put this type of model to the forefront in this country, but ultimately, it’ll be the consumers, the decisions made from the ground up that will make the difference as there is too much money and power resting on the decisions made from government to force real change rapidly.  Having said that a situation like Covid-19 will force those same decision-makers to put the resilience of our food system and reliance on imported food, especially fruit and veg, higher up the agenda. I get asked a lot if I really believe that the UK has the ability to supply the fruit and veg needed to feed its population in a way that is affordable to most.  Recent studies by The Food Foundation have shown that “domestic production only contribute[ed] to 22% of supply of all [fruit and veg] (including processed) in 2013 compared with 42% in 1987. All the water needed to produce the total UK F&V supply, 76% of it comes from elsewhere, including from countries with high risk of water scarcity such as Spain, Egypt, South Africa, Chile, Morocco, Israel and Peru, 32% of imports are from climate vulnerable areas”.  In 2018 53% of vegetables were homegrown, 47% imported, but 40% lost through waste. The figures for fruit for the same year shows 16.7% vs 83.3% imported.  The example of apples was a positive one though with a rise in market share from 33% in 2017 to 45% home grown in 2018.  We have a unique opportunity in the sector of fruit and veg to make real change; as a perishable commodity, the amount that it wasted is high and the cost to global climate change is huge.  By focussing on cutting down imports of fruit and veg from climate vulnerable areas and focussing on seasonal fruit and veg that we can grow here, we not only mitigate a 40% loss through waste but also have the potential to create a market value of £ imagine just 10% of that being redirected into local food economies and training a new generation of growers? (Stats taken from Rebecca Laughton, Landworkers’ Alliance and Growing Communities’ Horticulture Campaign).

So this is the global picture and where we’re at in the UK when it comes to fruit and veg but what can we do as individuals on a local level to make a change? Firstly just what you’re doing already by supporting local food growing initiatives and asking your local supermarkets to also do their bit to support local too.  We’re lucky in the Evenlode valley to not only have access to locally grown vegetables and fruit but also meat and dairy - sometimes there’s just a disconnect in knowing where to go for it.  We hope our ‘Meet The Farmer’ profiles have helped introduce you to some of our amazing organic and pasture-fed meat suppliers, we’ll keep adding to the list as we hear of other local farmers doing great things and will have a page up on our website linking you to them directly in the next few months but in the meantime, you can find them on our instagram feed on the homepage.  Local shops like CQF and our Midcounties Coop source a lot of local produce too and local foodies have been innovating and pivoting like crazy during lock-down to keep the seasonal cooking buzz alive during weeks of staying at home.

At the Kitchen Garden we’re really excited about this growing year where we’ll be expanding from 60 shares (veg boxes) a week to 80 shares from June 2020 to June 2021.  May, June and July are going to be super busy with planting out, weeding, harvesting as well as moving site and we’ll welcome anyone wanting to get a change of scene and to stretch their legs to join us at the Honeydale Kitchen Garden (at Farm-Ed) on Thursday and Friday mornings, just give us a call so that we know numbers and can facilitate social distancing.   At the end of this month Katy Hopkins will be joining the The Kitchen Garden People team, we’re really excited to work with her and incorporate her skills and passion for teaching into some of our future plans. We’re hoping June or July may see some relaxation of social distancing measures, if so, we’d love you to join us in constructing and putting the new polytunnels up on our new patch of land at Farm-Ed.  We’ve spent the last week moving our gear over and Ian has ploughed part of the field so we can start our season’s planting!  The new site as well as being in a drier location will benefit from the newly installed rainwater collection system that captures the rainwater from the Farm-Ed buildings and sends it straight to our field and polytunnels with the excess available to the conservation and flood management area on the farm - no waste!  The new site will be perfectly sandwiched between a wild flower meadow on one side of the hedge and a permaculture orchard following the contours of the land uphill from us.  Local mother and daughter team Therapi Honey Skincare will also be housing their beautiful natural bee-keeping hives on our side of the farm and we’re hoping to learn from them and get a chance to put our bee suits (donated by Ross & Ross Events) into action!

Our long term ACT LOCAL objectives for the following year, as well as expanding the business in the terms of how many boxes we’ll supply local people with, will also include setting up work experience and industry placements for young people living locally and wanting to learn how to become a new generation of growers.   We believe passionately that if jobs in agriculture like growing and entrepreneurship are visible only to those already with access to farms, then we miss a trick and potentially lighting a spark in someone who might be perfect for the job.  We can’t very well hope to generate £3.2billion of home-grown fruit and veg if we don’t have the know how and the people to grow it.   The lovely people at OxLEP are going to help turn this pipedream into a reality so watch this space.  

Our website launched on Earth Day this year and we hope this will be a space where you can check in on what we’re up to on the Farm through our rolling instagram feed on the homepage, have direct links to local farmers and food initiatives and also sign up for any events that interest you once lockdown allows for it.  The first Oxford Real Farming Conference in the Field two day event is currently booked in at the beginning of July at Farm-Ed where we hope to share our knowledge on growing and how to run a CSA with a generation of farmers interested in reducing waste and caring for their soil.  We’re not sure how this will pan out with lockdown but we’ll aim to diffuse the information to participants in some way or form either in July or in the future.  

Unless the advice from government changes radically, our plans to meet up and show you around the farm on Friday 6th June are probably going to have to be put on a back burner but as soon as we can WE WILL! Looking forward to seeing all your lovely faces collecting boxes, in doorways as we deliver, and eventually here altogether at The Kitchen Garden in the very near future.

Love The Kitchen Garden People 

Emma, Dan and Christine.

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