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Cumbria with the RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

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Cumbria with the RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

 
 

For me, Cumbria in summer comes with the memory of being with my dad and my two younger brothers huddling from the rain. I can’t remember why or where that was, but it has with it, a feeling of adventure. I had not been back since my childhood holidays, but the RSA offered me the chance to return.  

The mission was to learn the dynamics and values of a complex region, their impact on the landscape, and what does Brexit mean for Cumbrians?  .. and all achieved whilst cycling.

An illustrative map of a very approximate route (although, I caught the train from Penrith to Barrow.... ssh!). 

An illustrative map of a very approximate route (although, I caught the train from Penrith to Barrow.... ssh!). 

Here, - to use a quote from the TV show Game of Thrones - “The North Remembers”. Along the journey, I was told how many folk remember a world where farmers and foresters were inherently valued by the wider society for the services that they give. It was a place where local markets thrived and the food was locally sourced, clean and affordable. Families could live in the villages that they (and the generations before them) grew up in. The youth were the lifeblood of the community and schools were full. The general consensus was that folk cared and the sense of human-connection was prevalent; all consequences from the milk of human kindness.

This was an adventure that had heart and soul.

 

A Tension Between Traditionalism and Development


My journey began with the Lake District and a world washed with cultural nostalgia; tea shops, cottages on biscuit tins, and me cycling across rolling hills - to quote Wordsworth - as lonely as a cloud. 

On Tuesday morning, the interviewer for BBC Cumbria posed me a question before going on air, “In the world of fake news, I gather that you are here to understand the difference between perception and reality, within Cumbria, farming and Brexit?” Truly an existential question, but a seed of curiosity was sown.  

The interview with BBC Cumbria, stood alongside Lois Mansfield of Uni. of Cumbria.

The interview with BBC Cumbria, stood alongside Lois Mansfield of Uni. of Cumbria.

Numerous people cited to me that “Cumbria is like a doughnut, in the middle is the lake district”. Each would agree that what priorities occur on the inside aren’t the same as on the outside.

My trip to Barrow in Furness on the final day informed me that there are many people who live only 15 miles away, who will never step foot inside the park within their lifetime. But on that Monday, as I was still forming my own perspective, I met with Liam McAlesse at the Lake District National Park Authority who first proposed that view. “In Cumbria, there are perceptions from certain people that the Lake District isn’t for them, it has an invisible wall, they see it being for ‘other people’, we are working on trying to bring that wall down”.

The reality, the park attracts 19m people a year that visit an area the size of Birmingham for recreational and aesthetic enjoyment on top of the local 40,000 residents. In 2017, the park became a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cultural Landscape…  and, it is those two words - cultural landscape – that paint a sense of ambiguity, one that connotates the underlying tensions in the region.

The term ‘Cultural Landscape’ is vague and how it is understood depends on the perceiver. Some relate it based on the recognition of how Wordsworth, Coleridge and Beatrix Potter once idolised the landscape with a brush of vivid romanticism or beautiful and charismatic childhood adventures. This is culture and therefore, ephemeral. However, what is in front of us, is physical landscape, specifically a ‘Managed Landscape’ of forests, farms, and watercourses.

Here, at the root of it, we are talking about people’s cultural and conditioned belief systems – how they subjectively look at the landscape and how they place their own values upon it.

The ambition of the Lake District National Park Authority is to turn Cumbria into the ‘Rocky Mountains of the UK’ – a vibrant place to live and work. Farming is a part of the plan but the bigger picture is one of rural development. This frozen nostalgia of how the lakes are perceived is not an economically viable and sustainable model for the future. There needs to be a local economy built on creativity, hubs of entrepreneurs providing social capital through society working together. “Brexit is an opportunity for policy to move beyond a sense of stagnation and into the real rural debate, creating places where people want to stay to live and work”.

Concern for the youth drain was a repeating pattern within many of the conversations that I had. The exodus of youth and what went with it, talent, was apparent on Kendal College’s wall where a sign read “Stay Local, Go Further”. Photographer and writer duo, Rob and Harriet Fraser gave me a wonderful introduction to sheep farming but there was an angle that I found specifically touching. In Harriet’s Poem ‘Michael’, it focuses on a well-respected young local farmer who left for Derbyshire to run his own farm as the opportunity didn’t exist for him in Cumbria. Harriet once publicly recited it and unknowingly, his father stood in the audience, tearful. The Poem ends with the following two stanzas;

 
These walls, land’s bones borrowed and stitched by man,
May stand, unchanged, for a century. But on a farm this size 
There are always gaps, forced by unforgiving rains and snow.
Today two hundred stones are fetched, fitted, back in place, 
                                                Two gaps, three men, one rhythm
 
Now the valley has a gap                         a man gone, a rare breed.
There’s that man, says Anthony, raising four fingers of a weather-worn hand,
That many young ones in Cumbria who could take over a farm.
But now he’s gone. How will you find another like that?

 

 

Alison Park of Low Sizergh Barn highlighted an additional angle – an ageing society. Areas, such as Kendal, has a sincere issue with the cost of housing. Many older folks are spending their retirement there, and rightly so, it is beautiful. But this means housing is being used by people who are not necessarily actively working in the local society. This has had an impact on community life. Young people can no longer afford homes and schools have had to shut due to a lack of children.

When I met Kelsey Thompson of Morecambe Bay Oyster Company, he told me a story of how the French – the largest consumers of oysters in the world - had lost their oyster industry to a disease. It took over ten years for it to return, the consequence is that a generation in France no longer eat oysters as they weren’t an option growing up. If living in rural areas such as the lakes is no longer an option for young people, what does this do to their connection to the place? Will they stay and invest their talents into the National Park Authority’s vision of the future?  

Oysters from Morecambe Bay

Oysters from Morecambe Bay

 

Farming – Go Big or Diversify

 

 After foot and mouth in 2001, Cumbria didn’t go back to the way it was before. On my first day, I followed in the footsteps of Lord Curry, visiting Low Sizergh Barn. The aim of his inquiry was to ensure that foot and mouth never happened again.

Photographer, Rob Fraser enlightened me to the extent of suffering that occurred during that time. He detailed how after the culling, a mindset had changed. He spoke of one farmer he knew, who walked around with a gun and shot each of his prize-winning Herdwick sheep because “it wasn’t right that it should be done by a stranger”.

And that is the crux of it, an upland sheep farmer’s sole existence is one built on love for the sheep – like a parent for the good of their child. As Isaac Benson, a National Trust Tenancy Farmer, said: “For why else would you do it?”. All the farmers that I met along the journey have invested their entire lives into being an upland hill farmer. Isaac continued “you have to in order make anything out it yet you leave yourself vulnerable”.

Rob and Harriet Fraser gave me with a vivid introduction to upland hill farming upon the commons, what it means to be ‘heafed’, and they painted a picture of lambing time; where all the sheep are brought down from the hills, known as ‘the Gathering’.

These sheep have been bred over hundreds of years to be hardy and territorial, safely roaming the commons unfenced and unmanned. Each sheep has their preferred patch that they graze (their ‘heaf’) and this knowledge is passed down through to their lambs. At the Gathering, all the farmers, young and old, their dogs and quadbikes, combe the hills to bring down each one. “Farmers, sheep and dogs walk all over the hills in synchronicity, flowing down the valleys like water”, recited Harriet poetically.   

A cow from one of Low Sizergh Barn's mixed-breed herd. 

A cow from one of Low Sizergh Barn's mixed-breed herd. 

But the future of upland farming looks difficult. The demand for lamb has plummeted, wool is considered a by-product with dwindling demand, cheap imports are killing business, farm tenancies are often questionable, environmental stewardship schemes aren’t being designed well enough, and the major concern; with Brexit, Government support looks set to go. Each farmer that I met, deftly articulated why this is a travesty.

It has become a common theme that in order to survive, farming, in general, has two options – go big or diversify. The farmers that I met all have various additional forms of income, be it a bed and breakfast, delivering meat boxes, or juggling second jobs.

Low Sizergh Barn, on the outskirts of Kendal, have a thriving farm shop that sells a diverse range of local, direct-to-market, goods and products. There is a vending machine outside that sells organic Raw Milk through recyclable glass bottles. It has a tea shop that overlooks the cows being milked – a massive pull for young families and tourists who want to see a working farm. John, the supposedly retired father of the family farm, says that they still receive calls asking “Do you milk the cows on weekends?” .. “That’s the level we’re up against” he added.

The alternative to diversification is expansion into ranch-style farms to spread the cost of overheads and infrastructure over a larger production. The consequences mean that the backbone of UK farming, the smaller, family farms find it more difficult to compete, along with the claims of negative animal welfare and environmental degradation. Richard from Low Sizergh Barn stated how “others are expanding to spread to the cost over more and more milk. Spreading the costs per litre is a double-edged sword; prices go up and down even if you milk more cows. If you have huge numbers of litres and the cost per price is below the price of production you lose even more money”.

 

Monbiot vs No Change

 

Towards the Forestry Commission by Bassenthwaite Lake

Towards the Forestry Commission by Bassenthwaite Lake

John Gorst of the Ennerdale Project and United Utilities said plainly, “The hills are knackered”. Ecologically speaking, there is a lot of work to be done. In the Lake District’s own UNESCO application, on page 535 it states that 75% of the park’s sites of environmental interest are in an unfavourable (but recovering or worse) condition – and realistically, everyone I met admits that the park ought to be in a better ecological state.

 The term “sheepwrecked hills” was coined by George Monbiot in his writings that depict his views of the “biodiversity desert” that is the upland hills. Throughout my journey his name occurred prolifically and the feelings attributed to him came with either esteemed praise or a spit on the floor. He cuts a divisive figure.

John Rowland, a sheep farmer from Low Beckside Farm in  Mungrisdale, recalled how it began, “Monbiot truly hurt a lot of people. We witnessed a case of dramatic flooding in 2015, it was a record amount of water. People lost a lot and they were hurting, Monbiot found the situation to his advantage and pressed his agenda without any sensitivity...  Journalists just want to sell”.

In short, Monbiot and the re-wilding group wish for sheep to be taken off the landscape and to allow the hills to return to a 'natural state’. There is merit in the idea at a conceptual level, but pragmatically this involves dealing with people who don’t want that to happen, and their resistance has its dignity. 

I met with Dr Lois Mansfield of the University of Cumbria along with Kate Rawles, author, adventurer and campaigner. Lois gave a vivid picture; “There is a vociferous aura around re-wilding. There are some within the movement who understand the complexities, yet the ones who speak the loudest are extremists who drown out the realists… Farming communities are turning inward, they are feeling under attack by environmentalists”. Kate added, “There was a conversation between the tribes of ecology and sheep before Brexit. Trying to work together, but now, Brexit has changed their focuses”.

The view towards Braithwaite from High Snab Farm

The view towards Braithwaite from High Snab Farm

Tom Lorains, a sheep farmer of High Snab Farm, suggested that those who work at ‘vocalising extremism’ should instead work within the fold. To understand the complexities and make change occur within the institutions and systems that they easily criticise. This provides a constructive means to achieve their outcome without tearing apart society. Each of the sheep farmers I met agreed that biodiversity has a huge role to play in the quality of the uplands.

Kate Rawles, explained that natural processes are vital for life to thrive: “Biodiversity is a necessity. We are currently creating islands although everything needs to be connected. We need wildlife corridors across landscapes”. 

Kate asked me the rhetorical questions that both sides are grappling to understand; “What is sheep farming for if no one is eating the meat? Or using the wool? and What are the subsidies paying for? If they were to go, what else could that land be used for?”

Forestry on a hillside by Thirlmere

Forestry on a hillside by Thirlmere

If the subsidies were to go, what would happen? This is where the two camps differ. Rewilding is leveraging itself to the present opportunity; giving an argument for a transformative change – an economic increase through timber (which the UK has a large growing demand for), watercourse management (creating cleaner water and resilience), and ecotourism. The farmers are open to change through adapting to environmental management schemes. However, if the ‘vociferousness’ continues they will adhere either to no change, or, as many farmers stated, recessive change through restocking, and with it, the loss of previous conservation work.

Gareth Browning of the Wild Ennerdale Project and the Forestry Commission believes that the markets aren’t there anymore for them to do that. “The economics just simply doesn’t add up. For them to exist, they need to be subsidised”. Gareth's work, considers the landscape as a multitude of interconnected parts that work for the whole. Letting nature take its own course is thoroughly beneficial. He sees the future with the farmer integrated into a wider landscape scale plan. The farmer would be without the mindset of sole possession, but with a mindset of being contracted to offer a particular service. Here, there could be an argument of financial support, not from subsidies of production but through a form of ‘income support’; an honest case for basic income that is designed for a liveable salary comparative to the task at hand.

This view is felt by the farming community as a ‘clearing’. Gareth agrees that “the loss of sheep farmers is a socially jarring thing”. However, he goes on to say that “it is no way representative of the coal mines or the shipyards … only 3% of the local community are affected”. Needless to say, the farming community is vehemently opposed.

Is this what we want our society to be about? Two polarised camps at each other? Adam Day of The Farmer Network, says simply; “it has to stop, we are both on the same side”.  

A ravine   near Grasmere

A ravine near Grasmere

Isaac agrees, “The answer is a balanced landscape. We need to combine practical reality with the foundation of a solid environment. If family farms disappear, it will be the end of conservation and we will be in a food crisis. In society, the Farmer is considered a land agent, but one farmer can provide up to 40 services.

Having to renew farms once they are lost, has a cost that the public purse cannot afford. We have to get this one right, otherwise, it’ll be beyond disrepair …There needs to be food as our population is growing – we’re going to need farmers. This 'us vs them' has to stop. Farmers are the best hands to lead us into the future. They are strong enough to carry the burden of many demands. But we need a platform where we are believed in and can continue to do so for the future generations”.

 

Challenging Identity

 

A  combination of top-down approaches and ‘societal suspicion’ from pressure groups has lowered the farmer’s esteem and stock. Isaac gave an honest depiction of his reality that shone a light upon something deeper. Perhaps the root of the issue, and one not being directly spoken about. “I have to comply with the vision of Defra and the National Trust. In order to stay profitable, I have to forfeit my identity”.

He adds, “We have identified that sheep don’t belong here, do we?”.

It is easy for you and me to look at our work with a sense of separation. Even if we love it, we leave it in the evening. And here’s the crux; upland sheep farming isn’t a vocation, it is an identity.

Upland hill farmers have spent all their lives ‘bide to the landscape’. Through repeating tales of their forefathers, spotting a rare bird in the sky on a quiet mundane morning, socialising at busy auctions, drenched wet through pulling out a lamb to save the ewe’s life – there is a deep connection, one built over time and with love. Through a life lived in this way, they have forged their identity, this is their reason for existing, the ‘why’ in their being.

If you say, ‘take the sheep of the hills’, you are inadvertently saying ‘you get off the hills’, and that becomes personal. If you say, ‘Sheep are unwanted’, you are saying that ‘they are unwanted’, and that’s hurtful. If you say ‘Sheep shouldn’t exist’, you are saying that ‘they shouldn’t exist’, and that is de-humanising.

These men and women, throughout their lives, have been free to live amongst the landscape investing every amount of energy, love and soul into a way of life that gives them meaning. Now, I ask, how would this generation of farmers cope with living in a ‘two-up, two-down’ in an urban area, outside the Lakes, commuting in to do contracted work? They will be muscled out of their local communities due to the expensive housing market propped up by retirees and tourism. For me, this has an ethical and humanitarian consequence.

This same sense of identification of self is also true to the wider community whose immediate landscape has shaped their upbringing, and this is the reason for the Lake District being a ‘Cultural Landscape’ in the eyes of world heritage, it lives in the minds of those who live and visit the region.  And it is true of the Pro-Environment Groups that define themselves by their identity; the identity of virtues. They reflect upon themselves ‘as good’ by the deeds that they do and the values that they uphold. Yes, it is important to have virtues and strive for a greater sense of societal enlightenment, but should it come at the expense of tolerance and pragmatism?   

Looking back over The Lakes at Mungrisdale whilst   heading towards Penrith

Looking back over The Lakes at Mungrisdale whilst heading towards Penrith


Stepping Out and Seeing the Big Picture

 

 read more about the RSA's work: the UK's heritage index

On Friday, I headed for the west coast. The last day of my visit took me to the post-industrial town of Barrow-in-Furness, a town with a nuclear submarine that gives the UK access to the highest table of influence in the political world. With more in common to neighbouring Lancashire than Cumbria, Barrow is the counterweight to the Lake District’s public image. Instead of being exhibited, it is overlooked, either by design or by circumstance.

You ask people around the town what do they think of it? And you’ll get, “It’s a bit shit, but we like it like that”, said with a sense of in-genuine pride.


I met with Maddi Nicholson and Stuart Bastik, directors of ArtGene who introduced me to the town; “It started in the 80s when 10,000 people were laid off in the closure of the shipyard all from the labouring class. There are now 3 generations of unemployed, and this has created an underclass”.

There is a sense of unworthiness. Without the ability to move circumstances, people find other methods to escape. Barrow has become one of the UK’s most prolific areas for deaths via drug overdose. The majority of it occurs on a housing estate literally over the road from BAEs Devonshire Dock Hall, built as the tallest monument in Cumbria. Here, there is a dynamic tension between power and pressure.

Art Gene's satire preserve

Art Gene's satire preserve

Maddi described how this town has faced a lot; “The people here have had to deal with the closure of an industry that once gave them a job for life. To keep the job, they adhered to the rules, but then the day came when that industry went and what replaced it no longer valued its place in the community”.

Although Barrow faces a lot of deprivation, it is in the top 1% nationally for landscape and nature (data from the RSA’s Heritage Index). Yes, there are economic differences, yet there are also assets of rich heritage and cultural history, which can be the driver for transformational wellbeing. But the community is completely unconnected to it, well, yet..

Art Gene is working at the frontiers of community engagement through a number of projects, some creative and some connective, to align the community with its true heritage. “Art Gene embraces the positives of the duality in people and place. We are revisioning social, urban, and natural environments. We are engaged in defining futures”.

The word future is very poignant. Barrow in Furness voted to Leave the EU by a large majority. Later in the day, I met with John Woodcock MP who painted a straight picture on this topic; “Constituents have a lack a faith in the ‘establishment’ and the system. They’ve been left behind, things are getting worse. They’ve been told how to do things by ‘experts’, and consequently have lost trust. It is in their greater economic interest to remain, but here, people reject that”.

The disconnect is increasing. It seems the constituents feel they have no agency, no one is listening and all the while they see their world diminishing in value. John takes it further “In the 80’s we went through a period of greed that still echoes; back then, community didn’t matter, kindness didn’t matter”.

Lucas from the bakery Peace and Loaf

Lucas from the bakery Peace and Loaf

That notion sent me back to a conversation that I had with Kate Rawles; “We need to go back to basics. Simply; what do we value? As a society, our values are inadequate, western farming is driven by profit, it is considered an industry – to be industrious. Arguably, it should be primarily nutrition led along with positive impacts on the environment, welfare standards and fair jobs.”  

A sense of disconnect was a reoccurring theme throughout my journey; a disconnect from each other and our environment. Earlier in the week, whilst I was writing this report in the Drayton Hall pub in Penrith (dare I say, supping a beautiful golden ale), I couldn't help but overhear a neighbouring conversation, “values from the future, need to be brought to the present”, I looked over, as a man took a glug from a half-swilled pint glass.

Maddi, Stuart and I went to the beach on the north of Walney Island to soak up some of that week’s heatwave. It was a breath-taking sight of beauty, white sands abundant, contrasted by the dark mountains rolling out into the background, eventually merging into the sky.

Stuart explains that “local people, when empowered, are the drivers of meaningful change. There was a chap who did all the leg work in getting Walney Island recognised as an official nature reserve. He studied all the birds and accounted for them before dawn and after dusk. Once it was under the auspices of the Wildlife Trust they employed a ranger - who had no previous knowledge of the area - to deliver a strategy based on where the money is. The local knowledge was displaced, with it the true value”.

Near Morecambe Bay Oysters, a mass of wind turbines stretching out to beyond the coast of Walney Island. Apparently, it has boosted the local marine life, which has developed into an artificial reef.

Near Morecambe Bay Oysters, a mass of wind turbines stretching out to beyond the coast of Walney Island. Apparently, it has boosted the local marine life, which has developed into an artificial reef.

Maddi continues with a story about an old rickety hut that was once existed along this beach. “A lady sold ice creams out of it, a place that all the locals new and she knew most of them. Then, when the National Trust took over the site, they replaced the hut with an iron clad information box, the lady has gone and the area surrounding it has been landscaped in a way that can be found at all National Trust beaches”. Maddi points to the floor stating how they have used plastic imitations of wooden sleepers to create a footpath.

“Generic interpretations have taken over local distinctiveness”. She sighed.  

In that sentence, I stopped, and I saw.

Earlier in the week, I met Dan Stamper, Senior Lecturer of Newton Rigg College, who has the important task of keeping farming an attractive option for young people. He told me that he teaches his students that “difference is a strength, it adds another form of brilliance to the world”.

In areas of our lives, the rich diversity of everyday life has dulled into uniformity; a ‘one size fits all’ top down approach. As opposed to the bottom up, organic process of life. The interrelationships of complexity, difference and diversity are what makes communities and ecosystems resilient and thriving.

As I continue to write, the bartender at the pub in Penrith pulls me from my flow and from the bar, asks me what is it I am working on. I say to her that I am trying to understand the difference between perception and reality, she says “for what it’s worth, what is real to me – as she softly held a small bunch of fragile roses from yesterday’s wedding - it’s the smell of these, a childhood memory, you know – like, when an apple wholeheartedly tastes like an apple – you see it, touch it, feel it; that’s what’s real”.

In Barrow, I walked into the BBC’s “Best Food and Farming Shop of 2018”. Peace and Loaf’s story is one of optimism. Run by two resolute individuals, they have shown the world that circumstance is merely a matter of perception. The reality for them is creating bread that people love. Due to the inflated rates (the council says ‘competitive’), Peace and Loaf run out of a shop that is only big enough to sell international calling sim-cards. However, here is an organisation selling the UK’s best sourdough loaves in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of the UK and from which, they crowdfunded £9,000 from a community with limited resources. The folk here saw two of their own just doing it, giving it a go. With that belief came engagement, support, and pride. Upon walking up to the entrance, I was instantly struck with that familiar, fruity, toasty, almost sweet scent of fresh bread that lingers heavily in the air and at that moment, you stop, you savour, you are present. That was real.

Earlier that week, sheep farmer, Tom Lorains welcomed me into his home. Margins are tight on the edge of a hill, yet here they had open arms for a stranger; Tom and his wife gave me lunch. ­Caroline remembered that I was vegetarian and there I was with a man whose job it is to produce lamb. We respectfully spoke at length and we ate as friends. That was real.

When I met Isaac, upon meeting I offered my hand and like all farmers, a shovel-sized, rough hand worn from years of graft clasped around mine and he looked me deadpan in the eye. We said nothing for a second, and yet I understood. For 20 minutes, he opened up to me about his fears for his livelihood, his community, and his children. Towards the end, I honestly had to turn my head away. I couldn’t face a man with that much strength and that much to lose. In a moment of personal openness, an eye teared up. I felt the frequency of his pain, the heavy load he carries.. That was real.

Before arriving in Cumbria, I thought about my childhood holidays in the Lake District. But now, I truly saw the county a new. As I was leaving Barrow-in-Furness, with my bike ready to go, Stuart shook my hand, he said with reverence “come back again”. I probably will, but it’ll be that old Gypsy reality; you go to a place and when you return, it’ll be different. Whether that’s my perception of it or the reality of today’s world? Who knows, it’s all one and the same. 

The beach to the north of Walney Island, looking over the Duddon Channel. With the old iron works slag heap to the right and towards the National Park in the distance. 

The beach to the north of Walney Island, looking over the Duddon Channel. With the old iron works slag heap to the right and towards the National Park in the distance. 

 

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The A Team's consultation response to Defra's 'Health and Harmony'

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The A Team's consultation response to Defra's 'Health and Harmony'

 

 

It has been announced that Defra has received over 44,000 consultation responses from various institutions, businesses and individuals. Each, has critiqued the Government's vision; Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit. The consequences of which, are going to influence the forward trajectory of agriculture, food, public wellbeing and the environment in the UK.

The A Team Foundation are grateful to have our views heard by Government.  Our advice echoes the sentiments of many other voices, it has been formulated by the experience of our grantees on the ground, and from the knowledge of the wider food movement at large. 

Firstly, we champion agroecology and have expressed with great care its many benefits. And so too, we have flagged the holes that appear in the Government's vision.

But furthermore, we have given emphasis upon how we are in the flux of an agricultural revolution. One that envisions an enlightened food system where food is diverse, nutritiously complete, locally sourced, sustainably produced, and access to it is equal. 

 

"The agricultural bill is evidence that there is no longer a status quo, the time to create a brave new world is upon us. One built on humanitarian, and ecological ideals .... Solutions that we develop now are the bedrock, on which, our future generations will thrive."

 
 

Please take the time to read our consultation response in full (by clicking here or on the image below).  However, If you are short on time, our key messages are below. 

 

Our key messages

  • Agroecology is the answer. We advise Defra to make the UK a world-leading example of the enlightened agricultural practice. When aligned with local supply chains, the rights for worker’s and technological innovation, it is the panacea for our paradigm shift.
     
  • The A Team Foundation requests official recognition that food is not a commodity but a basic human right.
     
  • Apply the four easy-to-implement schemes as proposed by the Land Worker’s Alliance; 1) A Sustainable Farming Transition Scheme. 2) A Local Food Fund. 3) A New Entrants Scheme. 4) Horticulture Livelihoods Payments
     
  • Reinvigorate the Horticulture Sector to make easy gains on healthy and accessible food, healthy food, behaviour change, community integration, strengthening local livelihoods and development of our nutritionally complete food security.
     
  • Diverse, culturally appropriate and nutritionally complete food, should take precedence over establishing export markets for commodities.
     
  • Create short supply chains through supporting horticulture farms in urban and peri-urban locations. This would provide a multitude of benefits for urban society, such as education, engagement, health, urban biodiversity and community cohesion.
     
  • Implement simplified Environmental Land Management Schemes for agroforestry, orchards, and particularly; Community Supported Agriculture.
     
  • To talk about ‘Public Goods’ and resilience is at its most fundamental is to talk about seed and agrobiodiversity. This is a vital area that is not acknowledged through Health and Harmony. 
     
  • We strongly request a reverse of the decisions by BEIS and DEFRA not to extend the role of the groceries code Adjudicator to cover more of the food supply chain beyond direct supermarket suppliers.
     
  • Food labelling must be reformed to a mandatory and uniformed system that champions our high food standards, the nutritional quality, the Public Goods they create, and the method of production.
     
  • Public health is a Public Good, and one that should be delivered by farming and food policy. Although inherently interconnected, there isn’t a focus on how agricultural policy will change the course of diet-related illness in the UK and ease the burden on the NHS.
     
  • All Public Procurement should run through a food assurance scheme, we propose the Soil Association’s ‘Food for Life’.
 

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Why is the Precautionary Principle so vital?

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Why is the Precautionary Principle so vital?

By Robert Reed, A Team Foundation

Sustainable food production is the apex between human and environmental health. Being good custodians of our planet gives the inherent benefit to one’s self also. Clean soil, air, and water should create clean food, diets, and overall wellbeing. This is true even if you reverse the chain; wholesome nutrition requires eating healthy and cooking with clean ingredients.

However, this interconnected perspective is still lost amongst the conditioning from the past. Throughout the world, industries and people, work with a silo mentality; a perspective that sees and works within the parameters of only one self-defined area, and everything external of that is considered void. This is an outdated ‘reductionist’ thinking method, ill-suited for the challenges of the 21st century. 

We, as a species, are at a point in our evolution where holistic thinking is the only way forward. Necessity is the mother of all innovation, and from which, new systems are emerging.

The Precautionary Principle A Team Foundation 5.jpg

The natural environment works in a multidimensional continuum (it all arises simultaneously at once, everywhere), and this patchwork of beings all relate to one another – ourselves included (A wonderful video about interconnectivity in nature: How the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park changed the rivers).

Imagine a wing of an aeroplane, there are many rivets holding it together. If the wing lost one or two rivets during a flight, it will be more-or-less secure and its function in-tact. However, there is a threshold, if enough rivets are removed, the wing (and the plane) loses its functionality. This is the basic premise of environmental collapse. The environment we are a part of.

The environment is a network of innumerable species. This network, the ecosystem, is resilient to all the shocks that we humans place upon it. There are many scientists who claim our actions have brought us to the tipping point of the planetary boundaries; potentially driving Earth into a new state of existence.

Rén - The Chinese symbol for Man

Rén - The Chinese symbol for Man

The Chinese symbol for Man has many entertaining interpretations with unity and interconnectedness as a common theme. Created by two lines, the first is propped up by the latter. I see it as Man being propped upwards by the Earth. Others found meaning in how we as humans should treat each other. Either way, it’s a symbol, but for me, it is one that shows the underlining connection to all.

What we do is what happens to us. If we disregard another (be it the environment or another human), the effects return to the source (dressed in a different form).

Thinking in this manner (holism) is one thing, applying it, however, is most definitely a challenge. The reasons why holistic systems are so beneficial is that they are diverse and complex; ironically, the same reasons why there is such resistance to adopt them.

We cannot say that we know with absolute accuracy, what consequences occur from our individual actions. Impacts go beyond our field of vision and our feedback loops, they are external, eternally rippling outwards.

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Imagine, therefore, a new product - for ease, let’s say a pesticide - is developed and about to be released, one that has a “successful” potency against certain crop-munching insects. As users, neighbours or customers, we cannot personally guarantee its safety and thus, we place our trust in organisations, certifying bodies and national law so that this product doesn’t cause detrimental harm.

Let’s say those institutions didn’t exist, negative consequences could manifest in many forms. Perhaps when the pesticide is mixed with a different ‘on farm’ chemical it becomes a poisonous substance, or, it may obliterate a specific native population of invertebrates (with larger consequences in the ecosystem and food chain). One stat has been playing on my mind recently; we – Europe as a land mass – have lost 33% of our farmland birds. Why? -  Simply, habitat and food; a loss of hedgerows, wooded areas, insects, worms. What if the bird population falls so far that the decline goes beyond a sustainable threshold? What does that mean to the native plants dependent on seed dispersal through avian digestion? What does it mean for predators? What does it mean for other bird life? For our own pleasure in the morning, how sweet will that dawn chorus be? And in time, what does this mean for our own culture? Ad. Infinitum.

This line of thought is exactly why there is a piece of policy legislation in place called The Precautionary Principle. Where there is insufficient scientific evidence available to make an authoritative decision, the Principle suggests to not go ahead as the risk is either unknown or too high – common sense right?

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There is a chance that this piece of policy (along with other environmental protections) may be scrapped during Brexit; opening the doors for the silo thinking. The PP is a preventative against harm when we do not know the extent of the outcome.

In March, the APPG for Agroecology and Dr Rupert Read (University of East Anglia) created briefing papers that highlighted the importance of the Precautionary Principle in Government policy. The briefings inform the ongoing environmental protection debates at the House of Lords, where they are reporting on the amendments to the Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill. There are two papers, one is specific to the House of Lords and the EU Withdrawal Bill, the other focus on the role that the Precautionary Principle has in the context of Climate Change and Animal Welfare.     

The Bill itself omits many environmental safeguards. Debates are already occurring in the House as the overarching dialogue continues until the deadline for reporting; May 8th. There has been an update this week that provides some sense of clarity. On Monday, the Lords defeated the Government. The proposal to make amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill (that would maintain the environmental protections and human rights) was passed. If enough MPs agree with the amendments, the consequence will mean that the Government must revise the initial EU Withdrawal Bill. 

However, there still remains a gaping hole. When the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, proposed his visions for a ‘Green Brexit’. Mr Gove and his team acknowledged a problem, the current regulator, the European Court of Justice, will not be in effect after Brexit and so, Mr Gove proposed a new watchdog to take its duties. The Government maintain the status that environmental protection will be the role of the watchdog, but what is the use of a watchdog that has no teeth?  

The issue is that the watchdog hasn't materialised due to the opposition from other members of the cabinet. They want to be free to arrange international trade deals as they please, in the name of the economy and industry. And this has the potential to leave the environment wide open to negligent practice.

While these debates are ongoing, the APPG still supplies evidence, while also working on the consultation for the Agriculture Bill; another critical piece of policy work. Meanwhile, Greener UK, (a united front by organisations such as Client Earth, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Woodland Trust to name only a few) are still spearheading the efforts to safeguard the existing environmental protections.

Earlier this month, GreenerUK released this blog post; Green Brexit? Not unless the prime minister stands up to her grey ministers, which acutely sums up that current state of play.

The need for enlightenment continues… well, at least Spring has arrived.

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Brexit and Enlightened Agriculture: who is doing what

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Brexit and Enlightened Agriculture: who is doing what

 By Robert Reed, A Team Foundation

 

 The month of January is named after Janus, the mythological Roman god of gates, beginnings and transitions. With that in mind, it seemed an appropriate time to write about the political path ahead in light of recent Brexit developments.

In the current tides of popular discourse, using Latin may be overly EU-centric: In an Anglo-Saxon tongue, January was called, “Wulf-monath”; the month of the wolves. Look into that as you will.

Recently, the A Team Foundation kicked off 2018 with the Oxford Real Farming Conference. If the year continues as it has begun, we are in line for an exciting ride. And boy, did the conference permeate with the momentum of change.

The Secretary of State, Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP gave a public Q&A with Zac Goldsmith concerning Brexit, the UK’s farming sector and forthcoming changes. Numerous sites provide an accurate account of his attendance, such as the Soil Association and this article in the Guardian.

Mr Gove’s speech was filled with Brexit and what that means for farmers. In this article, the A Team Foundation will provide you with a summary of the Brexit landscape and importantly, who is doing what for you and Enlightened Agriculture in preparation for Britain leaving the EU.

The food sovereignty movement is in the process of influencing national policy through a joined-up approach. The organisations involved are already hard at work, and a sense of urgency maintains. Everyone is taking focus; this is the opportunity that we have all been waiting for, for so very long.

Defra Ministers have welcomed the Land Worker’s Alliance and the Organic Roundtable (spearheaded by the Organic Research Centre) to work with them in supplying evidence and case studies to inform decisions for the forthcoming Agricultural Bill. On a broader political level, The Real Farming Trust, Sustain, Greener UK and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Agroecology are affecting the democratic processeses of Government. And the RSA has taken a non-political route by launching a commission to develop public engagement and education.

With regards to recent developments, it seems that the Government has adhered to the arrival of January in the same way that most people do, with a New Year’s resolution; a commitment to change oneself for the better. We hope that this New Year’s resolution will last.

 

DEFRA’s 25-year plan.

 

The Conservatives have publicly embraced the notion that they are a green party. This metamorphosis has caught many by surprise and indeed, it is most welcome news. The release, earlier this month, of the 25-year Environment Plan, was announced by Theresa May. The first major speech by a Prime Minister on the environment for 17 years.

As per every landscape of the UK, Brexit has a critical impact on food, farming and the environment. If half of the policies proposed by the 25-year environmental plan comes to fruition, then it would be one of the most significant environmental accomplishments to occur in our time. But with every victory, there’s a taste that’s bittersweet. 

The plan is not without its criticisms, and I write this today as a 30-year-old, I’ll be almost 60 by the time “avoidable” plastic waste is eliminated, which is just not good enough. Also, numerous organisations are criticising the lack of legal underpinning. A lengthy amount of time allows for the changing of the tides. No legal commitment exists to support the enforcement of the Plan’s statements and policies. 

The plan covers a range of topics from plastics, recycling, biodiversity and habitats to climate change and air pollution. Here we have chosen a few highlights:

Soil Fertility.

First of all, the words ‘Organic Farming’ is not mentioned. However, the plan hints to techniques from the organic movement. Soil fertility is a crucial part of the project. DEFRA have rightfully understood the importance of our soil as a fundamental underpinning of food security and a resilient biosphere. The plan suggests improving soil health through the utilisation of trees and widespread application of successful techniques such as installing winter cover crops.

 

Common Agricultural Policy

Michael Gove has publicly stated that direct payments would be phased out after Brexit. In its place, agriculture support will be based on rewarding farmers who deliver “public goods” or environmental enhancements. The plan includes measures to protect water and reduce chemical use.

A transition period is in motion between now and 2024. In that space sits a replica of the existing CAP system. The removal of subsidies for land area payments begin with the higher earners first and a lot sooner than 2024. The UK’s alternative Agriculture Bill is being designed as we speak with proposals submitted through a command paper this Spring.

 

Natural Capital

The Natural Capital Committee is a considerable influence in Defra decision making.  Deiter Helm is the pioneering academic for Natural Capital in the UK. His book, Natural Capital: Valuing the Planet, is a solid piece of work. You can instantly see why policymakers want him around.

Natural Capital is a concept which gives a monetary value to every subject of the environment. It is measured through metrics based on cultural, economic and ecological values to people and the ecosystem.

It allows those who see the world through linear, numerically orientated perspectives to factor in the un-factorable within their bookkeeping. It translates the wiggly and circular world into a language they can understand and work with.

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This use of language brings environmental stewardship and the ecosystem rightfully onto tables of commercial, political and industrial discussion. It has the potential to prioritise sustainability and reward the steward.

Agroecology is an approach that balances production, sustainability, and ecology. Natural Capital will be taking it seriously as the method will benefit the bottom line in the long-term.  

However, Natural Capital will be an influencer in the increase of biodiversity and carbon offsetting.  Upon planning a new development, the ecology of an existing site is compensated by creating an equivalent elsewhere. Offsetting an area that has a substantial cost (let's say, ancient woodland) is not a problem for those with deep pockets. Offsetting cultural and atmospheric integrity, however, is different.

How far will this go? One day, will there be Japanese investor capitalists thronging money into land within The Mendips in the hope that a newly built shopping centre in Birmingham will need to offset its carbon and biodiversity? Have we honestly lost the connection to value while only knowing the cost? How does the poetic spirit of the natural world translate to numbers on an excel spreadsheet?

 

The Polluter Pays Principle.

Lastly, on a bit of a tangent from food and farming, the plan develops an appetite for a greater emphasis on the polluter pays principle (Whereby the costs of environmental pollution lie with those responsible for it). Which as a factor is helpful. Although, with the removal of the precautionary principle from the EU withdrawal bill (a policy maker’s tool to manage risk where scientific understanding is incomplete; if the unknowns are big then don’t), it seems Defra are more interested in focusing on the cure as opposed to prevention.

“The Precautionary Principle reminds us of our responsibilities as stewards for our bequeathed wondrous nature, to which we give no voice and towards which too often we turn a deaf ear. It jolts us into giving proper attention to the living worlds of all future generations, both human and natural, for whom at present there is no reliable political representation”. Rupert Read

 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology

 

The APPG on Agroecology is a group of parliamentarians that provide a voice for Agroecology in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Members range across the entire political spectrum and are co-chaired by Kerry McCarthy MP and Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer.

The group supplies a platform for agroecological experts to present their ideas and research findings to MPs, peers, the media and public on a regular basis. The group publishes parliamentary briefings and co-ordinates the actions of ministers and opposition through a range of governmental protocols.

The APPG on Agroecology for Sustainable Food and Farming conducted an inquiry in March 2017 into the way Brexit trade negotiations could impact UK agriculture and food production, with particular emphasis on areas of practice and legislation most likely to effect producers working to sustainable, agroecological standards. The conclusion is summarised in the following sentence:

Poorly handled trade deals ‘biggest peacetime threat’ to UK food security.

“There are serious concerns that if negotiators don’t value farmers enough and build poorly managed trade deals that reflect this - particularly a US - UK deal – it could trigger a race to the bottom in terms of standards and ability of our own farmers to compete. The APPG is determined that this sector should not become a bargaining chip or something that can easily be traded.” Group Chair Kerry McCarthy MP

Scary stuff.. 

In recent months, the APPG is looking deeper into what the EU Withdrawal Bill means for Enlightened Agriculture.

Kath Dalmeny's visual props fo  r her Brexit presentation at ORFC18

Kath Dalmeny's visual props for her Brexit presentation at ORFC18

The Oxford Real Farming Conference always spurs motivational energy. Kath Dalmeny from Sustain gave such a sterling visual presentation on the EU Withdrawal Bill (what can be banked as safe, promises that can be built upon, and what is going to be binned), it catalysed many conversations within the floor and behind the scenes. Sustain, and other organisations are working with the APPG on developing the 2018 program as we speak.

The APPG (like all of us) are set for a busy year. As proponents of the phrase ‘Public Money for Public Good’, they carry the duty to inform MPs and Peers with analysis of Defra’s 25-year plan, advice for the Agriculture Bill, and campaigning to pick up any dropped balls from the EU Withdrawal Bill.

Defra, with their open-door policy to new methods of thinking, has set their sights on our movement through the interconnected work of the APPG and their informants such as the Organic Research Centre and the Landworkers’ Alliance. 

 

The English Organic Forum’s Roundtable and their Organic Action Plan

 

Following the Brexit referendum, the English Organic Forum (a roundtable of organic organisations, spearheaded by Organic Research Centre), has been prolific in raising critical issues with Defra Ministers.

Defra has invited the forum to participate in formal conversations about agricultural policy and to produce and implement an industry-led action plan to develop the organic food and farming sector in England (The devolved nations have their right to build their strategy).

Forming the plan has taken a joined-up industry approach. The strategic areas targeted for development, as follows; Citizen access to and engagement with organic food, Small-scale production and short supply chains; trade, national supply chains and domestic supply; Regulations and equivalency; Research, advice, training and information; and support for the public benefits from organic land management.

During the Oxford Real Farming Conference, Professor Nic Lampkin and key members of the forum (the Biodynamic Association, Land Workers’ Alliance, Organic Trade Board, Organic Farmers & Growers, and the Soil Association to name a few) hosted a workshop in a bustling room, crowd-sourcing additional ideas from the conference’s experienced attendees.

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Professor Lampkin states that participation is wholly welcome, the process is to the benefit of the industry and broader public. You can find his contact details at the Organic Research Centre.

The Roundtable met with Defra Ministers in November. The response from their initial proposals was constructive, and several issues were highlighted for further focus.  A further meeting of the Organic Roundtable is planned for March 2018, with the launch of the action plan envisaged later in the Spring.

 

The Land Workers’ Alliance

 

Come Spring, the Agricultural Bill will be released outlining the path ahead. The Bill will have a critical impact on how food is produced in this country, the natural world, and our human health. It is perhaps the most significant moment for agriculture in generations.

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The Landworkers’ Alliance is working to define our future through influencing policy. They are rallying the cause to make sure the voices of the people are heard, their livelihoods defended and a fair food system for all is guaranteed. 

Successful policy work is critical to their cause with the belief that farmers and communities must be at the heart of decision-making. They want to see power put back in the hands of producers and local communities rather than supermarkets and industrial processors.

The LWA is a tenacious group. At the closing plenary of the Oxford Real Farming Conference, Jyoti Fernandes gave a genuinely moving speech. She recalled how fourteen years ago, on a cold January morning while getting her children ready for school; she was carrying a bale of hay to feed livestock across a yard deep in mud when the inevitable happened. Falling head first, surrounded by hungry cows, she looked up and just wished it would be easier for farmers like her.

LWA Post-Brexit Agriculture Policy June 2017

This collective of strong-willed farmers and producers have been a driving force for change. Now, fourteen years later, Jyoti sat having lunch with Mr Gove, as he stated, “we’ll have our people call your people” or something of that kind.

The LWA’s publication ‘Recommendations for a post-Brexit Policy’ is a must-read for those interested in this area.

The door to Defra is open for innovative and holistic thinkers. The LWA has already gathered the research and formulated the arguments for change. Now, they are giving Defra the whistle-stop tour of it in action through Defra study tours, ‘away days’ and case studies. Politicians are on the ground, in wellies.

Now, LWA staff are being asked to join in various committees and contribute as consultants. The Conservatives Rural Action Group have invited some of LWA’s new entrants that are struggling with planning, to speak at a hearing in Parliament.

The time to make a change is really upon us and the LWA have the mandate to carry it through. They have recently completed a successful crowdfunding campaign, raising £25,000 to support their policy work and keep up with that demand. At a time to be proud of our movement, the LWA are working tirelessly to maintain momentum, but there is still a long way to go.

 

Greener UK

 

The largest and the most resourced organisation that is affecting Government’s decisions on environmental policy is Greener UK. An unprecedented coalition of environmental groups with a combined public membership of 7.9 million that are following Brexit’s every twist and turn.

Greener UK is a compound of major environmental organisations such as RSPB, National Trust, WWF, The Wildlife Trusts, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Client Earth, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Woodland Trust and with support from numerous other organisations and networks. A united front is the best way to impact the major decisions. 

An agricultural briefing policy has been designed by the coalition. It promotes the notion that interdisciplinary, cross sector approaches are needed due to the transboundary nature of the natural world. They are working alongside Food and Farming organisations to inform policymakers.

Mr Gove’s stance on environmental law is that after Brexit, the UK is better disposed to improve protections and has pledged that green standards will not be weakened.

However, Greener UK is of the belief that the current EU withdrawal bill “rips the heart out of environmental law” by omitting the principles of precaution. Greener UK is concerned that government plans do not adequately transpose all EU environmental rules into UK law.

After Brexit day, the European Commission will be unable to work alongside the European Court of Justice to hold the UK government to account. Over the past 40 years, the EU has achieved a great deal in improving environmental quality in the UK.

Therefore, it appeared that a governance gap was open for exploitation. In the summer of 2017, Greener UK highlighted the risk that could arise from this problem, and Mr Gove responded by announcing in the 25-year plan, the creation of a ‘new-commission like body’ to hold the government to account.

Greener UK analyses Defra with a sharp focus. The European Commission formulates new environmental policy proposals on the back of 500 civil servants. In principle, there is no reason that Defra is unable to handle these processes but for years it has been subject to profound staffing cuts and lacks a generation’s worth of experience in preparing legislative bills.

Greener UK is doing a comprehensive job informing Ministers, the Media and The Public about the potential issues concerning environmental policy. Environmental Policy has a rightful place on the table where larger conversations are being had. However, at points, it can be neglected or traded. Refer back to the work of the APPG and trade negotiations. Negotiations require the flexibility to compromise and having concrete laws may be a burden to those in economics. Greener UK are focused to achieve the best deal for the environment in light of the volatile and transient times.

 
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The RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

 

The last organisation to be mentioned is a bit of an anomaly. As the others are all influencing Government, the RSA’s commission is a public based inquiry into the interrelated nexus of Food, Farming and the Countryside. The purpose of its establishment is to consider how a safe, secure food and farming system can be achieved while also providing a flourishing rural economy and sustainable and accessible countryside.

Brexit was the catalyst that inspired this commission and the opportunity that Brexit gives is an overarching rethink of the food production system. The vision spurs further questions such as, Where do we want our food to come from? How are we to support farms (and rural economies) without the Common Agricultural Policy? How can we assure public and environmental health?

“The work of this Commission will go to the heart of who we are and who we want to be: as individuals, households, and communities”. RSA

The steering group, involving Directors and CEOs of the National Trust, Royal Society of Public Health, Soil Association, Sustain, Tenant Farmers Association, Volac and Which?, shall chart a course, critically analysing through enquiry, the interconnected and changing spheres of agriculture, environment, rural living, dietary needs, and public health.

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 The task of the commission is this:

  1. Inspire and develop a widely-shared mandate for change.
  2. Set out a vision that is fairer, can stand the test of time, and aligns more closely with public expectations and values.
  3. Propose solutions to achieve that vision, identifying where communities and business can take the lead, and where national policy is essential

The enquiry isn’t based exclusively on those “in the know”, the work aims to extrapolate upon public knowledge and provide a platform for citizen engagement. The choices of people determine the food system; it is of vital importance that attitudes and behaviours are not only incorporated but also, understood.

Sue Pritchard, the Secretariat of the Commission, chaired a session at the ORFC based on the interconnected nature of Food, Farming and Medicine. The all-female panel was made up of organic growers, retailers, public health nutritionists, a general practitioner and nutritional chef practitioner. The importance of healthy food resonates through our movement. Here, the panel discussed the ripple effect of what a robust and healthy food system can do for us.   

The RSAs objective is epitomised by that panel: ’finding common ground using different perspectives, so to innovate solutions’. Those solutions are to be publicised in Spring 2019

 

Conclusion

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So, as you can see, there is an interconnected network that are working together with the sum greater than the whole of its parts. This synergy seems to be gaining ground in some areas (those that are politically aligned), whereas there is still cause for concern for others. 

These organisations are key players in the changing political and social landscape. In an industry where many are achieving phenomenal feats by pushing for change as well as working long hours outside growing or farming. An inspirational amount of energy and know-how is being funnelled into a movement that is making change happen.

As this Brexit journey charters an unknown path, we know that it won’t be plain sailing.  However, we can take pride in the fact that whatever happens, there are people out there giving there all for a better world. 

After all that you have read, and our energies spent, aren’t you glad that by the end of this year, it may have accounted for nothing due to a second referendum? Or not… who knows.

 



 

 

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