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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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The Beacon Farms Journey

The Beacon Farms Journey

Written by Steph Wetherall, Beacon Farms Report co-author. 

In 2012 a group of people gathered together to look at how best to safeguard some of Bristol’s best agricultural land, while supporting and encouraging new entrants to farming by facilitating access to land and enterprise support. Beacon Farms was created, and the search for a piece of land for our first Farm Hub began. 

Beacon Farms - A Team Foundation

Almost four years later, Beacon Farms has tried four different methods of securing land for this purpose; we tried buying from a private owner, leasing from the council, buying at auction and a community asset transfer, and each fell through for a different reason. 

We decided to take the time to reflect on our journey, and this resulted in a report called The Beacon Farms Journey. The document details the approaches and the challenges that we faced in each attempt, including the reason for the failure of that attempt. But more importantly, it includes reflections on what we’ve learnt along the way. 

The 'blue finger' is the long blue strip in the top right of Bristol (the solid red block), above Frenchay.   

The 'blue finger' is the long blue strip in the top right of Bristol (the solid red block), above Frenchay.  

We take the time to look at why acquiring land is so hard; why high land prices have pushed agricultural land out of the price range of farmers, and the challenges facing local authorities in making land available. We observe that our agricultural land is not sufficiently protected, that our best and most versatile soils are slowly being built on, or are the subject of land grabs in the hope of future development opportunities. We reflect on the slow moving nature of projects like this, and the problems this can pose for momentum and funding.

And finally, we look to the future and our determination not to give up. While we may not have managed to secure a piece of land, we have achieved many other things during this time, including being able to raise the profile of the ‘Blue Finger’ soils around Bristol and carry out in-depth research into land seekers’ needs through a detailed survey. We’ve learnt that projects such as this require a combination of the right people and the right opportunity, and we’re hopeful that our time will come.

We hope that our story helps inspire, encourage and support other similar projects in their journeys. You can read the full report by clicking here.

Beacon Farms - A Team Foundation
Beacon Farms - A Team Foundation