Posts Tagged ‘CSA’

Brilliant Best Before film; Raising awareness to the unsustainable food industry before it is too late

A big ‘Well done’ to the Best Before team for their great film about the food industry, and thank you for inviting me to the premier. I apologies to everyone attending for my lengthy question at the end, I was trying to raise awareness to BigBarn and how our mission to build a LOCAL food industry fitted so perfectly with the film.

The film is a fantastic way of raising awareness to the unsustainable food industry we now have, and how some people in London are building an alternative. We should all learn from this, tell our friends and start to change. Not a painful change, but an easy, and fulfilling one. See below.

Here is a trailer of the film;

To watch the whole film or organise a viewing you can click here.

BigBarn is here to help build a LOCAL food industry, with our Local food map, Crop for the Shop, and partners. To read more on how we can all make the positive change to local. A change where, in the long term, we save money and get better food. Click our April blog How we can build a local food Industry


Are Shopping centres becoming the ‘negative’ centre of communities?

Westfield Shopping Centre, Startford,

I notice that shopping centres seem to be popping up everywhere, even the Olympic village.

Obviously because they are popular, and part of ‘urban regeneration’. My worry is that they have a rather negative effect on people.

Shopping is the new leisure activity, retail therapy, and a way of people feeling included amongst other people, our herd instinct.

Unfortunately a trip to the shopping centre will result in most people finding there are all kinds of things they think they want, but can’t afford. Or worse still are encouraged to buy on credit and get further in debt. Very negative.

A much more positive way to satisfy our herd instinct is to join an allotment or community supported agriculture. Meeting people, getting some gentle exercise, learning about growing food and going home satisfied, with a bag of great produce.

Perhaps every shopping centre application should be coupled with an area for allotments and general fruit and veg growing? For a start make the landscapers replace the prickly shrubs and bushes with fruit and nut trees! Follow the example of Incredible Edible Todmorden. (although they had to get special planning permission to replace the shrubs in the Health Centres car park.)

Supermarkets are amazing, but slowly killing us, and a sustainable food industry

Supermarkets are amazing, a massive range of goods, all in one place with convenient access. They have however decimated the farming industry and separated us from producers with increasingly worrying consequences.

To me they are like alcohol, very addictive but if taken to often could kill. Like a decent ale, supermarkets can be very satisfying.

But watch out for the hangover. It is a well known fact that on average, for every £1 spent on food in a supermarket the farmer only gets 9p. This has already led to a large percentage of farmers selling up or giving up fruit and veg growing and switching to grain.

Coupons and special offers do not seem to effect supermarket profit so can’t be that special. More and more aisles and TV ads are devoted to salty ready meals, and some children do not know that milk comes from a cow, or apples grow on trees.

Like alcohol dulling our senses supermarkets dull our food buying. We just grab it off the shelf instead of thinking, touching, smelling and discussing what is best with the producer. This kills what little enthusiasm the average Brit has for food and must lead to a deteriorating diet as more people switch from seasonal food to ready meals.

We need to break our addiction and get enthused.

We need to cut down our supermarket visits. OK, a visit once a month to stock up on washing powder and tins is fine. For our weekly food needs we should reconnect with local producers communicate and encourage further production. Or even join the food industry and grow our own, join a local food growing scheme and trading via our Crop for the Shop scheme.

This will save most people money, as buying direct cuts out all the middle men margins, (and avoids the supermarket special offer temptations), and returns money back to the local economy to encourage further production. More people become enthused about food and in so doing eat seasonal fruit and veg, those who grow will also get ‘digging’ exercise all improving health.

Like cutting back on alcohol changing an addictive shopping habit is very difficult but very satisfying.

For more on how to break the supermarket habit, here is a previous blog.

As land prices hit a new high, how does anyone get in to farming?

Land prices hit a new high of £8,500 per acre recently.  As most farmers consider they need at least 250 acres to be viable you need over £2m to get in to farming and buy the land, let alone the machinery!

Unfortunately British farming is based on the production of commodities such as wheat, barley, vegetables, meat or milk. Once they have been produced the price is then set by world markets. Often a disaster if costs are high in the UK and the world price has dropped.

Farmers have also been separated from consumers with the middle man & retailer making most. On average farmers only get 9p in every £1 spent on food in the supermarket.

Pork farmers have have experienced these problems for years with high feed prices and lower cost of production in Europe pushing down prices. They have also been hit by higher animal welfare standards with legislation in this country pushing up the cost of production. A real tragedy when many consumers vote to say that pigs should have high welfare then succumb to marketing and buy Danish bacon where pigs can still be held in crates.

When food becomes a commodity producers focus on cutting cost and increasing yield, nearly always reducing quality and flavour for the end user.

So what hope is there for anyone wanting to become a farmer???

It seems the only way forward is for producers to sell quality products and market them accordingly. Luckily the greed of the supermarkets means that prices can match the supermarket and leave the producer with a reasonable profit and the consumer with a better product at a reasonable price.

So how do you get some land to become a farmer without having £2 million?

You may have noticed that farm machinery has got bigger over recent years in line with technology and pressure to reduce labour costs. This means that small fields and corners of larger fields are often left fallow or set aside, especially bordering villages and towns.

This land, to me, seems perfect for those interested in farming. The farmer could even come and do some heavy work occasionally, like deep cultivation. Those looking for help and customers could set up a CSA Community Supported Agricultural scheme. Or talk to local retailers, pubs, schools and restaurants about what they might want to buy, and Crop for the Shop.