Moving towards localised, sustainable food production

After the emergency summit of EU leaders on Wednesday 10th of April, it looks as though the UK could potentially go as far as October 31st before departing the union. While an immediate cliff edge departure appears to have been avoided, there’s still a lot of uncertainty, strife and division ahead. We’ve written a fair bit about Brexit on our sister blog, the Heckler, and while some of our earlier predictions have been proven to be wrong, we still stand by a lot of what we’ve said about the impact on neighbourhood solidarity and food security.

One thing the threat of a no deal departure has done is concentrate a number of minds on the issues of how we source, produce and transport the food we need. The disruption that could have been caused by lengthy delays at the Calais to Dover crossing brought home how fragile a ‘just in time’ food supply chain can be. It also raised questions about how far away some of our food sources are and what the environmental impact of transporting that food is.

There were a number of responses to this. A lot of food distributors and retailers stockpiled what they could to avoid having to pass on hefty price rises to consumers in the immediate aftermath of a no deal exit. Obviously, when it comes to the fresh produce such as salads and fruits that’s shipped around in refrigerated trucks, the delays at Calais would have resulted in these goods pretty much disappearing from the supermarket shelves within days of a no deal exit.

At an individual level, estimates of people building up their own stockpiles of food ranged from one in ten up to one in five. Doubtless, a fair few of them will now be going through their stocks checking the Best Before and Use by dates! Hopefully, the food banks will be getting some generous donations now as people review and renew their stocks.

At an individual and neighbourhood level, there has been a slight uptick in interest in growing your own. Obviously with our political perspective, we prefer neighbourhood food growing schemes as they offer the opportunity to build the community solidarity we need. Although we potentially have until October 31st before departing the EU, when it comes to sustainable, neighbourhood level food production, we hope people don’t relax and take their foot off the pedal.

In theory, we have what is almost a full, digging, planting/sowing, harvesting and preserving season ahead of us before Brexit. We’ve had a bit of a wake up call with regard to food security and the (un)sustainability of our existing food production methods. Where our food comes from and how it’s produced and transported needs to be on the agenda along with serious discussions about moving towards more sustainable and secure ways of sourcing it.

Let’s see those community gardens start to emerge in our neighbourhoods and get control of the production of our food down to the grassroots and away from the corporations. Now is the time to talk to your neighbours about sustainable food production and get digging, planting and sowing.

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