Just Food – Breakout Session 2 – Local Food

Author: | Date: 20 January, 2014 | Category: Food | Comments: 0

This post is a transcription of notes taken at the second session of breakout groups – the group clustered on “Local Food” – at the CEL workshop “Just Food”, held on 18th January 2014 at St George’s Church in Bloomsbury. Paul Bodenham was the facilitator.

Things we hope to discuss include – where do you get your food from ? How do you preserve it [ for sharing your surplus ] ?

A place to start could be – if we’ve tried to source our food locally – difficulties we’ve found – exchange our experiences.

Let’s ask – who grows their own ? [ About a third of the people in the group put their hands up ]. Who feels they should do it but don’t have the time ? [ Another third raise their hands ].

What are your options for reducing food miles ? Farmers markets. Local greengrocer.

Although local greengrocers do not always source from local farms [ or gardens ], they do at least label things – for example, two types of beans, one from Guatemala ! Blackberries from Mexico !

It’s the same thing at the local butchers […]

I have an organic vegetable box delivered. Who else ? Who takes part in a CSA [ Community Supported Agriculture ] scheme [ where community groups deal directly with farms ] ? Or a local food-buying group ?

We do [ a food-buying group ] – the idea is to get a large order together [ to make purchase of dried goods like rice cheaper ] – but without much success.

These are all ways of cutting down on your food foodprint, cutting out the middle man and reducing packaging waste.

Growing your own : getting started I find is a problem. How did you get started ?

E’s father had a garden in D. My father grew. We grew up in a time when a lot of people grew, and we’ve always known the taste difference – [ the ] flavoursome [ nature of organic home produce ].

There are a lot of schemes to get children growing. I go out as a Master Composter [ and encouraging growing is one of the things we do ]. The seed cost is negligible – we are giving away packets of seeds, encouraging children to plant a handful – the outcomes include eating fresh salad [ that they’ve grown themselves ].

I’m part of an ecocentre where children and others can stay. Fifty beds. It’s difficult to grow all our own food, but over the last two years we have been working with East Feast, which encourage local growing of food and local food festivities. They use us as a place to gather others. We’re not growing food for forty at a time, but taking part – growing food as education. If you could find that and participate […] you might find the schemes that exist and you didn’t know about, for example, in Bristol, Chris Sunderland. There are numerous schemes. It takes trawling for – going along and finding others.

I participate in the scheme local to me in East London. It’s called OrganicLea because we’re in the Lea Valley. Each week I walk down the road to pick up my organic vegetable bag from the very local collection point. The deliveries are made there by electric float, charged by solar power. A good proportion of the food is grown in the Borough, and then the scheme has a relationship with farms in Essex, so most of the food is grown within 25 miles.

A good thing for you to do if you’re starting out is to take an allotment. You can see what others are doing, and be around people who have experience.

We started with soft fruit. When you’ve got young children, you’ve not got the time for growing vegetables, but with soft fruit you can plant and forget. We fill the freezer each year.

There’s an apple tree over the street with its branches hanging over the pavement loaded with fruit. I must admit I take some. Am I wrong ?

I would ask the owner first because they might have a plan to harvest it.

I have been picking fruit up from under trees and people passing by ask “Can you eat these ?” Well, yes ! I also do the sprouting of lentils and beans. Lentils are the easiest – I do it year round. In the summer I do sunflower seeds. Cut them when they are at the dicotyledon stage.

Do you know anybody doing organised scrumping ? Yes, the “Scrumping Response Unit” will come out if you call. They have all the kit. They even harvest from street trees. They make juice and preserves.

We want more fruit trees in town centres. You’ve heard of “guerilla gardening” ? Well, how about “guerilla grafting” – putting fruiting saplings onto street tree stock ? We’ve put trees in various places that officialdom have objected to. If questioned “Who put those trees there ?” We could answer “Squirrels”.

Could you put fruit trees in churchyards ? Our church, St A’s in C, has an allotment area between the church and the railway. The produce is either given away or sold from the car park.

There are often difficulties digging up churchyards. But it’s a bit more effective than Scripture reading notes at demonstrating God the Creator who gives fruit.

Do we not want to think about locally-produced preserves etc ? Would not people want to do more with the local fruit if they got them ?

We have a community meal by sharing out the cooking of the individual parts of the meal. You use the same amount of energy to cook three pounds [ a bit less than a kilogramme ] of something as one pound. There’s an initiative that was started at Greenbelt – inviting peoplee that would otherwise be isolated to a community meal – asking them to contribute “something”.

Has anyone heard of “Food Not Bombs” ? [ Is that not “Bread Not Bombs” ? ] They go to supermarkets and take the unwanted produce and share it out. The origin of “Bread Not Bombs” was a group who ploughed and cultivated a patch of empty ground that was intended for use as a military base, and the produce was sent to Eritrea.

Does anybody know about garden sharing ? There are websites for that. People can be suspicious – don’t want these people in my garden – what are they going to do to it ?

I want to know, do we break the tradition of growing food in the back and flowers in the front garden ? If you grow produce at the front, does anybody come and take it ? When it is overhanging the pavement ?

This was something that Earth Abbey started to do. They needed more land for growing, so they dug up the verges.

Then there’s Incredible Edible Todmorden, where food is grown all around the town, and anybody can come and harvest it.

If I’d taken all Spring to nurture and tend bean plants, I wouldn’t like it if somebody came and took my produce from my front garden […]

What about Food Banks ? A serious situation requires an emergency response. Is there a place for churches to think about the sourcing of the food for Food Banks ? Something that’s not a “middle class solution” – food growing at home ?

We can’t give anything that’s perishable [ at my local Food Bank ]. At my local Food Bank, we have a box of tinned produce that’s passed its BBE [ Best Before End ] date and fresh food, and anybody can take anything from it – but it’s not part of the system.

Local food growing leads to surpluses / gluts – immediately implies a bank of some kind – naturally comes about. Chris Sunderland has a community enterprise […]

The Master Composter scheme organised by my Local Authority in Worcestershire is coordinated by the waste management department – so we are also trained as food waste reduction people – encouraging people to love their leftovers – teaching clients how to cook. This is part of “Fit for Life” – the coming together of all these different strands – health, food waste and waste management.

A local woman is rescuing battery hens, when they come to the end of their economic laying life, and at the rescue centre, they are laying a lot of eggs, and we take egg orders from church people. They’re bred to lay eggs.

My vegetable box – there have been changes in the administration – and my veg now comes from fifty miles away !

Our veg box by contrast comes from two miles away. You have to watch this.

[ We asked Riverford ] – they are growing well, they involve farming cooperatives, and they say that they are not wasting fuel in lorry / truck transport as they send veg boxes out, and bring apples back. Like so many things there is no black-and-white answer.

In Southampton, working with CAP [ Church Action on Poverty ], have an opportunity to feed in stuff on budgeting, foraging, cooking. Not only the basics, but also how we can celebrate. Seasonality. Ordinary diet versus celebrations. When did chocolate become a daily food ?

People who need Food Banks deserve food as good as others [ get ] – but people [ organising them ] won’t take produce unless it’s got really long dates on it. [ There’s a place for communal food canteens to get around this problem ? ]

If wanting to plant in a churchyard, if it’s a burial ground, you will need permission from the Coroner to use the ground for such purposes. And if you’re in the Church of England you will definitely need a “Faculty”, but going through the process of obtaining one, you might end up talking to somebody who is very knowledgeable, and useful.

At our ecocentre, sourcing from local shops for fifty people – big orders – [ and potentially variable ]. We lobbied them about getting more local stuff. We can encourage local shops to source locally. This has more impact with a smaller business.


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