As I emerge, blinking, from the whirlwind that was the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2015, the loudest message I take away is a pressing need to ask new and different questions about food, to stimulate this conversation locally and to involve as many diverse stakeholders as possible.
Our food system is failing the public good: it is unsustainable, unfair, unhappy and unstable. We currently pay for our food four times over – first at the checkout, then through taxes and subsequently with health impacts and environmental degradation. It is this reality which requires us, collectively, to have a root and branch NEW conversation about how we farm, shop, cook and eat.
Two recently published reports were highlighted at the conference and I recommend them to anyone who cares about food. The first, Urgent Recall, written by New Economics Foundation analysts, asks what makes a food system successful? Its findings suggest that the historical criteria of high output, low prices, and eradication of deficiency diseases are now outdated. Instead, there is a new imperative to transform the objectives of our food system to deliver high wellbeing, social justice and environmental stewardship.
The second report, Square Meal, published by a coalition of ten UK organisations, insists there is overwhelming evidence showing the need for a major change of national policy to ensure farming, health and nature go hand in hand.
In the face of an indefensible lack of leadership from politicians and big business, the Oxford Real Farming Conference concluded that civil society must be the engine of change – it is WE who have to push for the food system we want and need – and that we can create change with every meal we take.
As we begin 2015, CLS invites you to take part in a FoodFuture ‘Square Meal’ dialogue locally. In the run up to Climate Week at the beginning of March, help grow the FoodFuture partnership and connect directly with the people of Bridport.
Join the conversation at FoodFuture Bridport!