A better food system

How can we reduce the amount of energy, fossil fuels and resources it takes to feed us? At Growing Communities we think we can do that while also creating jobs and community in both urban and rural areas and producing delicious food that is good for us and the planet. Our vision for a better food and farming system aims to show how.

It takes the form of a diagram we call the Food Zones and is designed to be a way of thinking about food and farming. It aims to show what we could be eating, how it should be produced and where it might come from, if we are to meet the challenges of climate change and resource depletion and make our food and farming system fit for a future in which our supplies of energy and resources will be constrained.

The Food Zones looks at how much of which foods we could be sourcing from different zones, starting with the urban areas in which most of us live – raising what it is best to raise as close as we can and then moving outwards taking into account the factors shown. It has emerged from the practical experience of running a successful community-led trading scheme and reflects the theories and principles developed over the last 20 years that guide our work.

 

The percentage figures are there more to stimulate and inspire – they’re not really targets in the sense that we have proved it is possible to meet them. They are, however, based roughly on what we currently trade through our veg scheme.

In this vision farms are:
•    Low input: organic or near as
•    Predominantly small to medium scale (appropriate and human scale)
•    Mixed, diverse and integrated
•    Built around human skills and labour, backed up by appropriate technology and machines and grounded in sound science

Meanwhile diets:
•    Reflect the seasons and how much of which foods can best be produced where
•    Are mainly fresh and minimally processed
•    Are mainly plant based
•    Minimise waste
•    Provide everyone with ‘enough’

And trading and distribution are organised around community-led retail systems which prioritise local and direct sourcing while encompassing the global – enabling urban growers, rural farmers, larger operations, wholesalers and imports to exist in harmony.

Through these systems:
•    Food is sourced sustainably
•    Trade is fair, meaning that:
          Farmers are paid a fair price for producing ecological food
          Food is affordable (but not ‘cheap’)
          Workers are paid living wages
          Retailers invest in their communities
•    Distribution is low carbon

Meanwhile, farms are directly connected to the urban communities they feed, enabling supply chains to be shortened and communities to source increasing amounts from closer to where they live. People are reconnected with farming; involved with the production, trading and celebration of food.