Setting the Scenes

These ten scenes show that there are not BIOLOGICAL determinants to what is grown so much as ECONOMIC determinants. Obviously there are some biological determinants – eg it is difficult to grow tropical crops in the fells – although pineapples did used to be grown in Cheshire, long before electricity heating systems. Nevertheless, there is massively broad range of biological possibilities - that is the fun of gardening. Can we see these possibilities in the fields that flash by on the train or in the car?

We can see that we could produce more food - especially on the poorer land. But we don’t because it is harder to make profit. If it is cheaper to fly lettuce in from Africa, why go to the effort of growing it here? It may make economic sence, but it means our land is underused.  When you look out of the window and see the land, try and work out that it doesn have to be like that. It is quite changeable, and has always changed. There were not always walls and fences.

This is written to help show that ‘Sustainable Intensification’ which aims to intensify production on a limited amount of land – the best land, is not the only way forward to producing more 'sustainable food'. We should be paying a lot more attention with running the poorer land better.

We hear much about the need to produce more food for the hungry billion, and also that another billion are too fat. These seemingly contradictory forces are relatively easily reconciled. The World Health Organisation says:

vegetables“Fortunately, the strategies needed to create desired changes in nutritional and environmental patterns are often complementary and, as a whole, provide cost-effective, sustainable development for agricultural land….In addition, local strategies that seek to improve the availability of, access to and consumption of locally produced foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, also increase the interdependence and thus the social cohesion between urban and rural dwellers” WHO Regional Publications European Series No 96 "Food and Health in Europe. A new basis for action" (pdf) p272.

Why doesn’t somebody calculate the increased value in investing in this land? And possible contribution to world hunger and climate change, not to mention better food for local people. (will add new Totnes report)

The land could produce a lot more, and more varied and interesting. There may well be some challenges from those who wish to conserve the land for wildlife and other country pursuits. Both this and more food production can be accommodated and be more involving for all. Much of the land that could be improved for food is not being used for proper conservation, although some people think that neglect is the same as conservation. This will be encouraged in next round of CAP, After 2013, we will encourage land to go 'fallow' - ie not do anything with it. This new manouvre is to stop over production - the bain of EU and US farm policy for decades. This won't do many birds much good, If we want yellow wagtails and grey partridge - the two chosen BAP species, then we should pay farmers directly to encourage them. We have metrics that could measure and monitor such species in order to reward farmers.

Here. on this site, we take a little trip around the West Pennines to see how that land could be producing more sustainable food. There are 10 scenes to consider...see right hand bar. 

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