15/01/2020 at 9:24 am #25748
A TALE OF TWO GATHERINGS
Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued . . . .
by some saviour.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life
on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
– Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone, Active Hope
Back in November, having recently finished up the growing season on the farm, it was time to put aside my muddy boots and don my skirt and shirt because I had the opportunity to attend two significant food and land based gatherings back to back.
First of all I attended the Nourish Scotland Conference: A Game Plan for a Good Food Nation. This was a two day process during which we were split into focus groups and heard from various speakers throughout the event combined with group work in order to produce a final suggestion for a good food action plan, which would be viewed by policy makers in Scotland.
We begin by confronting our feelings of dissatisfaction towards the Scottish food system and heard from speakers including Mairi Gougeon MSP for Rural Affairs & Natural Environment and Pete Ritchie from Nourish, who declared that our current food system is no longer fit for purpose and that we need to encourage more dissatisfaction in order to make sure that more people care about it, coupled with the important of creating a ‘nourishing’ food system that fosters kindness and well being at it’s core.
Kath Dalmeny, the Chief Executive of Sustain, followed and highlighted that we are in a period of EMERGENCY, a period of going through chaos in order to emerge at a solution, as well as asking ‘what are you motivated by?’ in order to contribute to change.
Moving on from this we explored vision with Jane Davidson, who helped to create sustainable development reports and policy in Wales and we considered the question ‘What could Scotland’s food future look like in 5 years if we were making changes?’
The next issue we confronted on our journey was ‘resistance’ and ‘where is the resistance that’s stopping us from achieving the vision?’ We discussed how and why the current system is very resistant to change and the existing inertia in the food system, accompanied by Olivier De Schutter, rapporteur to the right to food.
On the second day we worked on processing all the information and emotion from the previous day and creating a plan to transform it into a vision and proposal for the Good Food Nation Bill. We also had to opportunity to hear from Sue Pritchard from the RSA and Peter Stevenson from Compassion in World Farming.
Some of the main issues and solutions that emerged within our working group included the lack of a basic right to food, the existence of food banks, how challenging it is to make a living as an agroecological landworker and how healthy food education is a positive way to potentially change the food system from the bottom up.
As the Nourish conference ended I met up with four other attendees, who were also members of the Landworkers Alliance and we continued the discussions started here and commenced the journey to the AGM in Cumbria.
The combination of reflecting on the past growing season on our farm and the issues we faced as small scale market gardeners trying to make a living and healthy food more accessible, coupled with facing the issues of the food poverty and a lack of diversity within our customer base began to strongly bring up the issue of food justice for me. I always believed that farming organically and selling our produce was enough and ticked multiple boxes all at one, being a productive and healthy form of protest and contributing to a better food and farming system. However, I was beginning to see things in a new light and feeling a need to reach down deeper into the food system and bring social justice into the equation too..
Attending the Landworkers Alliance AGM provided an opportunity for further development of these feelings as well as a really good chance to socialize and meet other landworkers from across the UK. I felt that the gathering as a whole was nourishing in terms of having the opportunity to connect with other growers and talk a lot about farming, and eat good food! And that kindness and well being were at the core of it’s organization, with the inclusion of base groups, a wellbeing team and really thoughtful facilitation and inclusion.
During the gathering we had the opportunity to hear about the annual achievements of the LWA, which highlighted for me some of the main reasons that I am a member, and I find it reassuring and empowering to be a member of an alliance that represents my dissatisfaction and values and campaigns on them, while I’m busy working in the field.
As a Scotland sector we also had the time to meet up and discuss some of the things we want to bring back with us and develop over the coming year, and one of the main topics discussed was getting more people on board and representing a wider range of land based activities such as crofting and forestry, and the possibility of a Spring gathering in Scotland.
The final workshop of the weekend that I attended really pulled it all together for me, which was titled ‘Food, Farming and Social Justice’ and presented by Dee Woods, Beth Stewart and Kate Briton. As a group we explored some of the issues of food sovereignty, food insecurity and farming justice, which are quite well hidden within the UK food system, but still extremely prevalent and pressing. Beth told us about her trip to the States when she visited a number of farms and projects with social justice, diversity and food insecurity at their core, including Rock Steady Farm, which is an LGBTQ farm challenging traditional farming beliefs, just outside New York. They assign 40% of of CSA shares to low income members, work with a sliding scale and partner with non-profits and other social groups amongst many other inspiring incentives.
I left the workshop asking ‘why dont many projects like these exist in Scotland yet? And how can we grow and encourage more? Who am I really producing food for? And how can we open up this discussion, land and more opportunities for minority groups and bring greater justice to both sides of the farming system?’
I left the AGM with more developed food for thought, and questions and ideas for my own future vision. I am really grateful to have the opportunity and support to attend gatherings like these outside the growing season to engage with other groups and be a part of the large vision and discussion of the future of the food system.
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