We are responding to three crises: Climate, Local Control, Depopulation
In common with everyone else on earth, we face the climate crisis. Every climate change strategy includes changing how we eat – food production accounts for about one third of all climate change
Greta Thunberg, the new global voice of young people on climate change, when asked what is the ONE thing that everyone should do, replied, “act as if it were a crisis”. The Welsh Government has already shown the way by declaring a climate crisis, just before the hottest July ever recorded.
In August 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report on Climate Change and Land, the most important report on how we should produce food ever written. Also in August 2019, the forest fires in the Amazon suddenly came to global attention – these are driven directly by our desire for cheap meat and dairy.
In common with the rest of the UK, we face deep anxieties about how little control we have over things that shape our daily lives. We are deeply divided about solutions, but there is a shared feeling of loss of control. At the local level, whatever our opinions on Brexit, everyone can agree that we need initiatives to build our power to shape the local economy for our benefit.
Local food markets have been decimated in the Brecon Beacons and around. When we interviewed local businesses, we discovered that the main problem right now, is not demand for local ingredients, but lack of supply. Cashells, for example, would sell local more locally grown vegetables if it could get hold of them.
We discovered lots of food businesses we did not know about when we built the Our Food Crickhowell website, but the reality is that the majority of food produced in the area goes out of the area, and the vast majority of food consumed in the area is from outside, purchased through wholesalers or supermarkets. Schools, hospitals and care homes all have big centralised food contracts that it is impossible for small producers to penetrate.
All of this makes us more reliant upon imports and completely exposed to the “supply chain disruptions” (= food shortages) that global warming is going to create, and that’s not considering what could happen to food prices and supplies later this year in a no-deal Brexit situation. Having such a small local food economy is a bad idea right now.
In common with other rural areas in Wales, we face depopulation. Faced by a lack of opportunity for local employment and increasing prices of land and homes, young people are leaving. This is a disaster for our local economy long-term. This is why we are specifically promoting opportunities for local young people to start up in food production.
The production of food could be an attractive opportunity for young people living in the area, a business that is by its very nature, local and creative. There is a growing interest among consumers about where food comes from and there is money to be made in food. But there is next to no promotion of local food careers in the region.