Last weekend Clem Sandison from Open Jar Collective was invited to give a talk by the Andrew Raven Trust at their Annual Weekend. This year’s event focused on a question – What is the impact of how we consume food in Scotland?

It was a stimulating weekend of debate. Here are some thoughts and messages that particularly stood out for me – gleaned from my scrawled notes!  

  • Clare Holohan led a wonderful herbal medicine walk and I learnt that daisies are Scotland’s native equivalent to arnica.
  • Cesar Revoredo talked about the power of supermarkets within the food supply chain. Data from Kantar World Panel showed the retail market share of potatoes in Scotland: Fresh potatoes 38.4%, Crisps 38.2%, frozen potato products 23.4%
  • The decision on what is made available to the consumer is decided by the retailer.  Choice is a myth.
  • The strategic objective of the retailer is to increase their sales.  This may be stating the obvious, but when it comes to food which is a basic human right, is this really what we want?
  • Judy Wilkinson talked about the untold story of Allotments.  They are places for more than growing vegetables… A Food Bank could feed a family for a week, a raised bed might feed them for a month, an allotment could feed a family for life.
  • One of the big questions that kept arising – what is land for?
  • Christine Watson reminded us that Spring Barley is Scotland’s top crop production – for whisky malting.  That’s great for the export market, shame it’s not being used as a food crop for people.
  • Crops bred for high yield are generally NOT climate tolerant or disease resistant.  What’s the priority?
  • Europe imports an area twice its own size of soya every year.
  • Davy McCracken spelled out how fundamental biodiversity is to ALL life!
  • We need a shift from the ‘productivity’ narrative that is the basis for most government policy to an ‘Ecosystems services’ narrative which values biodiversity. This reminded me of what Patrick Holden said at the True Cost Accounting event a few weeks ago – a bee never sent an invoice
  • David and Wilma from Cream o’ Galloway shared their incredible story of the trials and tribulations of running a sustainable dairy farm and their move towards cheese production.  Exporting ice cream to South Korea was a wake up call and highlights the lunacy of our export led market economy.  David and Wilma are always an inspiration to me, and they make damn fine cheese!  
  • There were big debates towards the end of the weekend about the need for massive systems change.  
  • Geoff Tansey argued the case for a dynamic Steady State Economy. Hear hear.
  • Frank Strang announced that the Scottish government are launching their proposed 2025 vision of Becoming a Good Food Nation.  The Scottish Government wants food to be a key part of what makes the people of Scotland proud of their country – food which is both tasty to eat and nutritious, fresh and environmentally sustainable.” So let’s be part of this conversation.

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