Feel powerless to respond to climate change? Start by putting one foot in front of the other at the Good Food March

Feel powerless to respond to climate change? Start by putting one foot in front of the other at the Good Food March 1The Intergovermental Panel for Climate Change report published on Monday made for sobering reading: a scientific consensus warning that we have just 12 years to prevent a global rise in temperatures of 2oC that could result catastrophic heat waves, flooding, starvation and poverty for millions as well as the destruction of wildlife and habitats including all coral reefs. To stop this requires (globally) trillions of dollars, immediate and urgent policy changes and unprecedented political will. With the US administration pulling out of the Paris climate accord, fracking underway in UK and Germany, and indications that Brazil is about to elect a presidential candidate that promises to open up the Amazon rainforest to agribusiness – the signs aren’t good.

Personal responses to climate change

Down on the ground it is hard not be personally overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problem – one of a number of factors that psychologists describe as a barrier to action. As the American Psychological Association described many people are “ unaware of the problem [of climate change], unsure of the facts or what to do, do not trust experts or believe their conclusions, think the problem is elsewhere, are fixed in their ways, believe that others should act, or believe that their actions will make no difference or are unimportant compared to those of others.”

Campaigners have long known that a sense of powerlessness is the nemisis of action and so this week, in response the IPCC report, organisations such as Friends of the Earth have been careful to describe five positive steps that individuals can take to help mitigate climate change. These include 1. switching your energy provider, 2. eating less/no meat 3. ditching the car  4.flying less  5.getting political/talking about climate change.

Important of food and farming to preventing global rise in temperatures

In terms of food, the way we eat, shop and farm globally and nationally has an enormous impact on the climate whether that is the carbon emissions generated by food flown thousands of miles around the world, food grown in hothouses or the new analysis that shows that globally, meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories whilst using 83% of farmland and producing 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. We need to switch to more plant based diets as well as committing to local, seasonal eating. Most importantly of all we need to support and protect those UK farmers using environmentally friendly growing practices (and find more people to farm fruit and veg).

Igniting political will to change food and farming policy in the UK

The IPCC report also comes at a time where the UK finds itself at a political juncture: Brexit has forced a reconsideration of how the UK government will fund farming. It’s critical that the UK government commits to an agricultural bill that promotes mostly plant based diets and supports and sustains more UK farmers to grow climate friendly food (for more on the agricultural bill check out the excellent work being done by Sustain)

This Sunday 14th October, thousands are set to convene in parliament square, London, for the ‘Good Food March’ – calling for an Agricultural Bill that guarantees good food and farming for the UK and for the global environment.  So if you are one of the many feeling overwhelmed by climate change and unsure where to start: try joining the march. You will not be alone.

Going organic – what’s stopping you?

Going organic – what’s stopping you? 2

So we’re halfway through #Organic September, where the organic food movement persuade the public to make the switch. Over the years the Better Food Traders have persuaded the doubters, the worriers and the stallers. For those of you still unsure about going organic for your fruit and veg, here are five reasons for stalling and why you don’t need to any longer.

Local or organic? Which is better for the environment?

Both. Sorry. Local can mean grown in hot house. Organic means fewer pesticides and chemical fertilizers, better animal welfare, less waste, less pollution & the protection of local wildlife. No other farming system does more to reduce greenhouse gases.

Why don’t you let a box scheme do the heavy lifting on this one? This is because any organic box scheme, market, or shop with sound environmental credentials will be sourcing organic fruit and veg, as direct and local as practicable (no hothouses and short supply chains), while encouraging their members to eat seasonally and ensuring that the farmers are paid a decent income too.   

Organic is just for the well off

It doesn’t have to be but you’d be forgiven for having this assumption: mention the word organic and people can get lost in images of fresh faced food bloggers extolling the virtue of organic blue cheese from the safety of their designer kitchens. Again farmers markets and box schemes can be a good places to start for affordable organic veg.  Then (for the omnivores amongst you) combine this with switch to a more plant based diet  – start with going veggie for 2-3 days a week and build up to 5. You save money on the more expensive aspects of shopping (meat and fish) and more veg means it’s good for your health too: win, win.  

Will organic really make me healthier?

There’s some evidence however what seems to be universally accepted by the scientific community that it is a good idea to eat more vegetables. Joining an organic box scheme can help you do just that and in a way that’s healthy for the environment too.

I don’t have time or the skill to cook from scratch

Fear not… we have that covered too. There are 1000s and 1000s of recipe ideas out there. And if that is too overwhelming then start with the seven, brilliant, fast, staple recipes from Growing Communities: great for culinary brain freezes or vegetable mountains.

  1. Oven-roasted frittata
  2. Soupy stew
  3. Spiced veg fritters
  4. Rainbow stir fry
  5. Fragrant coconut curry
  6. Pick-n-mix Salad
  7. Creamy risotto

I can’t find any organic suppliers

Find a Better Food Trader near you or check the Soil Association 

Go on…what are you waiting for?

Good exam results? There are many ways to make an impact

This month, thousands of young people around the UK received their exam results. It is a time of celebration for some, for others it is a time of sadness and confusion over the future. For others it is a time for celebration and confusion: good results don’t always mean a clear eyed view of the path ahead.

It almost goes without saying that exam results don’t define you as a human being and are not the last say on a person’s potential. So if you’re one of those that didn’t get the results you want (or you’re still confused by the path ahead) then consider it may just be an opportunity in disguise: time out to work, travel, explore and to discover what it is that make life meaningful for you.

For us here at Better Food Traders we’re motivated by protecting the environment through changing the food system. If this is something that motivates you too then there plenty of opportunities to explore. In London there are fantastic schemes such as:  Wolves Lane in Tottenham http://wolveslane.org/; Growing Communities in Hackney https://www.growingcommunities.org/volunteering-hackney and Organic Lea in Waltham Forest https://www.organiclea.org.uk/volunteering/

Or if you want to go further afield then WWOOFing can enable you to live, meet others and work on organic farms in UK and around the world http://wwoof.net/.

This is not an argument against university education. We need scientists, engineers, inventors and artists to help us in the face of seemingly unstoppable climate change. However if you decide that academia isn’t for you then there are numerous other ways to make an impact. The UK is in dire need of horticulturists: people to grow fruit and vegetables in a way that sustains the environment. We need entrepreneurs to set up community led organisations to sell fairly priced food that also provides a meaningful income to farmers and growers. We need campaigners to put pressure on government to prioritise land for sustainable agriculture and support tenant farmers committed to agro-ecology. We need budding cooks to give people new ideas as to how to cook with fresh seasonal, plant-based produce.

The list is endless, and so are the opportunities. Happy exploring.

Local Greens visits Ripple Farm

“A farm full of good food and passionate people”: being a Better Food Trader means working closely with your suppliers and developing great relationships, so we were delighted to read Local Green’s blog about their recent visit to Ripple Farm, who supply their veg scheme with fantastic quality organic vegetables.

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Conventional farming: a game of diminishing returns?

Tim May farmer natural pasture rotation chemical-free
Tim May – Hampshire arable farmer

One of the main criticisms of organic farming is that it’s not as productive and therefore requires more land than conventionally grown produce.

The farmers and academics who gave talks and shared their research at the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2017 blew this argument out of the water with new evidence that shows conventional agriculture (chemical-reliant agriculture) is becoming less productive as the natural capital which underpin farming is eroded.

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London veg box schemes working together

Two of the Better Food Traders, Forty Hall Farm and Crop Drop got together recently to do crop planning for the new year. Read about it here.

Forty Hall Farm is a market garden in the northern edge of London, just inside the M25, a great example of a peri-urban farm. Crop Drop is a veg box scheme based in the neighbouring borough Haringey, just south of Enfield. They’re both driven by the mission to increase the consumption of local, organic produce, developing trust and transparency in the food chain and increasing the viability of urban agriculture.

Beth and Matt, Forty Hall Farmers
Beth and Matt, Forty Hall Farmers

Forty Hall Farm is a Soil Association certified organic farm that keeps pigs, goats, cows and sheep as well as growing a range of vegetables on eight acres of land. Their produce is sold through their own veg box scheme, Enfield Veg Co and Crop Drop. These community-based schemes are the right kind of scale to trade with small farms, which makes their collaboration perfect.

Rachel from Crop Drop meets Enfield goats

They both launched their box schemes about three years ago and since then Forty Hall Farm has expanded their food production five fold. This is set to increase again next year as both box schemes continue to thrive. This is a great example of a successful collaboration which is helping to increase the amount of locally grown food for London.



Chewing the facts on sustainable diets

Eating to protect the planet is more complex than any one diet can take into account.

We’ll need 70 per cent more food by 2050 to feed the projected 9.7 billion population. At the same time, agricultural practices and the global food supply chain are increasingly contributing to climate change and ecosystem destruction. Changing the way our food is produced, distributed and wasted can seem out of reach, but what we choose to consume has a major impact on both people and the planet. What does it really mean to eat sustainably?

The complexity of our food system and its wide-ranging impacts mean we need to think beyond veganism if we want our eating choices to make a positive difference, argues Tom Lawson in this article in Positive News.