A New Message from Eco Savvy

Support Local: Savvy Film Social Round Up

Last night we screened the film ‘In our Hands’ at our offices at Home Farm. A group of more than 25 people came along to watch the UK based documentary which examines the sustainability of our current food system from a farming perspective. The film was created by the Landworkers Alliance, a grassroots union of farmers, growers and land-based workers who are working ‘for a future where farmers are able to work with dignity and earn a decent living, and people can access healthy, affordable food from local producers’. 

The film looks at issues of seed sovereignty and open pollinated seeds, land access, the direct linking of farmers to consumer and the difficulties and pressures of farming under current UK legislation and the common agricultural policy. As well as this it promotes localised food systems, responsible animal husbandry, the potential of utilising livestock in regenerative agricultural practices and the benefits of communal tools and machinery sharing. It makes a strong case for the Community Supported Agriculture model of farming to link farmers and their communities.

After the screening we discussed how we could drive a better food system on Arran through an examination of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that Arran faced. A lively discussion ensued with many passionate people giving voice to their ideas and concerns. Here is a summary of that discussion:

Strengths:

  • Strong communal knowledge with an existing, experienced farming community from which we could learn
  • An Arran identity on which we could build solid brand awareness, making use of provenance and locality in marketing efforts
  • Plenty of land that could be used
  • Already a link between growers and producers
  • Good growing climate
  • Supportive community engaged and wanting ‘good local food’

Weaknesses:

  • Land access issues, who can actually use the land that is available
  • Expense of exporting to the mainland 
  • Transport costs around the island
  • Getting local food around the island
  • The focus on meat and its rearing and not enough of a plant based perspective that accounts for the real issues surrounding the production of meat and the associated climate impacts
  • Need more of a focus on improving land on Arran to make it arable and capable of producing fruits and vegetables
  • The control surrounding protected sites and being unable to grow on them
  • Proving the benefits of and value to Arran residents of (potentially) more costly local produce
  • Difficulty of educating people about the benefits of localised food production to the individual and the wider community
  • Hard to know what is available seasonally and locally on the island
  • Lack of facilities to process food here, i.e. no longer mills, abattoirs etc.

Opportunities:

  • Education – within schools and the wider community
  • The opportunity to link producers with consumers through farmers/producers/green markets
  • The Co-op buying (actually) locally produced food and making it available to residents
  • Bringing local produce to food shares to sell or distribute gluts like apples 
  • Marketing local, looking at food miles and creating a scheme where source information is clear
  • Arran grown and produced plant milk, i.e. oat milk
  • A communal tool library for farming equipment
  • Building a provenance based brand for Arran which is marketed through B&Bs, Visit Arran and the wider hospitality sector
  • Protection of an Arran brand and establishing a clear framework around it
  • Trials of new crops at the Arran Community Land Initiative (ACLI) to see what works well on the island
  • Skill sharing opportunities; gardening skills, seed saving, cooking workshops 
  • More support of local shops like Bay Stores and CSA schemes like Woodside Farm
  • Making more growing land available and known to people through promotion of ACLI and community gardens at Cladach

Threats:

  • Viability of small farms on the island, recent closures
  • No subsidy for farmers post-Brexit and the implications this will have (closures)
  • Climate change and weather unpredictability when growing
  • Water stress and shortages
  • Import reliance and potential food shortages (of certain crops and generally)
  • The cost and affordability of good food
  • A lack of young farmers and of knowledge around growing
  • Food waste, both domestic and commercial and overcoming this

It was a brilliant evening with lots of ideas being exchanged between the group. We hope this is the first of many such events where we can bring passionate and interested people together to discuss and work towards our sustainable food future on the island.

Watch this space!