5.2 Sustainable Food Production



5.2 Sustainable Food Production

It is clear that our current food system is unsustainable, and that action must be taken to create an alternative vision and implement it. Having covered these unsustainable trends in food production and associated social and environmental problems, we will now examine what a sustainable food production might look like, before highlighting some case studies of local and global initiatives that have achieved steps in this direction.

The American Society of Agronomy provide the following definition for sustainable agriculture:

“A sustainable agriculture is one that, over the long term, enhances environmental quality and the resource base on which agriculture depends; provides for basic human food and fibre needs; is economically viable; and enhances the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole."

The Kindling Trust have produced a short film, “What is Sustainable Food?”, which explains the various elements society needs to consider in building a sustainable food system. Over 10 minutes, the film runs through eight principles, which are also discussed in the report “Sustainable Fayre” , published by Kindling:

1. Local and seasonal.

Food now travels further than ever before with money leaking from local economies. Local and seasonal food offers a way to minimise energy use in transportation and storage, increase freshness and quality, strengthen local distinctiveness and build more resilient communities, whilst supporting local food outlets and farmers.

2. Organic and sustainable farming.

Organic and low-carbon farming avoids artificial fertilisers and genetically modified organisms, while maximising crop diversity. This encourages biodiversity, and offers a long-term investment in soil fertility for future food production, as well as countering climate change through soil carbon sequestration.

3. Reduction of waste and packaging.

Approximately 70% of primary packaging is used for food and drink which becomes contaminated by residues of the original contents, making it difficult to recycle. Purchasing local and seasonal food reduces the need for unnecessary packaging, minimising the negative impact on the environment from the current large scale disposal of inorganic waste.

4. Reducing foods of animal origin and maximise welfare standards.

Meat and dairy products are among the most energy and greenhouse-gas intensive food products of all.

5. Excludes fish species identified as at risk.

Overfishing is the greatest single threat to marine wildlife and habitats, with nearly 80% of world fish stocks fully or overexploited.

6. Fairtrade-certified products.

Fairtrade ensures producers are paid fairly for their work, offering a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. It creates social and economic opportunities for producers and workers who have been exploited, disadvantaged or marginalised by the conventional trading system.

7. Promote health and well being.

A sustainable food system is about health and well being for all – individually, locally and globally. This includes tacking both childhood obesity and malnutrition.

8. Food democracy.

Food democracy is about reconnecting people to food and taking responsibility for it, ensuring control by and fairness among local producers, suppliers and consumers, and working to reduce inequality in the food supply chain.”

The documentary also showcases some of Manchester's leading sustainable food projects including: Abundance Manchester, Glebelands City growers, Unicorn Grocery, Fairfield Materials Management and Wild at Heart. Generally, the video provides an excellent overview of the importance of food sustainability from the UK perspective. Please view the video here: http://kindling.org.uk/what-sustainable-food.

(Source for Section 5.2 Gosling [see reference 12])

Case Studies

Eco works

Ecoworks is a community organisation with the interests of people and the environment at its heart. Ecoworks exists to promote the interests and personal development of people who are socially disadvantaged by delivering activities connected with the conservation, restoration and enhancement of the environment. Ecoworks manage two site (27 gardens in total) St. Ann’s, Nottingham and a 13-acre permaculture site on the urban fringe of Nottingham.

Ecoworks Community Gardens are based on 10 gardens on the Hungerhill allotment site. We have been on the site for fifteen years and are the oldest community garden in Nottingham. We grow a wide range of fruit and vegetables but also provide a space that is beautiful and relaxing.

The FRESH Project Market Gardens and Education Centre is a community food project offering educational opportunities on St Ann’s Allotments in Nottingham City.

FRESH represents:

FOOD – helping local people to a healthier lifestyle through the growing, harvesting, preparation and consumption of chemical-free fruit and vegetables.

REGENERATION – of the local community, its economy and environment, and of the historic St Ann’s Allotments.

EDUCATION – through training in sustainable horticulture, volunteer opportunities and open community events

SUSTAINABILITY– producing food in a way that preserves and enhances the environment.

HEALTH – our chemical-free fruit and vegetables are sold to cafes and we operate a seasonal veg box scheme. 50 percent of our produce is subsidized and made available to disadvantaged families and individuals as well as community groups predominantly within a two miles radius of our gardens.

More info: www.ecoworks.org.uk