Take a look behind the scenes at the Food Hub on BBC Scotland’s Landward! Get it on catch up here >

Sowing the Seeds for a Good Food Nation

Thanks to Kevin McGrother, Cheesemaker at The Ethical Dairy for writing this timely blog.

Producing food in the way that we at the Ethical Dairy, and other Galloway Food Hub suppliers do, means our food is likely to be costlier at the checkout, compared to a mass-produced, industrial ‘alternative.’ 

We are working in harmony and balance with nature, producing in small-scale, traditional, labour-intensive ways, and hoping to demonstrate a workable alternative to the more dominant growth-driven system. While one accelerates the climate and food crises, the other hopes to at least slow them down. 

So how can we make good cheese (once defined as “simple, nutritious peasant food, now only afforded by the wealthy”) and other sustainably produced food – affordable and accessible to all, regardless of circumstance?

While it’s gratifying to see our cheese regularly being couriered to affluent addresses in the South of England, it’s frustrating to think of those less well-off in Dumfries & Galloway having to eat industrially-produced alternatives (often driven up from factories in the South of England).

Initiatives like the Hub are fantastic at re-connecting local people to local producers, and offering convenient solutions for both. But with a food system so skewed in favour of the multinationals and the supermarkets, new ways of thinking and models of business are constantly needed. Business as usual is no longer an option.

Local food hubs can be so much more responsive to the needs of both producers and consumers. Yes, as a customer it can be frustrating to miss out on the sometimes very limited numbers available of particular products, but having an outlet for such small quantities is an absolute godsend for producers, and something the supermarkets could never offer.

And hubs can trial new approaches to tackling food poverty and inequality. If the Galloway Food Hub offered customers an option to shop not just for themselves, but to make additional purchases for those unable to afford good food, would there be the interest and willingness from those able to do so?

The hub of course relies so much on its amazing team of volunteers. While it might not be viable to pay all the packers and drivers a living wage, from a producer’s point of view, think how much more affordable good food could become if producers didn’t have to earn a living from their labour.

A new report on the idea of a basic income for farmers, farm workers and food producers, Sowing The Seeds Of Stability, has just been published, and the campaign pushing for a pilot scheme is well underway.  It sits within the wider Universal Basic Income campaign, where everyone would receive a regular, unconditional cash payment, enough to live on. Pie in the sky, dreamland economics? Did you know all care leavers in Wales currently receive a basic income? Such things are possible.

And as the Scottish Government concludes its consultation to shape its national Good Food Nation Plan, what better time to make bold and radical suggestions? We already have a climate crisis. The food crisis is following fast behind, and in trying to deal with both, nothing should be left off the table.

The closing date for submissions is 22nd April.

Seed sowing photo by Alex Diaz on Unsplash

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