WHY IS FOOD A TRANSITION ISSUE?
In this country a trip to any supermarket, food shop or street market offers a vast selection of things to eat, but how selective should we be? Sometimes the choice is not obvious – is it more carbon-efficient to grow fruit in a hot-house in the UK or ship the same fruit grown in the open in the south of France? How worried should we be about animal welfare, the over-use of antibiotics, genetically modified crops etc. What about the effect of pesticides on bees and other pollinators? Should we pay the extra to buy organic produce?
Producing food can be highly energy intensive:
- chemical feedstock and energy to produce fertilisers, herbicides and peticides
- fuel for tractors, combine harvesters and other agricultural machinery
- heating and lighting for crops grown under glass or animals reared indoors
- fuel and resources for eg plastic packaging especially for easily damaged produce
- fuel for transporting food from where it’s produced to where it will be eaten, sometimes halfway round the world
- fuel to keep produce refrigerated during transport, or in special conditions to extend its shelf-life
Then there’s the issue that ruminants (cows, sheep etc) produce methane, which is one of the most powerful greenhouse gasses. More and more meat is produced very intensively, with animals kept in cramped conditions and fed high energy diets supplemented with anti-biotics and growth hormones. It’s not as simple as just giving up meat though – dairy farming is generally more intensive, and animals play an important role in traditional mixed farming, by fertilising the soil. And where you have poor quality land that won’t support much in the way of agriculture, then surely using it to rear sheep, or goats, makes sense.
It’s all very complicated, and each of us will have our own balance of priorities. What we can be reasonably confident of though, is that seasonal fruit and vegetables, and food that is produced locally, will almost always be the best option.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
Of all the lifestyle changes we can make as individuals, our food choices can have the biggest impact on sustainability. We can:
- grow our own fruit and vegetable, in the garden, on an allotment or even in pots and window boxes
- keep chickens or ducks – they eat scraps and pests and will produce eggs, first-rate fertilizer and eventually meat
- learn how to pickle and preserve food, or how to make wines and cordials
- buy fresh produce when it’s in season
- check where the food we buy has come from and how it was produced, choose local where we can
As a community we can do even more. Transition Buxton is involved in:
- encouraging people to grow their own food, via workshops, skillshares and allotment open days
- running workshops on wine-making, preserving and cooking, with an emphasis on reducing waste
- creating a dispersed community orchard producing free fruit for all
- setting up and supporting the wonderful Serpentine Community Farm
- raising awareness by for instance guerrilla gardening
- visits to examples of sustainable agricultural and horticultural practice
- investigating opportunities for community supported agriculture
We’re always open to new ideas and suggestions of what else we can do, and if this is an area you’re interested we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch.