Keeping it local and under our control

This piece was first published by our comrades at Alternative Estuary who operate in the south of Essex.

The just in time food supply chain we have come to (over)rely on is incredibly complex. It enables us to have food from across the globe pretty much on demand. It has done away with the notion of seasonal eating that those of us with a fair few decades on the clock remember from our childhoods and teenage years. It has become something so integral to the way we live these days that we barely give it a second thought.

That’s until things start to go wrong. They are starting to go wrong. There’s a shortfall in the number of lorry drivers needed to keep a just in time food supply chain functioning smoothly. Part of that is down to Brexit and continental based drivers not wanting to work on deliveries to the UK because of the extra hassle that’s now involved in transporting foodstuffs in from the EU. Recently, another factor has been the ‘pingdemic’ where drivers who’ve tested positive for Covid are obliged to self isolate for a period, even if they have absolutely no symptoms. Shelves of some lines in the supermarkets are starting to empty as there simply aren’t the drivers available to keep them stocked. There’s now talk of deploying troops on truck driving duty in a bid to keep the shelves stocked.

This will probably only be a temporary problem and that after one or two months, some kind of solution will be found. Mind you, it wouldn’t surprise us if this drama was used as an excuse to jack up food prices. What this situation is starting to do with some people is make them ask some pointed questions about where our food comes from and the processes involved in it getting onto our plates. They’re asking questions about exploitation on farms and in some of the initial processing facilities. They’re asking questions about why some countries export a substantial proportion of what they grow when they sometimes struggle to feed their own populations. They’re asking questions as to whether it’s really a good idea to ship produce from half way around the globe when it could actually be grown here. They’re asking how fresh (or not) is the produce that ends up on our plates. They’re asking a lot of questions and that can only be a good thing…

It’s coming up with answers that can be tough. Obviously, the shorter and less complex the supply chain is, the less prone it will be to disruption, whether that’s through malicious action or a lack of holistic thinking leading to unintended screw ups. A more localised and less complex supply chain will also mean the food that reaches our plates will be fresher. However, even with these shorter and less complex supply chains, we still have to rely on other people for our food needs. As we have said a few times before, whoever controls the food supply chain can also control the populace. With a growing level of mistrust in the government, it’s understandable that there’s an increase in people wanting to start growing as much of their own food as possible…

Rather than re-hash what we’ve written in the past, we’ll refer you back to this piece we published last month which hopefully gives some useful pointers on what you can do, individually and collectively: Building community resilience – securing the food supply – July 21, 2021. Look, we’re not saying that you should drop everything and become a full time peasant farmer! For a start off, as things stand with land ownership and tenure in this country, unless you have access to a serious amount of dosh, it’s nigh on impossible to get access to the land you’d need. That will only happen after a massive social, political and economic transformation. We’re about what we can do in the here and now that will be the first steps towards that…

Between the various members of the Alternative Estuary crew, we currently manage four plots of varying sizes with the distinct possibility of a fifth one being developed in September. With the two garden plots, the aim is to achieve 20-25% self sufficiency in vegetables. Obviously that varies from year to year as do the weather conditions. We’ll freely admit that this year has been a challenge due to a considerably wetter than normal summer and…the sodding slugs! The point is, we’re putting our money where our mouth is and actually doing it. What we want to do is learn from our experiences and use that to facilitate anyone in the area we cover who is serious about growing their own, particularly if they’re doing it as a collective. Basically, it’s carrying forward the vision that emerged early last year with the Crops Not Shops project that started out in Southend…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s