1 December 2016
More than 70 people turned out on a frosty night to hear Natalie Bennett and other invited panellists discuss future food security and farming. The event was organised by the local Green Party to highlight an issue of concern in light of rapid climate change and Britain’s impending withdrawal from the EU with whom we do a great deal of food trade.
Panellists also included representatives from the National Farmers Union, Harper Adams University and Shrewsbury Food Hub. Discussions ranged over flooding and ploughing practices; the restoration of upland, bogs and forests; pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers; the effect of heavy farm machinery on soils; invasive plant species; and multi-national corporations and GM crops. Soil composition and depletion was a particular concern with potentially just 100 harvests left in British soils in their current condition.
Natalie said, ‘During my visit and at the meeting it was great to see growing levels of awareness about the fragility of our soils and the unsustainable rate at which they are being depleted. Many of the farmers I met are moving towards not just protecting their soils, but enhancing them. It’s also great to see the efforts of the Wildlife Trust which is working with farmers, communities and interest groups to protect and restore the unique meres and mosses that are an international treasure that can attract more visitors to Shropshire and enhance local lives.’
Over two days Natalie Bennett had been guest of Shropshire Wildlife Trust visiting farms to explore ways of growing cereals such as maize more sustainably to retain soil quality and to benefit wildlife. She also visited an anaerobic digestion facility operating as part of a diversified farm business and two farms which have received grants through the Meres & Mosses Landscape Partnership Scheme to improve water quality on and leaving the farm, and a scrapyard recently bought by Shropshire Wildlife Trust to restore as a nature reserve.
Shrewsbury Food Hub has been set up to put supermarket waste food to use locally. Porthill Community Campaigner Julian Dean, who chaired the meeting, said, ‘For us as consumers of food the report from the Shrewsbury Food Hub was quite stark. Charlie explained that just four out of every nine tonnes of food grown reaches us the consumer. The remainder is lost on the farm or in transit, while the supermarket model of fully stocked shelves and cosmetically perfect vegetables and fruit also results in food being rejected or thrown away. There is universal agreement that this needs to change.’
The farm visits and the public meeting helped build links between environmental and farming sectors. Several people have said they want further contact and discussion on these topics, and already conversations are following up the event.
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