Every day the world around me seems to get slightly more absurd, which deepens my desire to act towards a more sustainable and regenerative future. Recently, I’ve been pondering on shopping. I’m lucky enough to have a car, so doing a big supermarket shop is an option for me. As is an online order that’s delivered. I also live in the town centre so shopping local is a possibility.

The factors that influence my choice are around convenience, time, local food and organic food. None of the choices I have seem to fit wholly with the ethical choices I would actually like to make. 

I’d like to be able to meet my family’s needs entirely with local organic food. But to do that is hard. It requires travel, and shopping in many different places, which takes fuel, energy and time. And not to mention the cost. 

Now I’m all up for paying the true cost of food, but I’m not so keen on paying over the odds. I’ve been doing a weekly shop in Sainsbury’s. I can get everything I want there, and mostly organic, plus it’s all done in about an hour. Shopping online is even more convenient, but I don’t like the replacement products the algorithms choose. 

This week I’ve been testing out meeting our needs locally. So far, I haven’t been able to find the organic products that I’d like, at a price that I’m willing to pay. Especially meat. And fish. I paid more in our Sainsburys Local for mackerel than I would have in the big store. It’s dawning on me that this is also inequitable for people who don’t have a car. But that’s a different story.

All our veg needs are met from our Coed Organic veg bag and the garden. So for me, local organic veg is easy. But not everyone can have a veg bag like mine because there aren’t enough community supported agriculture projects where growers are growing real, good organic food. 

So, what’s better? What’s the better choice for the environment overall? Food that is produced locally but in industrialised food systems that harbour cruelty and chemicals? Or organic food that’s produced to standards that don’t cause harm to the animals, or the earth, but have travelled from far away places? It’s an ethical conundrum. I haven’t found what sits wholly comfortably with me yet.

Another facet to all this is meat versus veggie or vegan. For a more sustainable future we will need to move to a more plant-based diet. But for where I am now, my family likes to have meat on some days. So I do what I feel is the best, I buy organic meat from Sainsburys. I don’t do it lightly. I’ve tried replacing meat with something from the enormous range of veggie, vegan or plant-based options, and I’m not keen on the ingredients lists on those foods. 

For where we are now, organic meat feels more healthful for my body than veggie sausages with a long list of things I can’t even pronounce. I could make more at home. It’s not that I don’t have the time, it’s just the small amount of time I do have I’d like use to do yoga, walking, gardening and maintain my creative drawing practice, plus the two community projects I’m deeply involved with. 

We need to radically rethink the food system we have set up for ourselves. Let’s imagine what this could look like.

  • Community gardens where people can grow good food together, learning and sharing. With the coming of more unstable times ahead, it seems clear that learning how to grow food is a priority.
  • Land on the fringes of town given to agroforestry and regenerative agriculture. A whole wellspring of community supported agriculture projects too. 
  • A local farmers market where producers can sell directly to customers. Farm to fork style.
  • Community kitchens where local people can create micro-enterprises. A place where folks could make the good quality healthful beetroot burger that I’d make at home, then sell it to me at the local farmers market. 
  • Sharing and community allotments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all up for allotments as they are set up for today, but we are never going to have enough plots to offer all the people who’d like to grow a plot of their own. So, a community model for the land would work better to get more healthy food to local people. We’ve got to move beyond the private ownership model. You having a nice little plot to meet your families needs is great for you for today. But, for a more sustainable future the land could be better used to meet the community’s needs. Then anyone who wanted to grow food could be involved and get a cut of the crop for their contribution. 
  • Surplus and back garden growers. Anyone who’s ever grown food will know that there’s always more than you need. Why not have a system where local growers can take their excess produce to market, get a price for the weight, then it’s sold for a little more to cover costs of the stall and time of the stall holders?
  • Neighbourhood food collectives. People on a street get together to get bulk deliveries from places like Suma Wholefoods. 
  • People’s supermarket/Hisbe Foods

There are still so many unanswered questions. What about chicken, eggs, meat, fish and dairy? How could we produce those on a small local scale? All doable really, with a bit of knowledge and careful planning. But I grow plants, so it’s a bit of an unknown for me. I know there are lots of farms in the Vale. I’ll need more research and investigation into this.

Then there’s the issue of access to food. The way we have set things up now, good food is expensive, bad food is cheap. We must switch this. Food pods and Food Pantry’s are a brilliant way to redistribute food to get it to the people who need it most, but they come with caveats.

All people should have access to healthy organic food. 

I’ll start making a list of all the places where we can get organic food locally…

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