Zelly Restorick

We have less than 16 harvests left before experiencing serious problems within the UK food chain, warns organic farmer and activist, Patrick Holden, who set up the Sustainable Food Trust.

Our soil has been depleted of nutrients and minerals due to over- usage, nitrogen-based fertilizers, chemical additives and the use of toxic pesticides. Our air and water are polluted and our growing population is making overwhelming demands on the earth’s simultaneously declining resources.

Governments and corporations are aware of this situation, but Holden isn’t sure anyone has a firm plan for a solution, despite the fast approaching deadline.

Poor food is consumed by those with the least money, while the rich can afford better quality produce, such as organic foodstuffs. This gap needs to be decreased, says Holden, so that everyone can eat well, healthily and affordably.

Holden put the spotlight on our food industry – and why an urgent transition is needed to a more sustainable system – during a recent a talk and supper event at The Beacon, organised by Energise Sussex Coast and Transition Town Hastings.

Holden set up the Sustainable Food Trust with an awareness of the imminent, multiple threats to the future of our food systems. He has worked for 45 years on his organic farm in Wales, been involved with the Soil Association and knows the depleting effects mankind is having on the planet’s resources.

Encouragingly he retains some optimism in the face of the current threat to our food systems, suggesting possible solutions such as: only giving the farming subsidy of £100 per acre to those who are non-polluting; rotating crops and replenishing the soil with a grass and clover mix; resting the fields rather than pursuing continuous growth; and a preference for more small farms and local food networks.

He also advocates a circular economy where nothing is wasted, staying away from fossil fuels, the use of nitrogen fertilisers and dirty water, to ensure the food chain system works in harmony with the planet’s finite resources.

At the same event Abby Nicol spoke about PeaPod Veg, an organic veg box delivery scheme, and the land she farms with her partner, Thad Skews.

Both being members of the Landworkers Alliance (the food producers union) they made the interesting and thought provoking film, ‘In Our Hands’ to show what individuals can do to take a more active role in transitioning the food chain. Nicol wondered if Hastings Borough Council might use some of their farmland to produce food locally, as finding the right land is a very important part of the equation.

The Sustainable Food Trust: sustainablefoodtrust.org

Landworkers Alliance: landworkersalliance.org.uk

PeaPod Veg: www.peapodveg.co.uk

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