‘Why don’t we eat more food from near where we live?’
This was the simple question that began the Fife Diet – a year long local food experiment which has since morphed into an exploration of what sustainable food looks like, and a hundred more questions. Over an eight year period it has developed from a simple idea framed around ‘local eating’ to a complex holistic one about sustainable food, environmental justice, globalisation and culture.
We set out to build a sustainable food movement that popularised eating healthy, local produce in Fife. We started from the understanding that there is something fundamentally wrong with the food system but also from the thought that we can, if act collectively, do something about it.
We are delighted beyond our expectations at the support it has received and the impact it has had. We believe the projects success was based on its authenticity – i.e. ordinary people trying to do this for the first time, but also based on a fundamental truth, that is that we as a society will have to actually change our own behaviour, institutions and experiences to meet the challenges of climate change and that no magic bullet, techno-fix or legal sleight of hand will wish-away the reality we are all part of.
The last eight years has made us realise that food has become central to the precarious economy, it has become a form of social control, and, while it remains a means for great change and a source for love, community and solidarity, it has also been captured and turned against us.
The ‘restorative practice’ of a better food system will only be victorious if we want it enough. But we think it’s there right now on the table in front of us.
Real progress won’t be made until we end hunger in Scotland and the disgrace that are food banks. It won’t be made until we regain control over our retail experience, and confront the profiteers that benefit from products that fuel our children’s obesity. It won’t be made until we create opportunities for the ‘right to grow’ and create an expectation of quality healthy food in our public institutions. Some of these arguments are put forward in our Food Manifesto.
There’s a whole lot more to be done if we want to be taken seriously as a ‘Good Food Nation’. We think that debate is just starting, not ending.
Here’s some of what we consider to be our key achievements on that journey:
CELEBRATING OUR OWN FOOD CULTURE It’s worth remembering that when we started we were met by a mixture of incredulity and poorly-disguised scepticism. People really didn’t think that you could eat food from Fife, and survive at all. It was just unthinkable, unimaginable.
CARBON SAVINGS In 2011-2012 we saved 1019 tonnes of C02e. Then, in a three year period (April 20912- March 2015) we saved a further 6976.37 tonnes of C02e. These are immediate savings, by diverting food waste from landfill thereby avoiding creating methane, for example, or by sequestering carbon and enriching soil with compost, but also by eating locally, growing our own food, eating organic, changing the meat we ate (and eating less of it).
OUTREACH We held or attended over 500 outreach events over the three years, engaging with 15,520 people.
GROWING SPACES We established a community food growing garden, a wildlife and forest garden and a vibrant volunteer and community group who are maintaining them. We hosted 57 events at the garden, including the children’s gardening club, large community lunches and volunteer sessions.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT We ran 79 weekly children’s gardening clubs (79 clubs over three years) and hosted 7 large-scale community events.
LEADING THE WAY We were part of building a new food movement in Scotland that encompasses the right to food, championing small producers, insisting on sustainability as a measurement of quality in food production and celebrating food sovereignty.
NEW ORCHARDS We planted 7 orchards around Scotland from Galloway to Sutherland with our Silver Bough tour (‘ a cultural conversation about apples’).
SCHOOL LUNCHES PILOT We collaborated with Fife Council and the Soil Association in a pilot project exploring regionally sourced, healthy, sustainable and organic school lunches. See here.
INSPIRATIONAL PRINTED MATERIAL We published a series of inspiring posters, postcards, booklets and other materials including recipe books, calendars, guides on native apple varieties and a booklet on gardening with kids. We also produced a free Ebook for our members of Collected Recipes from the life of the project.
BIRTHING THE ORCHARD COLLECTIVE We curated and hosted the National Orchard gathering and helping the Orchard Collective into existence.
THE BIGGER PICTURE We are proud to have been part of a wider movement and welcomed the collaborative work over the past eight years with such groups as Nourish, the Soil Association, Slow Food, Permaculture Scotland and Transition Towns.
By Mike Small
Over the past eight years we’ve seen new food businesses rise and fall. It’s always good to support a new one especially since access to really good bread has been difficult in south and west Fife after Matthew and the Steamie Bakehouse moved south. So it’s great to see the arrival of Woodlea Stables outside Crossgates set up by Jock Sharp and Fiona Fraser. The List writes:
“His slowly fermented breads are lightly yeasted or made from sourdough starters, and include Italian white, ciabatta, malted wheat, baguette and wholemeal loaves, with specials such as caraway and pumpkin seed, or sundried tomato and basil. Organic Shipton Mill or locally milled Carr’s flours are used. As well as selling from the smallholding, the Frasers attend local markets, including the Walled Garden at Righead Farm.”
This weekend we visited and they reported shifting from 30 loaves a day to 400 over the weekend. No wonder as the bread is amazing and well priced.
[Note – they’re only open at the weekends at the moment.]
The Seed Truck was a three year project of ours. Here Fergus Walker looks back at the projects work and asks: “How do you sow the seeds of a better food system?”
It’s the project that put the culture into horticulture …
Here’s the first of our photos from this weekend’s lunches, that took place across Fife and beyond – send in your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org and we can add them to our story of the day!
Join the new Inverkeithing Food Community and check out all their great photos from the day over on their facebook page here.
Follow the progress of the new community garden in Strathmiglo on their facebook page here.
Big thanks to Clem Sandison for all the photos from the Glasgow event
Locavore is a social enterprise that runs an organic local shop, community growing spaces, and market garden on Glasgow’s south side. Find out more about them here.
By Mike Small
For the last eight years we’ve been exploring how to build a sustainable food movement. We’ve tried to capture some key ideas and lessons learnt about what works.
We’re finishing documenting the whole project and next week we’ll be publishing our carbon report in full – but here’s a short film we made on how to create your own food movement, wherever you are…
By Fergus Walker
As the days lengthen, the buds are budding and we prepare to enter what is traditionally known as the hungry gap, I am pleased to announce the formation of a new charity, Common Good Food, which is being set up by three of the current Fife Diet team and will be up and running later this summer.
Common Good Food (CGF) will be an organisation with its sleeves rolled up and its feet on the ground. It will be a hands-on advocate of food sovereignty in Scotland and will champion our right to healthy and sustainable food, supporting communities across the country to take control of the food system by running practical programmes: teaching skills, creating resources, and celebrating the culture of good food in Scotland.
The new organisation has its roots in the work of the Seed Truck, the colourful, Scotland-wide outreach project of the Fife Diet. Made up of a team of gardeners, cooks, storytellers, designers, artists and composters, the Seed Truck has traveled all over Scotland in the last three years – from Auchencairn to Aberdeen, the Black Isle to the Isle of Skye – visiting nearly 100 communities, delivering 400 practical workshops on how to grow and produce your own food, and has engaged with over 10,000 people.
The Seed Truck has visited community groups, schools, events and festivals, embarked on two week long tours and hosted a national orchard gathering, as well as helping to set up four new community garden projects. In our travels we experienced that there is a high level of demand for practical support from community groups wishing to participate in food production. Groups are often ambitious, but lack the confidence, training and tailored solutions to allow them to scale up to significant food production and build working local food systems. Therefore we will take a holistic approach, working in four areas:
CULTURE Encourage people to question our current attitudes to food and inspire them about their intimate connection with food, food production and the earth. Supporting wider community engagement through multimedia arts events and activities and beginning to develop a creative, public discourse, through cultural events and interventions, around the meaning of food, its place in our lives, its cultural role and the vision of the food commons.
SKILLS: Develop community capacity, foster resourcefulness and build knowledge and skills in food growing & food production. Development of a wide programme of training for communities ready to move into food production. Drawing on our existing skills and working with an established team of expert facilitators, we will offer in-situ workshops covering the full journey of food growing, from accessing land and designing gardens, to selling the final produce.
TECHNOLOGY: Design and develop appropriate low impact technologies and resources for community food production, exploring sustainable solutions for people and planet. We will collaborate with gardening communities to develop innovative new tools, equipment and resources that will enable low impact food production. We will create a suite of equipment available for hire, as well as pieces commissioned for purchase. Experience has shown that the lack of processing equipment as a real barrier to small scale food production, and new solutions for portable juicers, vegetable washers, grain mills, etc would fill an urgent gap in the market. Plans for such equipment will be made freely available via the Farm Hack network.
FOOD COMMONS: Work collaboratively to promote the localisation of control over our food system and interlink and develop the elements required for more coherent local food systems. People’s wellbeing, their sense of community, their health and quality of life are directly connected to their relationship with food. We want to demonstrate that with the right support, communities can become more than just consumers. They can develop the capacity to grow their own food and begin to create and participate in the food commons. We should have access to a shared resource, held in common, that nurtures our innate capacity to feed ourselves, our wider community and to look after the land that sustains us.
We will adopt a commons approach to all aspects of our work, aiming to develop real community capacity and resilience in food production, sharing innovation and best practice, developing peer support networks in Scotland. In collaboration with other national and local projects we will support community food hubs develop innovative ways of bringing community-grown food to market.
Common Good Food will be set up as a SCIO (Scottish Incorporated Charitable Organisation). We submitted our application at the beginning of the year and expect to be registered and set up by mid-April. We have applied for funding and hope to be up and running later in the summer. We will be based at a smallholding in West Lothian, but we will be working across Scotland. The team that is leading the project is Fergus Walker (Seed Truck Co-ordinator), Eva Schonveld (Fife Diet project manager) and Mags Hall (Fife Diet membership and outreach co-ordinator).
The Seed Truck was a joint three year project between Fife Diet and WWF Scotland, and received funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund. We are very grateful to People’s Postcode Trust for the funding and encouragement in the last year to explore how to set up the Seed Truck as a more permanent organisation – without them we wouldn’t have been able to do it.
We will shortly be launching our website and a crowdfunding campaign. Keep a look out for more information coming soon!
The humble apple. It’s been central to Greek, Norse and Celtic mythology representing abundance and fertility, but now it’s a potent symbol of our broken food system.
From Adam and Eve to Steve Jobs via the Beatles and Snow White – the apple has had a constant public profile – a level of profile now embedded in the local food movement by the creation of The Apple Day (October 21) by Common Ground.
It’s been one of the huge successes of the local food movement re-establishing an interest in our apples and orchards. The apple is the ultimate unprocessed fruit – its healthy but with a hint of danger about it. What could be more perfect?
Why do we import apples from New Zealand when we can grow them here?
What happened to our orchards?
Who stole our apple culture?
As Cate Devine of the Herald wrote recently:
“Despite it being the most popular fruit in the country, it is virtually impossible to find a Scottish-grown apple for sale. There are plenty of delicious English-grown traditional varieties available now for a limited time while in season, but the vast majority – about 70 per cent – are imported from France, Italy, Chile, America, New Zealand and South Africa.”
It doesn’t have to be this way.
In fact the Scottish Orchard Collective are determined that it shouldn’t be like this.
Formed at the Dunblane Orchard Gathering in November 2014 the group are planning practical action in 2015. From creating a forum for gathering our collective knowledge around best practice in nurturing orchard growing, to raising funds for scaling-up so we can juice LOTS of apples, we are looking for people to bring energy and ideas to the group.
Our next meeting is at:
Saturday 21st February, 12-4:30pm. Caledonian Brewery: 42 Slateford Road, Edinburgh, EH11 1PH
Do you have a vision for a project that you want to bring to life that will help the orchard revival in Scotland? For the Edinburgh meeting we are looking for up to 6 ideas that will benefit the wider network and will be up and running this year.
Examples of the kind of ideas we are thinking of:
If you have an idea and want to take it forward, please contact Fergus Walker on email@example.com by Thursday 19th February
We’ve produced this booklet distilling years of working with children at Broomhill (Burntisland) and at the Kaleyard (Kirkcaldy) – and all over the place.
Packed with practical ideas for how to run workshops, fun things to do, recipes and advice – this is the culmination of several years learning by Elly Kinross, our Growing Coordinator about what kids love doing in the garden.
If you run a community project, a youth group or a school in Fife – get in touch and we can send you a bundle.
Includes: edible flowers, homemade butter, berry pancakes, quick jam, how to create a mini wormery – and tips for creating a Smell Trail! What’s that?!
Contact Elly at firstname.lastname@example.org