ONE of the after-effects of Coronavirus is likely to be a push to build a more resilient society in various ways.
One interesting development in this area is a renewed emphasis on the importance of locally grown food to provide more food security.
The Campaign For Real Farming, for example are calling for a million new farmers on the land – envisaging swathes of mainly urban-based individuals being re-trained for this purpose.
GWLAD leader Gwyn Wigley Evans said this was an important discussion, and agreed that farming land should be primarily for food production.
‘At the moment, we have environmental groups talking about planting millions of trees here in Wales, but that would mean that the land available for food production would be drastically reduced, forcing farming to become even more intensive, which defeats the object,’ he said.
‘ We need food sovereignty in Wales – it’s a key part of us becoming more resilient as a nation. So, reducing our capacity to grow food makes no sense at all’.
But, rather than waiting around for an urban population to be trained up as farmers, Mr Evans said there were immediate actions that could be taken right now.
‘Apprenticeships with and on the existing farms for example, so you could have one young person helping each of the 15,000 smallholdings in Wales’ he said.
‘With the average age of farmers increasing, this could be a win-win solution for both parties’
Mr. Evans said small-holdings worked well in places like Austria and Switzerland – but only if one or both partners had another income, either full or part time.
‘So there does need to be additional production nearby, which we also need to work on.
‘This is why the model of the Laura Ashley factory used to work so well for mid-Wales for example’.
With the UK now coming out of CAP, Mr. Evans argued that the farming subsidies should be retained, but used more creatively to boost small-scale, localized food production.
‘GWLAD agrees with going local as much as possible. We need a new network of small producers on the land, providing food on a more localized/regional basis’ he said.
‘This could be a more self-reliant model, low input and impact, low energy with a greater measure of social and political autonomy.
There’s no doubt that the current farming model is broken, and needs to be remade entirely’.
It’s an intensive model chasing profits in the global marketplace above all, with 5 huge supermarkets controlling over 80% of the food supply.
Leading to a situation where the UK has among the fattest and least healthy individuals in the western world, and the highest consumption of industrially processed food in Europe.
Something drastic has to change in the value people place upon food production, consumption, health and general well being.
Even so, some proponents of the new farming model have expressed their concerns about a long established ‘estrangement’ from the land in the UK, and whether enough people will respond to the call.
That sense of identification with the land is much stronger in Wales.
More fertile territory for the new ideas perhaps.