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The Road to 2020

Helen Browning - 27 September 2011

It has been a busy few weeks. Organic September is proving a great success with activities taking place all over the country, and lots of promotional activities among our licensees. And today I’m very excited to announce the publication of the first iteration of our refreshed strategy: ‘The road to 2020: Towards healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use’

Keen followers of this blog will recall I spoke in the Summer about how our thinking was developing.  Well, this document outlines those thoughts. This isn’t an end point though – working on an organisation’s strategy is a process, and I’m sure as our thinking evolves so will this document. In the meantime we would love to hear what others think so do share any thoughts/impressions/reactions with us below in the comments section.

Helen Browning is the Soil Association's Chief Executive, and also is an organic farmer - she runs a 1,350 acre organic livestock and arable farm in Wiltshire. Her sausages and bacon can be found in the supermarkets, and her versatile team also run the village pub! Previously Director of External Affairs at the National Trust, Helen is also chair of the Food Ethics Council and was awarded an OBE in 1998 for services to organic farming.

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Ben Raskin
13 February 2012 10:54

Jenny - in reply to your question Just to clear up that it is not soil but compost that might have our logo on – we do not license or approve soil unless it is in the ground on an organic farm. For products and compost we do not certify it as organic but can give it an approved product symbol meaning that it complies with the standards for use by organic farmers (a subtle difference I know). Part of this is obviously heavy metal analysis, checking the composting process is sufficient etc, many of which are requirements in the PAS100. This is designed to eliminate as much risk as possible from contamination. The ideal is for farmers and growers (and indeed amateur gardeners) to get as much of their fertility from within the system through green manure and home produced manure and compost. For some producers this is not always possible so they may sometimes bring fertility in but this is within the strict guidelines of the certification process. Hope this helps Ben Raskin – Soil Association

04 February 2012 12:59

I hope you read right down this far. My comment is not to do with above as you ask but (bad as I am with on-line stuff - wrong generation by 2) I can find no other way to say I really can't cope with reading on lline stuff. There are two reasons, one as above, I am BAD on-line and two - I really don't have time to read it. I enjoy your magazine though it is often months before I get down (in the waiting pile) to get to it. On-line is just not on, so please do not ask me to do this, take my email (or whatever) off your list and just send the magazines. Thank you, June Raper

Jenny Eddison
30 January 2012 15:38

I really support everything organic and try to buy it wherever I can and grow all I can to do with being organic, but one thing that really puzzles me, is, how can the Soil Association put its logo on council converted soil, which is stuff that has come out of anyone's garden, (who dare I say it) may have used chemical, (slug pellets included for a start), pesticide and herbicide products on their veg., for the soil to be converted into Soil Association 'logo' approved soil, to be allowed to be used as soil in organic gardens? Please can anyone answer this question, as I'm very puzzled by this?

07 November 2011 17:10

Peter Mitchells' comments of 18th October emphasise why we need such organisations as the Soil Association, Greenpeace etc., the man is deluded.

Caroline Hope
25 October 2011 08:41

I agree with what you say. Does this take into consideration of workers, as in occupied Palestine where 'organic' products are not organic in the justice/humanitarian sense?

Peter Mitchell
18 October 2011 17:52

A lot of Hot Air' actually, all said & done, there is an over-abundance of Fish around Norway & they would like Fishermen from outside their area to come fish to reduce these huge stocks - nothing said about that? Global warming doesn't exist, its just a slight 'tilt' of the earth's axis - that occurs from time to time - and NOTHING can be done about that! As for using COAL as a source of fuel to generate Electricity, it's a lot cheaper that you might think and with over 100 years worth of it still in 'them there hills' & technology to virtually wipe away any 'residuals', we are all being informed of the negatives of life. Isn't it about time to look at the abundance of positives there are for us all to enjoy? Should we all take a 'Metabolic Typing' test, locate how we are best to feed ourselves. Elimination Pasteurisation, (which I am sure you all know is a major cause of illnesses), stop feeding our cattle with toxins to produce 'more milk', eat our best beef from our cattle when they are really ready to be slaughtered - around 8 years of age? There are many 'other' reasons why we are able to feed ourselves for countless years to come IF we 'understand' how easy it is, like the eastern civilisations have been doing for years. In the western world, we are all almost obese who know very little, as we aren't told the truth about the way in which we are being fed. It is easy to correct, it might take a few tears, but it is possible to become a fitter nation, just don't use G.M foods, pasteurised milk, white flour, white rice,etc, etc...

Caroline Corsie
17 October 2011 11:22

Yes its really important to gain recognition/participation from 'mainstream' farmers and try to overcome the 'us and them' thing. A soils program is vital and inspections should include focus on current soil analyses/issues. Who measures organic matter these days ? Non organic arable farmers may be a tough nut to crack but green manures and composting mean less spend on artificial inputs/fertiliser and more resilient farming systems (they also have potential to produce energy). What level of engagement is there with the NFU ? . With the majority of our wildlife in decline due to poor soil health, habitat fragmentation and intensive farming, Food for Life could be marketed to include wildlife as well as people ? Organic food really can be affordable , it just takes a bit of trawling around to get it !

Rosemary Butler
16 October 2011 09:37

Whole heartedly agree with the document, I changed to all things organic several years ago because of dreadful health problems caused by chemicals in food, toiletries etc; now grow our own organic vegetables in our back garden, health improving all the time. Pitiful to see what "junk" food is doing to people, especially children, more education in schools needed to pursuade a change to the benefits of natural food as I have found and swear by, keep up the good work.

Liam McNulty
12 October 2011 09:45

Please have a look at Emma Heseltine's blog - she is the Soil Association's first agricultural apprentice employed by a co-operative in North Cumbria called Hadrian

Richard Davies
09 October 2011 20:09

I entirely agree with the aims of the document, but have to support the remarks of Ken Grayling (2nd Oct). Rapid growth of World population will defeat the aims of the Soil Association, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam and all similar organisations. I would go farther than Ken, and say that all of the afore-mentioned organisations should start to make noises about it. It's a subject that doesn't sit well with the philosophy of any humane organisation, but sombody has to tackle it, or you're all wasting your time and your supporters' money. I'm not advocating a coercive policy like China's, or a limit to the size of individual families; persuasion could work (Sir Richard Attenborough, a well-travelled person, has made remarks to this effect). Neither am a talking about the starving millions abroad; England already has a population that can't be fed in a completely sustainable fashion. I admit that a policy of population control can only be initiated by governments, but they need to be prodded into doing it. They probably fear that it could be a vote-loser, but they might be wrong. What do you think? Doubters, please Google "optimum population trust". I'm not a member of it.

08 October 2011 11:21

I agree wholeheartedly with the aims, especially going into schools but should you go further and catch the parents before they put junk food on the table. Some children are "hooked on junk" before they get to school/nursery so we need to catch the parents before and just after the babies are born to give them the ideas to keep their children healthy. Also should you get involved in allotments and assist new growers on how to manage their plots and give some accreditation to each allotment area that they have reached certain standards?

Elsie Ostle.
07 October 2011 14:30

I have already posted my comments - very interesting and I agree with them all!!

Elsie Ostle.
07 October 2011 14:29

As the print was too small and there were eleven pages of it, I couldn't read it!! However, as a committed Soil Association for many years, I fully agree with the sentiments in the initial letter from Helen Browning. With very best wishes, Elsie.

Adrian Weston
06 October 2011 14:36

The 'Organic Principles' quoted on page 4 are exactly the same principles as those held by all farmers. Finally, we have been shown that there's no point of difference between organic and other farming systems. ALL farmers have great principles no matter what their production methods and that's the way it should be.

mike godfrey
05 October 2011 12:01

a pretty comprehensive statement of intent,should be perhaps,a little more succint,but overall a pretty good effort.Well done.

Steve Harris
04 October 2011 21:39

Wow! What an excellent document, you have put a great deal of brain-storming, thinking and planning into it. This looks like a whole new chapter for the Association. This form of publication is so much better than some previous ones and should make people look and listen. I wonder if there is enough planned here that will successfully influence the government into more partnership activities and whether we could enlist more assistence from HRH Prince Charles to help influence the government.

Henrie van Rooij
04 October 2011 19:28

Yes, it is a good thing that there are these bold plans and visions to influence things for the better. And although my comment may say more about the level of my own understanding than the value of this document I risk it here anyway: It reads a little like a manifesto of some party. Is it going to be possible to have such major and ongoing influence, whilst carrying a huge responsibility as an organic verifier, and remain truly independent? Not having the need to water things down here and there in order to preserve that influence? Is there some more thinking needed to cover this? SA will need to be very well prepared, because there will be many detractors. What I will also say is that I am proud to support the SA, it is a better way forward than any political party!

C Davis
02 October 2011 17:49

Very good document, good ideas. This country urgently needs locally grown reasonably priced organic food . If only you could persuade the planning departments to co-operate. I have tried for a long time to find a parcel of agricultural land to grow vegetables on ,also to share part of via the land share scheme. It is heart breaking to find time after time that the planning departments would consider grazing for horses and stables or monoculture to be apropriate but not mixed horticulture . Surely there must be a lot of people who would love to grow food to feed the family and sell at local markets but can not get started. Keep up the good work.

Ian Mason
02 October 2011 17:15

Fine words - and what measures will be used to determine whether our leadership is successful in achieving its global aims? (I hope that my £540 - 50% of my profit - is being spent wisely)

Ken Grayling
02 October 2011 10:53

The elephant in the room, which you ignore, is unchecked population growth.No system, technical or natural, can cope with the present population, let alone its growth.I realise this is not your primary mission, but you have to acknowledge the existence of the problem.

Ed Dowding
01 October 2011 20:08

I think this is excellent, timely, and spot on. Can we make it the road to 2012, though?! Creating productive partnerships will enormously accelerate the strategy of this inspiring document. Organisational change is hard - it's going to take a lot of work, but with leadership and vision like this it will happen. Bravo, Helen! Let's talk about APIs and Open Organisations!

Lauren Harrison
01 October 2011 16:37

Really encouraged by this document - vital to start where people are at and not be judgemental. Really glad that the SA is looking at producers in a new light and, hopefully, producer base can become a huge resource in the way that Fairtrade campaigners are in the Fairtrade movement. Also really important that organic stops being seen as elitist and starts to be accessible to all. Really look forward to helping to make this happen!

01 October 2011 15:26

I felt immeasurably heartened after reading the document. In these stringent economic times it is very important not to lose sight of basic principles.

Jeremy Matcham
01 October 2011 11:47

The Road to 2020 reads very well. It has certainly reinvigorated my enthusiasm and support for the Soil Association's endeavours by pinpointing a number of the issues that I personally feel need addressing. These include: recognising the magnitude and far-reaching implications of sustainability; extending initiatives overseas to countries that currently supply much of the UK's food; raising awareness of community supported agriculture schemes, and their marketing mechanisms, in the UK; keeping the organic certification scheme simple and cost-effective, and, building upon the Association's scientific information resources that are accessible to all.

Luc P.Intens
01 October 2011 09:18

Small scale agriculture is important everywhere, not only in so called develloping countries. Growing your own food, for your family or in community shared agriculture, is the most revolutionary action because it shows we are master of our lives and we can create abbundance for all !

Lisa Whitehead
01 October 2011 08:30

I think this is a very promising strategy as it is crucially starting from where most people are (the public, businesses and farmers) and embracing all. If everyone took even a small step in the right direction, it will surely have a big impact and shift in understanding, thinking and behaviour. Too often the Soil Association and organic food has been seen as niche, expensive and for the rich. I am really looking forward to following and supporting what you are doing!!

John Byng
30 September 2011 22:03

The idea of promoting healthy eating is a good strategy. So is promoting small scale agriculture in developing countries in order to combat food poverty.

30 September 2011 21:21

Document is a bit long to read, and maybe not as 'straight to the point' as it should be. Apart from this I agree deeply into most of it and especially the need for a massive change into people's habits and knowledge about food. Educating people on where 'value' food comes from and what are their consequences. Everybody should now be able to understand and afford to make the right choices in their purchases.

Nicholas Jenkin
30 September 2011 15:05

I like this document. I also think the System is necessary and that it needs to adapt so people believe in it more. I'm no expert but it seems to me that the more people engage in the System the greater the potential for growth, perhaps beyond expectation and The Road to 2020 is the best example of the alternative view that I have read to date. Its simplicity is compelling and leaves plenty of room for others to add their experience within the overall framework. No stifling of initiative there.

John Simmons
30 September 2011 14:33

Loads of waffle and generalisation, whcih I never feel is getting things any firther forward. What I reckon needs to happen is for mankind (bit by bit?) to recognise that 'growth' is actually a bad thing, especially for economies, material standard of living, and of course populations. Start with these goals and the rest will probably follow (?)

John Mitchell
30 September 2011 14:31

Nicely laid out document. Good approach. Starting where the consumers are is critical - work with those encouraging better food choices and organic will benefit. I would like to have seen more recognition of staff, members and media helping to build the organisation. Also a personal preference would be to have something about raising the status of the food fair as a highly visible plank in the strategy. It is the highlight of my involvement with Soil Assoc each year but it does seem to have been neglected over the last couple of years (I don't think it is just the recession). I've thought it and I heard a few stall holders grumbling as I went around this year. 9/10 from me.

r j
30 September 2011 14:11

I fully support the aims of the soil association. These aims are critical to the long term health of our species, all other species and our world.Really what else matters?

Mike Duckett MBE FIH
30 September 2011 13:50

An excellant document which I will look forward to read with interest. I agree with the need to improve our future eating habits not only in the education of why we should all be eating healthier but to reduce our choice of foods for future security.

30 September 2011 13:31

I haven't read the complete document, I got about half way through but everything that I read to me represented inspiring intentions. Will try and finish off reading later. Keep up the GOOD work for nature!

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