A unique responsibility
Phil Stocker - 02 December 2009
November was another eventful month, with two of the last days being taken up with the Farmer and Grower Board meeting and attending a soil carbon event at Nafferton Farm in the north-east of England.
The soil carbon event coincided with the official launch of the Soil Association’s new Soil Carbon and Organic Farming report, which gave producers in the north of England an early insight into its findings.
November also saw the last of this season’s Producer Roadshow meetings, this one held at Adrian Steele’s farm in Worcestershire in pretty rough conditions where everyone got a taste of the wet winter weather. In spite of this, as with all the other meeting, the afternoon resulted in the chance for some valuable debate, as well as the opportunity to talk about some of the activities the Soil Association is involved in which aim to further organic farming and growing, and improve conditions on the ground for producers.
While it’s been good to have held all these meetings, the most important thing now is to follow them through, to build on the communication achieved, and to pick up some of the key themes that emerged. In particular, it’s clear that the Soil Association has a unique responsibility to make connections between producers and those who want to buy and eat our food and drink, helping to create more direct relationships between producers and consumers. Sounds simple but to really scale up on what is already happening out there raises a huge number of issues such as convenience, continuity and range of produce to deal with – even before you get onto the subject of processing and storage infrastructure. This is an area the the Soil Association is already working on but which desperately needs more research and support as we move towards a future of diminishing oil reserves and climate change.
It is also clear that you - the farmers and growers out in the regions - are a truly fantastic resource and together we could do far more to communicate with other producers and the public in your areas. It is interesting that many staff at the Soil Association feel frustrated that we are seen as a radical campaigning organisation, and that this gives us problems when wanting to communicate with a wider audience. But in my experience, this is an issue of perception and the biggest challenge is actually starting the dialogue with people – an area that we could improve on by working in partnership with many of our producer members. I am writing up the key outcomes of all of the Producer Roadshow meetings, which will appear on our web site before Christmas – watch this space.
On an amusing note, one of the highlights of the Roadshow meetings was a sudden splash when one of our meetings ended in an impromptu swimming session as someone jumped into an irrigation lake at the end of the farm walk. You will remain nameless – even though the memory will no doubt stay with those who attended for some time! Anyway, it all adds to the spontaneity of organic meetings – you never quite know what someone will say or even do!
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