Spring is on its way, daylight returning and bulbs flowering. Nature doesn’t stop just because our world is turning upside down. Perhaps that’s just as well, bringing hope and energy for a brighter future. We are all naturally concerned for friends and family. Our own families are spread across Scotland, Sweden and Germany, with friends as far away as Hawaii. Thanks to wifi at least we can keep in touch, good for the soul to know we are all thinking of each other.
We are in the midst of a worldwide health and economic maelstrom we have no control over however it also offers us an insight to our society’s vulnerabilities, its capabilities and our excesses. One such weakness is food security. Post SARS and our ‘big freeze’ in 2010 one might have thought lessons would be learned. Not so. Food systems reliant on just-in-time still collapse, queues form and shelves empty. But there is hope.
Thanks to the dogged determination and passion of indy shops and the support of their mindful customers there are other options open for food shopping. Farm shops and high street butchers, online rural hubs and delivery services are seeing some new faces among their customer base. Let’s hope these arrivals twig that their purchases result in money remaining in their local community, their families eating more healthily and seasonally – and their shopping habits becoming greener!
I remain cynical regards the multinationals’ tokenism when it comes to environmental issues whereas family businesses are generally more conscious of our planet, provide a personal service and can respond more quickly to changes in our food system. They are more likely to source locally, often home grown, and support fellow independent small producers. There is big money behind many modern ultra-processed foods with an agenda in direct conflict with ethical food producers. It suits their business agenda for the cows to get the blame for climate change yet planes soar overhead, oil is fracked, plastics float over oceans, forests are felled for soy and one third of all nitrates used flow into rivers and groundwater. Are we destructive or what?
It was fascinating this week that, with the possible exception of a packet of toilet rolls, nothing we required was in short supply! I predict the food waste from panic buying will be phenomenal. Our industrialised food system is broken.
Our local farm and village shops fulfilled all our needs and are well stocked again as we speak. Any plastics brought home were kept to a minimum and although I still use clingfilm we have waxed cloths for general use as appropriate and our milk is bottled.
With less money in the economy for months to come and vastly less in many a person’s pocket (particularly if they are in any way connected to the hospitality industry) I think there will be changes in our travel strategies, outlook on waste, environment and food. We must appreciate those small businesses that were there in our time of need, reduce our waste be it food or packaging and think responsibly about our eating habits and the way we use our planet. Vandana Shiva has been saying this for years… I hope more people will listen…and also read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. It’s the ideal opportunity if you’re grounded at home. Perhaps we can see this as a wake up call how incredibly interconnected our planet is these days.
We fly commodities - and viruses - everywhere in a matter of hours. So much that was taken for granted may change. Cooking and thrift skills will come to the fore; home schooling may be required along with an appreciation of some of the simpler pleasures in life. Our mental health was never more important for a healthy body. Enjoying fresh air, with a wee bit foraging thrown in, is good for us…and free. Our self-sufficiency and spirit are about to be well and truly tested.
It will not be our export figures and air-miles that will bring us Scots back in balance, but our appreciation of our natural wealth and access to nourishing food: pasture fed ruminants and hefted heritage breeds, naturally grown vegetables and fruits in season, Scottish grains, environmentally sustainable catches from seas and lochs and a healthy small scale dairy industry. That’s what will make us a Good Food Nation with food security. That’s what will give us food sovereignty.
Sweden is asking Finland for food now. They are down to 50% of their country’s requirements food-wise and are having to look to neighbours with more robust food systems. Currently Finland is not playing ball – they know they may need it for themselves. The Baltic Sea herring is under threat, all scooped up for fish farms, and likewise the cod is struggling as it fed on the herring. One politician said the only thing Swedes could be sure of having was carrot cake as they have sufficient homegrown carrots, flour and sugar and not much else. Eggs weren’t mentioned so it may even have to be vegan!
May you and your loved ones stay safe and well.
Shops pictured (in order) ... Carmichael, Belhaven, Blairmains, Ardross, Allarburn & Macbeths, along with many more on www.scottishfoodguide.scot