B&NES Food & Land transformation
“To spark and catalyse the shift towards food sovereignty, local resilience and sustainable land stewardship in Bath and NE Somerset.”
I. Connect local stakeholders, farmers and communities to increase local food provision.
II. For 70% of Baths food to be grown locally (less than 12 miles field to fork) by 2025, and 100% by 2030.
III. Train, inspire & educate new growers to take on areas of land and provide their local community with fresh produce.
IV. Establish a school of practical sustainability, offering courses that equip young people for viable and empowering vocational opportunities.
V. Develop an Ecological Land Trust for Bath area, to both protect land and create fair access to rural livelihoods.
VI. Work with local growers to co-create a Bath Food Hub (see Frome and Bristol for models) for growers and consumers to be linked in symbiotic relationship. Collaborate with a network of e-bikes (e.g. through WEGO) for last mile deliveries to homes and local outlets.
Recent crises such as the climate emergency, COVID-19 and the energy crisis have exposed the stark reality that many of our systems are at tipping points: food, energy, climate, ecology, economy, health and social justice. Before these escalate to breaking points and downward spirals, there is a small window of opportunity to reverse trends and use this moment as an opportunity for healthy change.
Recent UN reports on climate, biodiversity, food and land highlight the need for rapid and systemic action at all levels, and point to the centrality of land in this shift. Land use and agriculture is both the greatest problem in this context, responsible for 30% emissions, and the greatest solution with potential to sequester more carbon than humanity emits whilst feeding the entire population equally. This is a unique moment in history where there is strong appetite for change, local food and community resilience. This is particularly true in Bath, a town which provided all its own fresh food just a number of decades ago, and boasted a thriving market garden local food culture. This could once again be part of the fabric of life in Bath. Through a revival of market gardens, a mass training of new growers and a redistribution (and re-collectivisation) of land, this vision is possible within the next 5 years.
This is not just about providing 100% of Baths fresh food and produce, but about an intersectional movement of stewards, farmers and communities taking back harmonious responsibility of Earth. This must be intersectional, because food is a social and political issue as much as a physical one. A revival of local food culture must also make food affordable and accessible, generate viable rural livelihoods and rebalance education towards a more holistic and practical approach. As with the youth climate strikes that have taken Bath and the world by storm, this must be led by and for young people, which includes handing over seats of power and land ownership to new ecological stewards and politicians. At a time when the average age of farmers is 59 and the average age of cabinet members is not too dissimilar, it is no wonder that decisions are not taken with the future generations in mind, or with the fresh and radical perspectives that are needed in a radical time of converging crises.
Locally, this is the most important and strategic path for solutions to the climate emergency, and yet it is a sector that the council and local movements have largely underemphasised or ignored. Land regeneration and ecological livelihoods must be combined with the necessary shifts in transport, home insulation, awareness and renewable energy –without a resilient local food system and land stewardship, none of these pathways are sufficient, as materials and calories will continue to rely on fragile global systems of energy, pesticides, agrochemicals, factory farming, carbon-intensive transport, unpaid labour and deforestation abroad. Land and food must therefore be the foundation of a local climate plan, and not a cherry on the icing. This requires a great deal of collaboration, coordination, collective upskilling, a desire to reconnect to land, and a shared excitement to be part of the regeneration of life on earth.