Local farm shops across North East Wales saw a dramatic increase in business during lockdown. This video shows how people chose to shop locally due to safety or lack of supermarket slots.
I hope you don’t mind me contributing from France but it is relevant I hope. I live in rural Dordogne, have a large vegetable garden and am surrounded by others in the same situation plus buy most of what I can’t grow from a local market.
Conserving for the winter is still a tradition in this poor, mostly agricultural area. Home grown produce is widely shared here and it is not unknown for my acupuncturist husband to be paid in vegetables, wine, cider, pâté, meat etc. Food and its production is front and centre to life here and just about everyone has a bit of independence in that respect either because they grow themselves or someone in the family does.
During the lockdown, I was an observer to my daughter’s experience of food shopping during the lockdown. She and her family live in North Yorkshire. She has always shopped not just at the supermarket but at an organic loose whole foods outlet, a greengrocer selling locally grown produce and a butcher. She is highly motivated in terms of finding good quality, organic and/or locally produced food. They are not wealthy. They eat very little meat. The butcher provides food for their dog. What was interesting is how the sources she used became overwhelmed with demand as the supermarkets bowed under the strain. Not surprising perhaps but if those sources had not been available putting food on the table would have been much more of a challenge. The greengrocer who sold locally grown vegetables took on more customers than they had ever had before and struggled to get all the orders fulfilled to the point that they had to put in place an order cut off point earlier and earlier in the week so as to not be overwhelmed. A local farm based café started doing vegetable boxes for their regular customers including eggs and dairy products and eggs and were also nearly overwhelmed. I had recently given my daughter my bread maker but flour quickly became difficult to find. When she could source it she made bread for them and for her neighbour. A friend shared rhubarb. A local group on Facebook was quickly set up as a community group to support those in need for whatever reason. This was very successful as were other organisations which existed before Covid to feed people suffering from food poverty in their town. Local independent restaurants and the Facebook group and other actors mobilised in a very impressive way to support the community and continue to do so.
The bedrock of food security is local production. During the lockdown in the U.K. the government essentially handed responsibility for the maintenance of food provision over to the food industry who did a good job to keep the supply lines open. This is not going to be possible after 31 December if there is no deal with the EU and when the new tariffs and customs arrangements come in and the just in time delivery system no longer exists. I am extremely worried about food security in the U.K. from that date. The whole issue of food security needs to be urgently addressed on so many levels that it makes my head spin. The public needs educating about nutrition and food production, children need to learn food growing skills in primary school, local authorities need to release land for allotments for those who want them. Towns need local farms to supply them. Cities need urban farms and rooftop horticulture as can be found in countless cities around the world. Planning for new builds should include common ground in a development for food production (a dream I know).
Food production (and therefore food security) has to change radically in the U.K. Moves to start these changes should have been initiated as soon as the U.K. voted to leave.
And I haven’t even started on how this all affects or is affected by the climate crisis!
I’m off to bottle some more tomatoes …..
I live in Chagford on Dartmoor Devon and once a week collect my box of assorted organic vegetables, it’s as exciting as christmas was as a child wondering what will be in the box this week.
The business is called Chagfood, they are wonderful growers and by their actions make many people happy, healthy and grateful.
A keen member of Slow Food I used the timing of lockdown to exploit my very local food resource, our allotment.
Producing tasty, nutritious meals is always a challenge, and even more so under lockdown where the 5 mile rule for travel reduced access to our usual butcher and dairy – we drink raw milk.
However, the additional time that had been created allowed the chance to research online suppliers of ethical and organic meat and milk along with Port to Plate Fish Supplies.
In reality, though, it was the timing in March that helped most, as our allotment was just coming into delivery mode and fresh vegetables with a food distance of 150 yards provided fresh, seasonal and very local food. Eggs from a fellow allotment holder made a regular appearance too.
Luckily the ‘Hungry Gap’ was ending or we would have lived on leeks, brassicas and stored potatoes and onions
Instead an early Spring meant Asparagus sprang up on a regular and rapid basis. We have two beds, green and purple, that are in their third year of production so we limited ourselves to about 150 spears that were enjoyed whether steamed and buttered or served with a poached egg or went into a quiche or tart. The tougher parts of the stalks are all frozen for taste of Spring in Winter as asparagus soup.
Rhubarb provided a tasty compote for breakfast with Greek yoghurt though as strawberries and raspberries came into season the rhubarb featured mostly in desserts!
Personally I love the taste of the first new potatoes and with seven varieties a range of textures and tastes boosted the carb content of meals, often accompanied by the first pickings of runner or french beans and lately peas. We grow Heritage varieties wherever possible and save seeds for next year.
There is always great delight at the first picking of figs from our tree in the allotment greenhouse, and this Summer we should have 20 or so, not enough to make jam but perfect on a salad with salty feta cheese.
We have lots of leaves growing for salad and have recently harvested the first cucumbers, tomatoes are still a work in progress as are courgettes and aubergines. Looks like Summer will see us eating well and I shall be flat out preserving, dehydrating, jamming and crystallising apples, pears and a range of vegetables such as beetroot before enjoying the Winter tastes of main crop potatoes, celeriac, parsnips and brassicas.
Luckily with an allotment, and a keen gardener in my wife cooking under lockdown passed without shortages or incidents.
Who knows what a second spike in Covid or Brexit will bring, but a Slow approach will prove a bulwark.
In addition to my previous comments about Paul Khan, I learned more about his involvement with the Greenhouse Project in L8 and how food has linked two Liverpool communities. Paul has supplied his own unique curry pastes to L17 residents throughout lockdown. His own Pakistani-African heritage has allowed us to sample new, exotic flavours which have enlivened our tastebuds. Each week he supplied us with a different paste and recipe suggestions. We have all shared photographs of our dishes on WhatsApp, accompanied by lively banter. It has strengthened our neighbourly relations and made us appreciate one another more.
In the attached video, Paul discusses the Greenhouse Project which in these difficult times is providing a community with essential food and life skills. The project teaches children and young adults cooking skills, provides essential safe-play and sporting opportunities.
Lockdown in Wales has been a great inconvenience but absolutely essential, but some have had a taste of lockdown plus plus because of having a ‘shielding’ letter from the Welsh Government. I had lymphoma two years ago and even though I was discharged from the Haematology clinic in June, I was still included as a high risk person. For two months we did not go out of our front gate, but in June another letter came with some changes, notably being able to go outside to exercise but still keep to the five miles limit. Thank goodness for Sainsbury’s on line shopping, having priority arranged through local authorities, in our case Denbighshire.
I’m hopeless at cooking but I’m a dab hand with the vegetable peeler and can opener. My wife (and our two grown up children for that matter) is an excellent cook. Without her excellent cooking and baking I would not have survived the last three months, or indeed the last 54 years. One extra treat we had was a Welsh Afternoon Tea through the post from Daffodil Foods in Pwllheli. We also revived a habit from the 1980’s, an aperitivo of Martini Bianco with ice and lemon on a sunny afternoon.
When the five mile limit was lifted in Wales, on Monday 6 July, we went to Llandudno for a walk along the prom from the new lifeboat station to near the pier entrance and then had a drive thru KFC in the Junction!