A project is underway in South West Scotland that is bringing farmers of many shapes and sizes together with local council representatives. Abi Mordin from Propagate writes this guest blog all about the online conversations surrounding farming, land use, and climate change.
The project is called the Fork to Farm Dialogues, and is part of a global network of similar work, from Mexico to Indonesia, South Africa to Belgium. Here in South West Scotland, the project is hosted by the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere, and facilitated by Propagate.
With COP26 on the horizon, the motivation for the dialogues is to create a space where farmer’s voices can be heard.
We know that the global food system is responsible for about 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions. We also know that red meat and dairy is often cited as being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. However, as a beef, lamb and dairy farming community, we also know that there are valuable contributions to be made to carbon sequestration through livestock production.
So far, 4 sessions have been held between February and May. The 20 farmers who have been attending are drawn from a mixture of traditional dairy, beef and sheep farming, smallholding and market gardening. Representatives from the same councils have joined the calls, from various departments including planning, environment, economy and sustainability. This has made a space for some really interesting and lively conversations!
The group spent some time discussing the themes most important to them, where a positive contribution and difference could be made:
Short and local supply chains
Forestry and woodlands
Health and inequality
Locally produced food direct to customers and into schools.
April - Short and Local Supply Chains
Heather Murray and Mark Hunter from East Ayrshire Council have been national leaders in local and sustainable food procurement. Over the last 10 years they have increased the % of locally and organically produced food on school plates to around 70%.
Farmers were particularly inspired by this, with ideas being formed around producer cooperatives that can put forward collective bids for local sourcing tenders. A big gap identified was around free range chicken as there is little to no production in Scotland. A further barrier to this is processing, the nearest facility for poultry is in Birmingham.
May - Forestry and Trees on Farms
Morag Paterson is a self-directed forestry researcher, and a member of Communities for Diverse Forestry. She has reached out and spoken to over 40 professionals across forestry, farming, land use and other relevant disciplines.
Sitka spruce plantations already planted and planned in South West Scotland far outweigh other parts of Scotland by many thousands of hectares.
What are the motivations for farmers to go for sitka spruce plantations? How can farmers, land managers and communities work better on this issue? What support should be in place? There are currently no agri-environment schemes in Scotland, such as grants towards maintaining land for biodiversity, or planting native broadleaf woodlands instead of conifers.
The second speaker was Nikki Yoxall, a farmer from Aberdeenshire who has implemented an agroforestry system with Shetland and Galloway cattle. Farmers discussed how this kind of system could be ‘retrofitted’, and how easily farmers would be able to make a transition to different farming methods while still being profitable.
The door is opening for more farmers from the region to join the dialogue. The months ahead will include study visits to farms that are incorporating innovative practice and climate mitigation measures.
The group will start thinking about key messages for COP26 as they join forces with the other groups around the world involved in similar projects. An exhibition and presentation space is being planned for Glasgow in November where these messages and farmers’ stories can be shared.
Join us on June 23rd to be part of this journey.
If you have been inspired, excited or intrigued and would like to join the dialogues, please email email@example.com or call 07340 531506. She may be out on the farm, but she’ll get back to you soon enough.