Garden Organic was one of the key attendees at the first ‘Wales Real Food and Farming Conference’, held in Aberystwyth in November.
Taking its lead from the Oxford Real Farming Conference, the conference brought together farmers, growers, food producers, and environmentalists. With the aim to map out what a sustainable 21st century food system for Wales might look like.
Speakers included James Campbell, Garden Organic Chief Executive, who spoke on seed sovereignty – with particular reference to the founding of the Heritage Seed Library. Catrina Fenton, Head of the HSL, also led a session on seed saving. Adam Alexander, one of Garden Organic’s Trustees, led a session on the business of growing – using a collective farm, a flower grower and an academic to share their experiences of small scale, sustainable growing.
“With our history of supporting the small grower, and our founding principle of growing organic healthy food, this was the right place for Garden Organic to be,” says Campbell. “We were able to display the few Welsh seed varieties held in the HSL. We also have many GO members in Wales, so it was doubly nice to get the chance to meet them.”
The conference was well attended, with over 200 delegates. There was much discussion on the importance of organic growing and sustainable practices, on the importance of the link between the farmer and the community, and ultimately the role that government could play in supporting Welsh growers by the procurement of Welsh food for public consumption – such as in schools and hospitals. (And for those whose Welsh isn’t quite up to scratch, there was simultaneous translation in some sessions.) Meeting rooms, corridors and display areas were abuzz with representatives from a broad coalition of like-minded constituents. Garden Organic rubbed shoulders with The Organic Farmers and Growers, The Workers Alliance, Bioinnovation Wales, the RSPB and Nature Friendly Farming.
“There are two key ideas of agroecology: that farming should be designed to provide abundant good food for everyone without wrecking the biosphere; and that all communities should have control of their own food supply,” writes Colin Tudge, founder of the Oxford Real Farming conference. “Nothing can be more important to the future of humanity and the natural world on which we all depend."
If you are a Welsh grower, you might like to sign the petition arising from the conference, which asks the Welsh government to strengthen local food systems.