The new book by James Rebanks could not have come at a better time. Consumerism is killing us and destroying the land that feeds us. The never ending supply of cheap food available at any time of the day is taken for granted. We have become blind to the realities of food production and care little for those that feed us.
Growing up in a farming community meant we knew a lot about where food comes from. The secondary school in the village had a large garden which was used for horticulture lessons and to supply the school kitchen. That is now a new and novel idea but it was part of our life.
My father was a farmer before war took him away from the land. He was full of rural knowledge and in the 1950s and 1960s he grew food for the family and for sale at the gate. He kept a pig, raised hens from incubated eggs and had some vicious geese. From an early age we had an intimate knowledge of where food came from.
We also knew about the realities of farming, it was hard work and often cold and dirty. When I went to work in the big city a colleague asked me where I was from. When I told him his retort was “you’re a clod, why have you come here taking our jobs, you should be working on a farm.” Now 50 years later I agree, he was right.
In his new book James Rebanks says that consumerism dictates the way we farm. It is clear that the majority see only a rural idyll in all its fictional glory. Land is now about recreation, day trips to breath fresh air and picnic in the fields with a portable barbecue and ready meals.
A review “English Pastoral: An inheritance” in The Guardian sums up what has happened:
“By becoming slaves to consumerism and “strangers to the fields that feed us”, we’re part of the problem. He bangs out statistics to prove the point. Half of our milk is now produced from cows that live permanently indoors. Half of our hedgerows have disappeared since the second world war. And we’re so addicted to cheap food, however dubiously produced, that we spend only a third as much on it as people did in the 1950s. ”
When the never-ending supply of cheap, environmentally destructive food stops things will change. Let’s hope it is not too late.
The panic to find fresh food may be over for now but there are other problems on the horizon. When we crash out of the EU without a deal the government will cosy up to the US to import their food. When that happens how will you know what you are eating? To find out have a look at this article by Alice Keeffe in The Guardian.
“There has been much ado about the prospect of chlorinated chicken, but the implications of a trade deal with the US are equally grim for fruit and veg. The American government will insist on our loosening regulations around the use of pesticides, so we can look forward to apples containing higher levels of malathion (an organophosphate insecticide linked to cancer which can impair the respiratory system) and grapes with added propargite, an insecticide that has been associated with cancer and can affect sexual function and fertility. Oh yes, and then there are neonicotinoids, all but banned in the UK because of their toxic effect on bees, and chlorpyrifos, banned by the EU over concerns about its impact on the brains of foetuses and young children.”
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate which were used as insecticides. They used to be widespread but were banned in Europe some years back. It is accumulative poison and can be absorbed through the skin. The manufacturers continue to sell them to the developing world and the US. See this piece about child deaths in India.
Do we really want food produced using pesticides that have been banned here? It is time we grew up as a nation and looked after ourselves and the land where we live. There must be a resounding NO from anybody who cares about food, their health and the long term future of this fragile planet.
One answer is to grow your own. Now is a good time to start planning and getting your food garden ready. We are hear to help.
Email us if you need help
Please note: we do not store emails, pass on details to anybody else or send messages after we have a responded to your question.
Suddenly the penny drops, it is the way we live that is causing pandemics. The massive increase in international air travel and foreign holidays in exotic locations have become a consumer product. The acceptance that it is meat with every meal coupled with all the expectation that we should be able to buy any food from anywhere any time we want. The complete and utter disregard for wildlife and the habitats that sustain endangered species e.g. palm oil in Indonesia and Soya for animal feed in the amazon.
And what now? After a couple of months of worldwide lockdown there is the frantic clamour to get back to ‘normal’. But the normal has become dangerously abnormal. Normal is killing us. Normal is destroying the very thing that keeps us alive – plant Earth.
Just another gloom and doom story? It need not be that. Now we have the chance, a very slim window in which to do something differently. It looks like governments will not help us, but we can act alone or as part of groups or small communities.
There is another way that is not the ‘hair shirt’ option. Living a simpler life is possible within the over consuming, selfish mad scramble to have everything at any cost. We don’t need the latest fashions to be who we are. Do your own thing, step away from the crowd, resist being a lemming!
The best way to start is at your own front door, by asking what you allow though it. Start with food, question every decision you make when you stock up each week. Ask yourself why do I buy that? Is the cheapest always the best? Where does it come from? How much do we throw out each week? Think about everything you do regularly and ask yourself is there another way of doing that.
This is a video about rural poverty in Derbyshire. It totally blows the popular myth “there’s no such thing as a poor farmer”.
This is the reality of cheap food in supermarkets and it is repeated all over the world. Somebody somewhere picks up the tab, it’s usually the farmer.