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Transition Towns and Local Food in Rural Communities Scottish Transition Gathering 26th JULY 2008: Notes from Open Space TRANSITION TOWNS APPLIED TO RURAL COMMUNITIES

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RURAL CHALLENGES: RURAL OPPORTUNITIES: IDEAS FOR RURAL TRANSITION INITIATIVES: LINKS:

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LOCAL FOOD

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LOCAL FOOD EXPERIMENT: THE PRACTICALITIES: SOME THINGS TO THINK ABOUT: LINKS:

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Transition Towns applied to Rural Communities  Hosted by Clive. What are the issues & solutions?

Rural Challenges:   Rural issues; accessibility, transport, lack of critical mass, poor state of houses, landowners not maintaining land/property, farmers blaming government and a sense of hopelessness. Tensions between outward & inward migration along with associated feelings about ‘locals’ and ‘incomers’. Who is moving out and why? Who is moving in and why? ‘Incomers’ started the rural transition initiatives represented at this table. Concern about the alienation of locals and how to engage them. “How to break away from 'them' & ‘us’? How to get to 'we'?” Some ideas of ‘tradition’ can be negative towards change. The lingering residue of feudalism, associated struggles in relation to landowners, and it’s associated power dynamics of being told how to live. Resentment around older ways of life which were perhaps ‘sustainable’ having been made impossible to live by outside pressures, now being preached as the way forward. The tensions of working in a geographically bound community are more evident in a rural setting. Need to have the necessary skills to be successful in this. Problems with using urban ideas to measure rural sustainability means there is a need to draw up new indicators. Transition Initiatives recommend a minimum population of 1000 people, often impractical in a rural situation. Better to keep similar types of places together because they share issues, instead of grouping small places in with a bigger town or coastal with land locked. What about fishing transition towns?

Scottish Transition Gathering 26/07/08 Open Space Session Notes by Susan Pettie 1/5


Rural Opportunities:   There is the access to land, knowledge of working the land, strong in necessary skills, ability to grow food, manage woodland, make and mend, more recent history of pulling together, community spirit, experienced in diversification. Local people already have this wealth of knowledge and experience. The transition context is a chance to celebrate and build on the value of these traditions, this heritage. With less people and less transience you can get to know everyone, their skills and abilities. It is possible to go door-to-door talking to people. You can build on the existing networks: farmers, WRI, shop owners, church, etc.

Ideas for Rural Transition Initiatives:   Begin simple small and supportive. Start meaningful conversations and keep it open, talking and listening to everyone as you go. It’s essential to feedback all the collected information. Pragmatically & functionally start to do things. Initiate quick wins for local ideas then link to more strategic ideas. Ask for people to share their knowledge rather than tell them what they should do. The types of questions you ask make all the difference. Get to understand the context that the local community has lived through. Ask the older generation what it was like? Acknowledge the local history and highlight the way that previous and current ways of life are sustainable. Engage in a process of really listening to people and looking at the layers of land use over time. Embrace the tensions. Have patience with the process rather than focus on rush to an end. Celebrate everyone’s contribution, even if it’s a complaint. Understand where people are and start from there. The solution comes from everyone being involved; these are the people that will make it a success, everyone together. Different things motivate different people who then come on board at different times. Begin with a like-minded group. Follow the joy and work with those that want to first. “Forming a community into a group rather than forming a group to go out into the community.” Inspire folk into action. Move your vegetable plot to the front of the house to be able to chat to people as they go past. Grow extra and giving away to people as way into getting them involved. Let ideas spark peoples imagination, think ‘herb gardens in train stations’. Identify the best ways in the community to communicate, convey information & consult. Leaflet drop. Start a newsletter and get local business to pay for it through advertising. Attend, take part in and hold events: ceilidh, tug of war, flower show, gala. Target the children and the families will be brought together. Create a roving pub, utilising village halls. Approach a farmer to sell direct to the community from one field, their return is comparable because they cut out the middleman. Stimulate the local economy. That field might turn into community-supported agriculture one day. What about LETS schemes? While they quickly attract lots of fun & nice stuff (aromatherapy, Scottish Transition Gathering 26/07/08 Open Space Session Notes by Susan Pettie 2/5


massage) they only succeed with the balance of practical stuff (plumbers, electricians). Consider the need for legislative change as well? Meat and seafood handling, slaughter houses. Coops in the Peak District are sharing slaughterhouses & then selling on the net. What a transition marine environment?

Links:  •

“Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh” by Helena Norberg-Hodge. A book & then film about the impact of western style 'progress' on a traditional frugal, cooperative, environmentally aware community in the western Himalayas. http://www.localfutures.org/ladakh-project

Carnegie Rural Community of Practice Programme: bringing all the good models together, innovation & fiery spirits. Contact Nick Wilding nick@carnegieuk.org for more info. http://fieryspirits.com/

Centre for Mountain Studies: PhD Students looking at sustainable rural development. http://www.perth.uhi.ac.uk/specialistcentres/cms/Pages/default.aspx

Local Food  Hosted by Mike Small of The Fife Diet

Local Food Experiment:  The Fife Diet is a local food experiment. The idea started in 2007 at the Big Tent Festival in Falkland, inviting people to feast on good food from Fife, or as close to, for a year and share their experiences. Focusing on a celebration of the relocalisation of our food rather than a self imposed deprivation. A press release for the first meeting at The Big Tent caught the interest of the TV who did a piece on the idea. 14 people were willing to try it and gave themselves a couple of months to run down stocks, officially launching on 2nd November 2007. In March 2008 'Landward' coverage, four part series exploring the local producers in the Fife area. This has the potential to influence the production of food in areas. “Eat as much as you can from the region & be honest about the experience.” Monthly lunch meetings have been supported by £2,500 funding, mostly invested in childcare, and donations from local producers. The change to local food, and facing the challenge of climate change, is psychological & emotional stuff. People eating together, is very powerful. Volunteers were originally asked to host lunches in their homes, however it soon became apparent that people were not comfortable doing that. Lunch meetings were then moved to a local hall and given a budget of £50, which works. Volunteers get 2 months to prepare for their turn serving I vegetarian & 1 meat option to those that attend. Producers donated food for the lunch meetings, knowing they would have a chance at increased sales. Scottish Transition Gathering 26/07/08 Open Space Session Notes by Susan Pettie 3/5


When the experiment comes to an end they will try to come to some conclusions. Food cost is an obvious issue. A £9 organic chicken at a farmers market is a big financial jump from one at £2 in Tesco. Food hasn't been always cheap in fact it used to be expensive. Farmers markets appear as too cosy a boutique thing. Collective buying direct from the farmer has great potential.

The Practicalities:  Eating from an extra large Bellfield Farm vegetable box (they use a bio fuel delivery vehicle), along with local fish, potatoes & flour. Wheat is essential for making bread & pasta. It’s been a low meat diet, with local chicken & pork sausages. We tracked our supermarket budget, which is now £5/10 per week cheaper eating mostly organic. 80% of the food is local & seasonal. Have bought some groceries together informally. Succeeding has been about balancing time & cooking expertise, rather than the cost. Cooking everything from scratch takes more time & planning. Making/replacing convenience food was a particular challenge; pancakes & omelettes are good for that. Porridge & raspberries is a good meal for the children. “It’s the adults that need re-educating.” We’ve appreciated eating seasonally this year for the first time. February was more challenging than the harvest times. Better understanding of the post war celebration of bananas. With hindsight, for this coming winter we are bottling tomatoes & sharing the bottling work. Started a Fife Diet Community Garden in Falkland. Someone is looking into growing cereals, quinoa & split peas in Fife. Cheese making has just started in Fife. Have been approaching it as ‘what is the best local food?’ then how best to supplement that diet. If not local then go to the nearest region. Most Fife seafood is immediately exported which is problematic. Miss wines the most. Of course the tea & coffee test failed. Newspapers were condemning of this. Trying to make sugar or coffee in Scotland would be ridiculous. However green house growing in this country is not necessarily as carbon intensive as flying the produce in from a Southern country. Having solidarity with developing countries/majority world means choosing the fair trade option when having to buy abroad. It’s those countries that are at the moment more affected by climate change.

Some things to think about:  Believe it can be done in other areas every region has its ability. Fife: good meat and vegetables, though no fish or cheese. Argyle: pork, lamb, eggs & dairy, not so much vegetables. Regional approach is useful. It would be good to have a picture of what's being produced across Scotland. A Scottish Local Food Network? How best to start? Make a meal from only local produce and then tell your guests afterwards. Create an inventory of what's available in your area then identify ways to fill the gaps with produce from other regions. Build momentum through being public facing, the internet is good for that. Media attention can be fickle, demanding, draining & sometimes useful. How to use or not use the media? Food is number one source of cancer in Scotland. Chance to address this through a local food Scottish Transition Gathering 26/07/08 Open Space Session Notes by Susan Pettie 4/5


diet. Opportunity to re-educate people about how much you need to eat of what when to stay well fed and healthy. Reconnect with the land. How to get enough protein, with tensions around meat eating? Meat production globally is part of the problem arable land cleared for grazing livestock feeds more people when used for growing produce directly. However in Scotland livestock often graze on non-arable land. Deer graze on heather, are shot on the land and provide a low fat source of high protein. Forest gardening is a good source of protein with nuts, mushrooms etc. Carbon Footprint: 'Young’s' seafood producer on the west coast taking shellfish to Thailand to be shelled and then shipping it back to be sold here!! Legislation & infrastructure challenges for the likes of abattoirs & mills. How to resource the necessary building and running of these, to make local food work?

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Fife Diet http://www.fifediet.co.uk/

Local Origins Rural Network in North Argyle. http://www.lorn.org.uk/

‘Plants For A Future: Edible & Useful Plants For A Healthier World' by Ken Fern. http://www.pfaf.org

‘Good Scots Diet' by Maisie Steven

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Transition and Food in Rural Communities