We’re into the busy planting period now, with most of our 10 acres of annual veg production getting sown or planted in a short 10 week period between early May and mid July. It’s great to see the growing plan take shape in the field. Things have already been made easier this year with some better machinery, and the weather so far has been good.
So we’ll be all-out planting, sowing and weeding for the next few weeks before our first crops – garlic and spinach – are ready to harvest around the last week of June.
In the meantime, we’ve been interested to read a final report published by one of our funders, the Local Food fund. Written by the University of Gloucestershire, it assesses the impact of the Local Food funding that went to growing projects like ours, and it concludes: “Every £1 invested in Local Food is shown to return between £6 and £8 to society in the form of social and economic outcomes including health and well-being, training and skills.”
That seems pretty impressive. Social return is an interesting way to view investments. Could you claim the same kind of broad social benefits for, say, a £1 investment in one of the UK’s illustrious banks? Very doubtful! Put these figures against some of the shocking food-related statistics (e.g. obesity costs the NHS £5 billion a year) and you’d like to think that a long-term thinking government would see good reason to invest in a properly mainstream local food system – one that delivers fresh, healthy, unprocessed food, as well as jobs, skills, community involvement, health benefits etc.
Long-term health costs could be saved and there’d be wider benefits to society. We can’t help but think, though, that governments (of whatever party) continue to be more influenced by the short-term profit of all the food companies and retailers that are addicted to selling and advertising overly salty and sugary processed food. It’s big business.
So we’ll keep dreaming! And we’ll keep working, but evidence like this Local Food report is great and we need more of it in order to change the mainstream.