By Cai Dodds
Earlier this year I embarked on a journey to discover a deep connection with the food I consume. I have in the last few months explored drastic changes in what I'm eating and why I choose to consume them. In doing this I am finding out where my food comes from, what the cost for locally produced food comes from and the accessibility to a healthy varied diet.
Back in the beginning of this year I was gearing up for this project and thinking of ways to practically show experiential research, which during Bristol's Rising Up camp I started to discuss how to address the need for access to land and local food.
When it became clear to me we indefinitely where facing an eviction from the land I wanted to take things step further, I wanted to do a hunger strike, demanding the land to be kept undeveloped for the future availability to food production close to the city on a localised level. After a chat with Tim, we thought a fast may be more appropriate, then I suggested
"how about only eating local produce for a period of time?".
So shortly after that I started scanning the health food shop shelves, the markets and tried foraging what I knew regularly. Unfortunately being involved in a protest camp is very time consuming and draining, so I only managed to do a strict week before finding myself in a fever with chicken pox, which broke my determination at the time to see if I could live off local food only.
Once I recovered, I continued doing the research and Going Local Going Green was coming close to starting. In the last few months I have gone from an almost pure vegan who had tried road kill and not bought any other meat, eggs or dairy to trying as many local foods as I could. I've discovered I really appreciate eggs in my diet, they have given me so much energy, oh and before you ask, in the last year I had my blood tested for deficiencies in b12 and iron and nothing was low.
When I went to Devon recently I learned that seaweed is extremely nutrient dense and they can be harvested from the coast to be eaten, but in the same trip I wanted to go mackerel fishing on the boat, only to find out that in Devon most mackerel have been over fished. The fishermen go into the Irish and Atlantic sea to catch most of the (local) fish. Not to be to disappointed I thought of getting fish from the fish and chip shop, surely they get local fish? Well, same story... Atlantic or Irish. Later in that trip, I discovered that Dorset is our localest sea fish source.
Now I say on my average week I'm consuming about 30-40% local food, so still a long way off from my initial vision. Now I'm not on a protest site, I'm in good health and have a small income, yet
why is it still so difficult to eat locally?
Why do I consciously perpetuate a culture which is not sustainable?
- Well I'm still stuck in my ways,
- I live in a shared house but still buy my own food,
- I've been very fussy with my choices on what I want to eat, for instance I only want to eat wild meat, organic, free range eggs and dairy, (pasture fed and unpasteurised would be desirable too).
- Sourcing local food in Bristol is sparse and inconsistent.
On my travels away I find myself going to farm shops and getting the food I'm looking for, even in the co-ops in big towns outside of Bristol, for example, in the Forest of Dean they have a local produce section! When I looked in a Bristol Co-op they didn't have the same stock, even though lots of food is locally produced in South Gloucestershire, Somerset and South Wales. I discovered in Wales, that the Co-op supermarkets have a society system in place, so the products are different in each society.
I don't want to promote joining the Co-op society to get access to the local foods, I want to find the producers, buying groups and small scale suppliers to network. I didn't start this journey to consume goods from supermarkets, to get home delivery or to sustain the exponential growth of Bristol, but to find out what food is grown and produced in the place I call home.
Can I stay here?
Can future generations rely on the food systems we are use to?
At the moment, I believe not....I feel disillusioned.
Yet, I believe we have to break bad habits, try new ideas and old trusted ones, and become less dependant on our current practices which have got us into this mess.
Where is the local food?
I am still searching...