Thursday, 13 October 2011

oats and beans and barley grow

It’s fascinating to see what happens when you step out of your comfort zone. Eating locally from within the borders of Sussex has thrown up all manner of experiences. My kitchen has turned into a laboratory as I incubate new skills, literally new cultures. Sourdough bread and cider are two, and I made my own salt from the sea.

It’s clear that we can eat a healthy, mixed diet from within the borders of Sussex. Meat and dairy abound, as well as vegetables of all kinds both from the fertile greensand soil of the Downs and the glasshouses of Fletching and beyond. Boathouse Farm has its own potato fields, and pumpkins grow well in a good year. Apples and other fruit of course are traditional from around here. Sussex is covered with wheat fields and there are farmers who grow grains and pulses such as barley, oats and field beans for their animals, so the skills and equipment for growing all our food needs are there, in the heads and hands of Sussex farmers.

But. And it’s a big one. Our infrastructure for bringing this food from field to fork is woefully lacking. As I wrote last week, wonderful Plumpton Mill is only one of three flour mills left in Sussex, with a capacity of 50 kilos of flour an hour. Abattoirs have been closed in the last two decades by red tape, so meat is harder to manage at a small scale. Smaller farms, providing dairy, meat and veg, close through lack of customers. 

The biggest barrier of all is in our minds: the way we source our food. People have become utterly dependent for feeding on big daddy supermarkets, with their grotesque money-based way of pushing farmers, nature and all the living beings that nourish us to their limits. And sorry, but Waitrose is only better by a small degree than any other supermarket; there’s no real ethical refuge there behind the tasteful marketing.
I find myself raging about this, about the stupidity of people all around me who just want to go on with the dream – or is it a nightmare – of convenient industrial food and who at our collective peril neglect the farmers and the shop keepers, the wonderful land, sea, food and drink around us that are our true ecosystem, our resilience and our real sustenance.

  Picture by Erma Shutter

No comments: