Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Lockdown Day 78 -Small Steps-Part 2

In yesterday's blog I talked about recycling and how this can help the environment, and today I want to look at local food options.

We are quite lucky in that we have an amazing local butchers, which sources mostly from farms within a few miles of where we live (I think the chicken is from about thirty miles away, still in North Yorkshire), and they proudly display their suppliers in the shop and on the sign board for different products. You can buy pretty much any cut of meat and offal there, as well as cooked ham, tongue, eggs, pies and sausage rolls.

Near work there is another local butchers which I use occasionally - they do a wider range of cooked meats - and a lot of their meat comes from their own farm.

We use a farm shop and a greengrocers near where I work and sometimes the market in York if we are in the city. (Obviously we haven't been able to use the market of late due to restrictions). Most towns and cities have some kind of market, and I remember that my grandparents, living ten floors up in a tower block in inner city Leeds, got their fruit, vegetables, meat and fish from Leeds Market - it is a great pity that we do not go into the city centre in Leeds much nowadays as Leeds Market is one of the most amazing markets in the country in my opinion and growing up near Leeds I remember going there from a very young age. I particularly remember the fish market (which used to be in the middle of the market but now moved to the row nearest the Corn Exchange if you do know the place) and often I saw a crab or lobster crawling around a stall!

I appreciate that many of the out of town identikit housing estates have not been planned with local shops or suppliers in mind and so finding the sorts of shops and indeed markets we use can be difficult for some. However in many towns and cities there are (in normal times that is) farmers markets too and there are often food themed events at various public venues with local producers and artisan foodstuffs. There are though plenty of farms selling direct to the public either from the farm gate/shop or via box schemes or delivery, though these can sometimes be pricey. Eggs and potatoes are commonly sold at farm gates.

Some supermarkets are ok with having local-ish suppliers (Booths in Cumbria for instance) and it is getting better for finding out the traceability of some products in store, for instance in Tesco there are often labels on the packaged vegetables and fruit to say which farm they have come from and Morrisons works very closely with farmers for much of its produce and meat, and by all accounts, has been very good in payment terms during the coronavirus lockdown. That being said, if you can buy direct from farm or a local butchers or greengrocers you are cutting often cutting out one layer of profit slicing so more (if not all) of what you are paying is going to the farmer that produced the food. It is good to see that so many more people are re-discovering local food suppliers during this lockdown, prompted in many cases by the empty shelves in supermarkets early on in the crisis caused by panic buying. Hopefully many people will stick with these suppliers when the crisis has passed.

One way of course of getting local food is to produce it yourself and whilst the scale of what we do in the allotment is not available to many, everyone can grow something, and my grandparents grew tomatoes and cucumbers in the window of their tenth floor flat in Leeds. They also went foraging for blackberries every year too on the nearby railway embankment (there was a fence at the top next to the actual railway!) and local paths. It would be nice for us to keep chickens but we don't have the space at home to give them proper freedom and the allotment contract doesn't allow livestock. That being said, there may be someone in your local area that does and might be able to do a barter.

At certain times of year there is, even in urban environments, a variety of foraged foodstuffs to be found, whether that be blackberries, elderberries/flowers, apples, sometimes pears or damsons or sweet chestnuts. I have tried making my own dandelion root and also acorn coffee, although the acorn tastes much nicer than the dandelion one, indeed during the war acorns were used to make "ersatz coffee". Some people forage mushrooms but you really have to know what you are looking for as a mistake could be life threatening in a few cases.

This book is, in my opinion, one of the best books on the subject of foraging for food and has been in print for many years

If you fancy home brewing I can vouch for the blackberry wine recipe in this book!


Sometimes though, food miles are not always the best yardstick to judge a product's environmental impact, for instance with bananas, as they come over on a ship, the emissions per banana are quite small. Out of season, apples from New Zealand could be of less impact than local apples from the previous summer stored in temperature controlled sheds for long periods or, for instance, peppers grown in heated greenhouses here versus outdoor grown from the Mediterranean.

This book is a good go-to on this topic:



Checking the ethical status of the food production is also a good thing, although it is sometimes difficult to establish the traceability of the ingredients of a particular foodstuff and there are, sadly, often compromises that have to be made when it comes to budget. However, many brands do publish their traceability and ethical credentials, and there is money to be made in promoting good practice as more consumers become ethically aware.

Next time, I look at how one can make steps to purchase and use consumer goods and services in a more environmentally friendly way.



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