The covid-19 virus is already leaving empty shelves in supermarkets. As things progress we as a society must collectively look to manage food supplies so as to not exacerbate problems here and abroad. This was a topic discussed in farming circles as a result of the developing brexit situation before the virus came into awareness. Tackling the environmental crisis through farming practices, the reason Three Pools was founded, was already looking to change the way people look at what they eat. We are now in a position where diets must change to manage food security due to virus impacts, brexit and the environmental crisis. ‘Every bite you take is a vote for the farming system you want to see.’
This is the time of year to get vegetable seeds started. People have been asked to stay home. We must all be looking to grow our own vegetables. Vegetables can be grown in containers in almost any available space that gets lights. Build raised beds, make use of window sills. There is loads of information online. If designing a veg bed we recommend getting your hands on books by Huw Richards. Not only will you be taking the pressure off food distribution systems, gardening is extremely therapeutic and will help you cope with the self isolation / social distancing months that we all face.
We champion grass fed lamb / mutton and beef as the most sustainable meat production in the UK (see blog - https://www.threepools.co.uk/single-post/2019/12/06/The-Veganism-Question). Particularly now, those industries need supporting. Wild meats, such as squirrels, rabbits and venison should also be turned to (see blog - https://www.threepools.co.uk/single-post/2018/10/22/Harvesting-Nature-Sustainable-Hunting). In terms of national food security, sustainability, and health, those are the meats to be eating. Chicken, which requires significant amounts of feed, sourced from around the world, is much less sustainable in many ways and is much more at risk of problems due to global supply issues. Pork is a more complex situation, for the most part, it is produced in a way that requires large feed inputs. Look into your local suppliers practices to make your own decisions as to what is appropriate.
Rice and pasta are two of the main staples that people have been stocking up on. The vast majority of that is not produced in the UK. The main grains we produce in the UK are barley, oats and wheat. Barley in particular should be our staple grain. Very little of the UK produced barley is eaten by humans, most goes to animal feed. It is one of the best cold climate grains, easy to grow and nutritious. It can be used in dishes in a very similar fashion to rice. Similarly, oats are easy to grow in the UK. We’d recommend soaking your oats overnight; this breaks down the phytic acid and makes their nutrition easier to absorb. Modern wheat is actually harder to grow than oats and barley, focus on heritage varieties is worthwhile. Heritage wheat varieties have improved sustainability, nutrition and flavour. At this time, however, wheat prices are on the rise and flour is less available.
Seasonal food is going to be more available than the usually year round selection available in supermarkets. This food is going to have fewer transport miles and less done to it to allow it to be stored and transported. Local seasonal food is also going to have health benefits which will support our overcoming this health crisis. Now is as good a time as any to sign up for a local veg / meat box scheme; send money directly to UK producers and take the pressure off the global food distribution required to keep supermarkets stocked. In terms of storage and preservation, fermented foods have further health benefits and a lower environmental impact than freezing or refrigerating. (see our blog for ideas - https://www.threepools.co.uk/single-post/2020/02/19/Leekchi-Lacto-Fermentation)
Right now here at Three Pools, we are doubling our vegetable growing capacity and have recently put up a poly tunnel in order to maximise efficiency and help produce food for longer into colder months. We have also started a volunteer scheme to ensure increased food production happens as quickly as possible. With an increase in peoples availability due to the virus, we now have 5 volunteers here and the farm is feeling very alive. If you are interested about volunteering and want to learn some essential food and farm skills please email email@example.com.