Empty supermarket shelves prove it’s time for a food revolution in Scotland
The first duty of any government is to feed its people. Our farmers do a great job of bringing high quality, safe and fresh food and drink to our tables. The days of March being known as “the month of hunger” have been forgotten, a lingering holdover seen in the Easter egg hunt where the popular memory of skinny children in search of wild bird eggs to supplement them. Family pantries emptied by the long winters were replaced by chocolate, children with no idea that the Easter Bunny was also a crucial food source.
Gone are the days when small farmers transported their cattle from the barn to the meadow because the creatures were so weak from lack of good fodder that they could not walk on their own, with the impact this had on frequency at which they calved and thus produced milk – another reason why Scotland’s native sheep were so important for their high milk yield. Our native breeds have old, hardy resistance for good reason. Post-war agricultural policies, consolidated by our membership of the European Union, were triggered by the realization that food security is national security.
READ MORE: Brexit: Scottish customers face empty shelves and lack of fresh produce
Scottish farmers fed our nation – but it was a simple diet: oats, barley, mutton, beef, pork, neeps, tatties, carrots and leeks. As a child, I remember how happy I was to see for the first time big red onions, draped over the handlebars of “Onion Johnnies” selling them around the doors on bikes – an expensive whiff of “The Continent”. A few years later, in an art class, I saw a red pepper for the first time; my teacher was horrified to see much of the still life I was to paint disappear as I found out how delicious it was.
We got so used to abundance – lots of food, lots of choice – that we forgot what it’s like to be without. Well, I say “we”. There are some among us who do not live in abundance. They don’t even live with enough. And they will be the first to be hit, as shortages push up the prices of staple foods. Many will say that this is a problem with a political solution, given that it is a problem caused by politicians, and they are not wrong. But what do we do now?
Revolutions are driven by need. We need a food revolution. Organizations like Nourish Scotland, Scotland the Bread, Scotland Food and Drink are working to drive the farm-to-fork movement in meaningful ways. Farm box systems and local dairies delivering milk in glass bottles are gaining popularity as people recognize that short-chain food supply is crucial, not only for the climate emergency, but for food security. Surely it is beyond the madness of sending Angus tatties to Manchester to be sorted and sent back to Scotland when we have a local population ready to eat them?
Scottish dairy farms are under threat as contracts are withdrawn as local production plants are closed and milk sent to refurbished facilities in the north of England – but milk from Yorkshire suppliers is delivered to stores in all of Scotland. Make no mistake, this is great news for Yorkshire farmers and I celebrate shipping our produce to other countries, but there has to be a balance.
The UK government is passing laws and signing trade deals that will push our farmers to the brink, while putting substandard food and drink on our shelves. I spoke to a farmer last year who lost ¼ of his broccoli crop, tens of thousands of servings of nutritious food, because he couldn’t bring in pickers to harvest it. of Brexit. The Department of Work and Pensions could make changes to make it easier to hire locals for seasonal work, but so far they have refused to do so. For the “I picked berries when I was young” brigade – please don’t insult the skill and hard work it takes to pick fruits and vegetables for the table.
READ MORE: Brexit caused ‘massive hole’ in number of fruit pickers, farmers say
Climate change could well mean fluctuations in the availability of products internationally. We are not going to be a nation that can make its own balsamic vinegar or cornflakes. But we are a nation that can put a lot of its own food on the shelves, a nation that has some of the most sustainable meats in the world. Talk to your supermarket managers, write to your newspapers, contact your local elected officials, tell them how important it is that we keep Scotland the Brand. If we can see it, we can support it.
You vote every time you open your purse.