Welsh Green Dragon

Eating our way to sustainability. by Chris Halpin

How can we be more sustainable through going shopping? Head down to your local farmers market apparently – I braved some blustery conditions over the weekend down at Riverside Farmer’s market in Cardiff and this is what one shopper had to say about the experience.

Eating more locally grown produce and reducing food waste were just two of the things spoken of at a debate that I went along to as part of Cardiff University’s sustainability week.

In a question time styled debate, a panel including Environment Minister Jane Davidson,  Dr Pam Robinson, School of Social Sciences (who knows her stuff about the supermarkets),  and Professor Kevin Morgan (of an Urban and Regional governance background), fielded questions from a fully charged audience of academics and students.

The most enigmatic of the bunch was Steve Garrett, who is the founder of the Riverside and Roath Farmers markets. Agriculture, farming and food production is one of the biggest contributors to global warming, and with populations set to rise food shortages will become a huge issue.

A big question is, how can you ensure a level playing field when supermarkets have economies of scale on their side to drive down prices and squeeze a farmer’s profit margins ever lower? Remember the dairy price fixing allegations of the ‘big four’ by the Office of Fair Trading in 2008? Even then the OFT got its fingers burnt with claims of defamation, so the supermarkets certainly have some legal clout behind them.

It’s inevitably about cultural change; how can people be persuaded it’s wrong to eat strawberries in December after accruing thousands of air miles to get to the fruit aisle?

There are some good reasons why people should make a farmer’s market a higher priority for their weekly shop.

There is a general misconception that farmers markets are for the bourgeoisie, and although there were stalls with specialist cheese’s and olives at riverside, you could still get all the staples. Also people fear that farmers markets just aren’t as cheap as the supermarkets, although that wasn’t according to the people i asked.

With pros there usually always come a few cons though.

So there are clearly things that a farmers market can’t do that the supermarkets can. Perhaps the answer is a mixture of the two, and this is something that was suggested at the debate.

Anyway back to the point, what are the three key things people need to do eat more sustainably?

  1. Eat less meat
  2. Eat locally grown seasonal food
  3. Throw less food away

Sounds simple. However, we’re struggling to get to grips with the thought of having to pay for plastic bags here in Wales, so the Welsh Assembly need to come up with something good to get people away from the supermarkets and out buying more locally produced food. Maybe they could even teach us how to grow our own!


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