Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Can We Feed Ourselves ?

I posed the question in a recent blog: could we be self-sufficient in tomatoes? The idea being that after the end-of-summer glut of tomatoes was not wasted but boiled and preserved in several Kilner jars, would that be enough to keep us from having to buy cheap canned Italian tomatoes before the first of 2010’s tomatoes ripened on the vine.

Back in 1975, the Scottish ecologist, Kenneth Mellanby, posed the question, “Can Britain Feed Itself?” He used a relatively simplistic analysis of the hectares available to agriculture and how it might be used to feed the population of Britain. 32 years later, Simon Fairlie (campaigner for “access to land for all households … through environmentally sound planning”, agricultural worker, builder, stonemason, writer, seller of Austrian scythes and all-round committed eco-activist and good egg) decided to have a go at answering the same question for a different Britain. A Britain with an extra 7.5 million people and more efficient agriculture.

He’s a humble guy—a quality I think a lot of us warm to (in this age of over-self-confidence) and writes, “I do not claim to have carried it out with either the expertise or the thoroughness that it merits. This is, at best, a back of and A4 envelope job. However since I can find no evidence that anyone with the necessary qualifications and stipend to do justice to the subject has been inclined to take it on, I hope that readers will find my offering better than nothing. The results should not be see as anything other than a rough guide, and a useful framework for thinking about such matters.

The article, published in The Land magazine and you can read or download it as a PDF. Can Britain Feed Itself? Can France Feed Itself? Should each country aim to be self-sufficient in food? Enough intro, have a read and make your own mind up. He’s not claiming to have all the answers, just posing a necessary question and opening up a large can of worms … food for thought!