| Highland Food Challlenge Trial|
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|Several of us tried out the Highland Food Challenge for 40 days before Easter. We wanted to see how our desired aims of reducing green house gas emissions by trying to eat as much local organic food as possible and reducing our meat consumption would work out in practice. |
We started by filling in a questionnaire on our current food habits. It was a bit disappointing to realise that although we thought we were eating quite a lot of local food we were still eating a lot of imported stuff, however it was winter and we only had a few last parsnip, leek and spinach in the garden. We also realised that some food e.g. frozen quorn had no indication of where it came from.
The main benefit of a focussed period of time trying to change our eating habits was that it gave us a chance to go shopping with a focus on how we could find and use as much local as we could.
e.g. making porridge using Scottish oats and substituting local frozen blackcurrents from the farm shop at Tore rather than sultanas or imported cereal shipped from further afield.
Easter saw a certain amount of relaxation with a family wedding in England and of course Easter eggs, but we do seem to have changed the way we eat. We try to go for local seasonal fruit and veg first, although bananas are still in the shopping basket but less often and apples which have mainly been coming from New Zealand lately have been replaced by a succession of strawberries (bought- ours didn't do well), raspberries (bumper crop 10lb jam), blackcurrents (kids got a bit sick of them as cottage owners on holiday told me to help myself -so we did) and cherries. A train trip 500 miles south this week to my parents has brought the season forward by a month so we've been foraging for blackberries and wild plums and harvesting from a 100 year old eating apple tree in the garden as an alternative to the choice of tinned peaches or fruit salad which greeted us.
I have just finished the book 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' by Barbara Kingslover, which Transition Black Isle have decided to lend to people as part of the Highland Food Challenge. It's about a family in America who spent a year eating completely locally. As they reached the end of the year, friends expected them to be counting down the days, but they actually found that they enjoyed the experience so much that they had no intention of stopping. We have actually carried on from the trial to the launch of the Highland Food Challenge gradually increasing our local food proportion as more comes into production in the garden, including feeding a succession of visitors who have helped with the harvesting and jam making.
I would encourage those starting out on the Highland Food Challenge to look out for all the lovely local food we have and be creative about turning it into family favourites but also look up the food (e.g. venison or raspberries) on the internet and see what comes up.
Its quite a change aiming to buy what is available and then thinking how to use it, but the Kingslovers found they saved a lot of money as well as fossil fuel and I think we would echo that. It also has been able to fit in with our family's need to eat a low fat diet due to high cholesterol concerns as more vegetables and less processed food and meat is generally lower fat.
Please put your local food recipes on the forum, and also look at The Kingslover's website; http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/Recipes.html
|I am very fond of local food. I will definitely put some of my favorite local food recipe in the forum. |
I hope everyone will like them.
|A shortened version of this article will appear in the Nourish Scotland magazine. |
The Highland Food Challenge
Transition Black Isle, is a voluntary group set up to wean us off our current carbon intensive culture on the Black Isle. The group is part of the international ‘Transition’ movement.
We started the Highland Food Challenge in 2010. It included an initial ‘challenge’ exercise for which a total of 57 people signed up to eat more sustainably. We encouraged participants to ‘eat local’, ‘eat organic’, ‘eat seasonal’ and ‘eat vegetables’. We created a pack explaining why changing our diet in these areas was more sustainable. The pack contained a three day monitoring exercise to be followed up at monthly intervals, with prizes at the end for those who had made the greatest change. Participants followed this exercise with varying degrees of success with those who were already aware of modifying their diets saying that there was less scope for improvement, but all of us finding the focus helped us to really think about what we were buying and look critically at labels. For some of us who had thought we were doing quite well already the monitoring exercise showed that local food as a percentage of what we were eating was not as great as we had thought.
Our initial title was the ‘Black Isle Diet’, but we quickly found that some food groups such as fish and dairy were not really produced on the Black Isle despite it being a large fertile area surrounded by sea, so had to use ‘Highland’. ‘Diet’ also seemed to have more negative connotations than ‘Challenge’.
The year’s funding from the Climate Challenge Fund covered other activities to promote sustainable food which were all part of the Highland Food Challenge. Our website provided a facility for people to post favourite recipes to give others ideas about how to use local produce. These have had a huge number of views. Local food demos, sometimes at the end of markets were a popular way of giving people ideas about how to change their cooking practices. Cheese-making, preserving and ‘bottling the tastes of summer’ were particularly well received.
A Market Organiser was funded for a year for the monthly North Kessock Community Market which had been set up as a voluntary venture. This post enabled the market to become well established with 28 available stalls now always full with a waiting list. The model was based on a market set up in Culbokie by Ferintosh Community Council and copied again at Cromarty. Sufficient revenue now comes from the £8 stall fees to rent the hall and pay for an organiser for North Kessock, although Cromarty has continued to be organised by volunteers. Different groups provide refreshments at the markets each month which is a valuable way for them to fund-raise. The Cromarty Market was launched by a public talk by Mike Small from the Fife Diet on food sustainability.
A directory of local food producers, retailers and restaurants was compiled by volunteers called ‘Our Local Larder’. We also produced stickers for local producers to display with this logo. The directory includes a table of producers and products, a ‘cafés and restaurants’ section and a map to show locations. All entries were checked with business concerned. A suggested donation of £1 for this gave us the possibility of a reprint. It has been well received, including in places like tourist information. We have sold nearly all the 2000 copies. Three years on it needs updating. Initially this will be on line, probably using an existing website linked to our own. We collaborated with Transition Town Forres on this booklet and used the same designer so that the two booklets could form part of a series. A shortened version with just the table appeared free in ‘Chatterbox,’ a local magazine.
We purchased an apple press and trailer with the funding. This has been well used at the community markets, by schools and individuals. This year we had 10 bookings and an average of 50 litres of juice was produced from apples which would largely have otherwise gone to waste.
‘The Highland Food Challenge’ was run simultaneously to our ‘Grow North’ course; a series of practical training sessions on food growing which ultimately were compiled into a written ‘Growing Guide’ which we have also published and sold 400 copies. This resulted in a lot more people ‘growing their own’. Two community gardens and some allotments were set up as part of this initiative. If people can grow even some food, this can often more than compensate for local food sometimes being more expensive than supermarkets.
We have run a ‘Potato Day’ in the spring for three years and this has seen about 400 people coming to a hall and choosing from about 60 varieties of seed potatoes. Some potatoes are donated by local farmers and we make some profit which can be ploughed back into other projects. Left-over potatoes were given to about 20 local schools and six charities this year. Some are also sold at markets etc. This encourages many more people to grow (and eat) their own.
As a family we now grow the vast majority of our vegetables and keep bees. We’ve been able to purchase much of our meat, cheese, eggs and fish locally, although sometimes the demands of life still lead us to the supermarket. We’ve had to modify what we eat considerably to fit in with what we have available e.g. more potatoes, seasonal vegetables and soft fruit (some frozen for the winter) and a lot less rice, pasta and exotic fruit, but generally this has led us to have a much healthier diet too. Further reading on the health effects of sugar has led to us cutting this to as little as possible and being much healthier. We also take vitamin D supplements as this far North it’s very difficult to obtain enough from sunlight for much of the year. Chanterelles and fish are local foods which have good levels of this, but not enough.
We plan a local food week next September and a smaller Grow North course. We plan to review our community growing and consider scope for further initiatives. Community Markets continue to thrive and can often be a venue for other initiatives such as seed, seedling and vegetable swapping. More food demos would be popular. A potato day and a well-used apple press are now an established part of the local calendar. The Challenge to persuade more people to eat more Highland Food goes on.
|First of all it is a great thought to go for local food than packaged one. I appreciate the effort from people who are tying out this revolution and helping others also to go for it because it is necessary as synthetic food consumption is increasing day by day hampering health as well as economics.|
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