The Fresh Loaf

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BBC Food and Farming Awards 2011

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ananda's picture
ananda

BBC Food and Farming Awards 2011

Here is a link to find out who the winners and runners up are in all categories of these prestigious awards.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/ffa/2011/

Not mentioned, but Andrew Whitley picked up a Special Award for his work through Real Bread Campaign.

The food business I co-ran bought cheese from Loch Arthur Creamery back in the late 1980s, so it's really good to see them pick up one of the big prizes.

A brewer picking up the top drinks prize for a second year tends to suggest the continued vibrancy in our small Brewers.

Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall scarcely needs my plug for all his great work this year.   However, probably of greater interest west of the Pond is that his work was featured by Mark Bittman of the New York Times in a guest slot on the Food Programme.   You can catch the podcast here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017c8gr

Happy reading and listening!

Best Wishes

Andy

proth5's picture
proth5

Having lived in the UK ay one point in my life, I have first hand aquaintance with some of the structural differences between the UK and the USA.  I always think of the passenger train system - so much easier to execute when the distance is so much smaller. 

I encounter of lot of pastoral food fantasies as I wander about the US.  What has always been an object of my thought is how do changes to our food supply chain (more local foods, connection to the food producer, etc) become less "elitist" and actually transform how many more people buy and produce food.  It is easy for me to take a stand on factory farmed chickens or grass fed beef (or local wheat -easy for me to say - my local wheat is what the rest of the country thinks of when they think wheat) (Oh, and once you drive by the great CAFO's of Nebraska with the top down on the car - you will never, ever, want to eat the beef from there again...), but I have a great luxury in terms of personal resources - that is I'm not trying to feed a family of four on the US median income.  How, I ask myself, do we convince people who feel that they can barely make ends meet pay more for food.  And how would we produce it in a country where less than 1% of the population are farmers?

I look at the immense wheat fields of Kansas and wonder how those ever become "small"  farms.  Or even "closed system" types of farms when much of their specialized and capital intensive equipment is devoted to wheat.

The piece does point out how difficult the proposition is in the US - perhaps more so than the UK - but I'm glad that serious thinkers (rather than people with lovely fantasies) are starting to consider the issue.

Thanks for posting this.

 

 

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Pat,

You make fair points.   But in the end I don't think we will have that much control about how it all plays out for the very intensive production systems you are right to highlight.

It will run out soon, not in my lifetime, but not that far ahead.   It's a very small word, but the impact will be massive.

Oil?

Then there is water, of course.

Best wishes

Andy

hanseata's picture
hanseata

After seeing the movie "Food, Inc." you could really turn into a vegetarian (or vegan).

Many people here in the US are not only to poor to buy healthy food, they don't even know anymore what to do with it, because they never learned how to prepare a meal. When classmates of my daughter came over on weekends, we would always invite them to join us for dinner. They were often amazed that we actually cooked at home.

Karin

picosinge's picture
picosinge

How, I ask myself, do we convince people who feel that they can barely make ends meet pay more for food.  And how would we produce it in a country where less than 1% of the population are farmers?

I honestly don't know.  I think many people simply don't care.  I have a hard time convincing my co-workers to re-think food  and most of them have a six-figure salary.  It costs more to eat right, but not that much more.  During the summer and fall, I get a box of organic veggies and half-a-dozen free range eggs from a CSA (community supported agriculture) for less than US$15 a week.  Usually there is some extra to share with my neighbor even though I eat a lot.  The pick-up point is located across from my office, and often co-workers would see me lugging bags of veggies and make comments about how fresh everything looks but so far I have only convinced one person to join the CSA.  Even though the work we do is related to protecting the environment, reducing carbon foot-print, promoting public health, etc., many of them do not think twice about eating a burger from feed lot cattle or drinking milk laced with hormones.

I get raw milk, and occasionlly some grass-fed beef, from a local dairy.  The experience at the farm (sometimes I go there and churn butter if I need to get some super premium butter or cream) was very educational and showed me what a hypocrite I had been as a lacto-ovo vegetarian.  Basically cows must be bred to produce milk; the girl calves get to grow up to produce more milk while the boy calves become veal and beef!  In essence beef is a by-product of milk.  So I gave up being and calling myself a vegetarian even though I only have meat a few times a month.

Getting back to your question, proth5, there are indeed many who could barely afford to put food on their table, but there are also many who could actually afford to eat better food if they would only learn to cook and/or minimize fast food and junk.  The average per person spending at Burger King is approximately US$8.  The same amount of money would get me  1 lb of organic grass-fed beef at the dairy.  Throw in a few vegetables and homemade bread I could easily feed four people for less than US$3 per head.

Perhaps it is a matter of priority.  

 

proth5's picture
proth5

I start to sound argumentative, but take this as serous discussion rather than sheer contrariness.

I don't know where you live, but where I live the CSA's demand that I drive to them and have no convenient pick up points.  I won't do it.  I am unable to take a weekly drive of an hour or more to get vegetables.  Priorities - yes.  My priorities are in taking care of my own house, garden, and fish in the small amount of time that I have at home.  I find it somewhat frustrating that CSA's make it so difficult for me.  "Oh it's a wonderful drive to the country."  It isn't - not for me. (Not to mention the carbon footprint of all that extra driving.)

Driving to a farm for meat and milk is the same thing.  I don't have the time to be driving hither and yon just to get myself fed.  (And I already knew about cows and milk - I don't need to be driving around to learn about how food is produced)

I detest the carnival atmosphere of my local farmer's market - but it seems to be encouraged because it is "supposed" to be "fun".  I shop there, but get there before it officially opens.  And I do pay prices above what I would pay in a supermarket chain.  That is a luxury that I have.  Of course, when the weather gets cold, the market closes.  So I would have to can, freeze or otherwise preserve all my vegetables for the year during the short period when the market is open.  I know how to do it and I have the equipment.  What I lack is the extra hours in the day to get it done.  I cannot pay my local farmers to do this (for structural and legal reasons) - I can pay the Jolly Green Giant, though, and I often do... 

I think that the assumption that "everyone" has the time available (or enjoys certain activities) is one of the issues in the serious discussion of "if the current system is unsustainable how do we change it?"  I can support my local growers and producers, but only if the distribution system is in place to get it to me within some serious constraints.  I still have to go somewhere to buy things like flour or sugar for my baking and preserving.  Add going to various farms and markets to this and the sheer burden of time is beyond my capabilities. 

My local grocer (not a supermarket chain) where I go to get meat and sometimes eggs is truly premium priced.  I pay upwards of $20 per pound for that grass fed beef (And I live in Denver, CO).  And frankly, even though it is just a few blocks from my house, it gets less of my business that it should because it is one extra stop.  So I live meatless a lot of the time - not from a deep conviction about minimizing meat consumption, but because I just can't spare the minutes to get there.

And winter is the big issue.  Easy for some people to say "eat fruits and vegetables in season" - what is in season from October to May in my part of the world are root vegetables, dried beans and storage apples (which - see above I must buy at a supermarket).  I don't insist on fresh asparagus in January, but frankly the thought of 6- 8 months of root vegetables gets me down. (And no, no farmers seem to be working hoop houses or green houses to provide things like lettuce or kale or brussel sprouts in my area in the winter - it doesn't seem to be the type of farming they want to do.)

Of course, one of my local producers of cantalope made some headlines this year.  They are not bad people - it truly was a family farm - they made mistakes and people died.  Local is not the be all and end all.

Now, granted, my so called "normal" life is highly unusual because I travel for a living, but what is to be done for the likes of me?  Do I simply "opt out" because the "local/sustainable" lifestyle folks feel that I am not the right kind of person with the right kind of life?  I think we can discuss priorities, but have to take into account that priorities are a complex thing.  Certainly individuals who need to work two jobs just to get by would find it mildly hilarious to be told that they should bake all their own bread - and that they could if only they had the right priorities.

This is why I am so pleased that serious thinkers are starting in on this issue. I actually work on implementing the systems that have made globalized production more efficient.  If we can do that (and trust me, there are days when I look at the realities of what this globalizaton entails and ponder mightily why we thought this was a good thing) there must be a way to make "local" as efficient - because it should be more efficient, but it isn't.

So here we find an individual with the resources and the desire for better local food production completely stymied as to how to do a better job at it.  The realities are gritty indeed.

Something to think about.

Peace. 

picosinge's picture
picosinge

If you are in Denver, have you checked out Grant Farms (www.grantfarms.com)?  They have over 30 drop off locations all over the Front Range. 

I do agree with you that eating in season can be a little bit challenging.  I have been having pumpkin/winter squash every other day for the last four to five weeks now and it is getting a bit old.

When I said priorities, I am thinking about the people I worked with.  The CSA drop off location is literally across the street from our office so it is super convenient.

And most importantly, I hope I did not convey the sense that everything is black and white.  During the summer I have more than enough vegetables from the CSA, but in the winter I am guilty for going to chain stores like Wholefoods to buy vegetables, some of which have a high carbon foot print, being trucked across country.  What I like to stress is at least try to support the local agriculture when doing so does not consitute a huge convenience to one's lifestyle. 

 

proth5's picture
proth5

none at a time where I can reliably get there.  One is a few blocks from my house, but alas on a Wednesday afternoon when I could never get there.  I don't lead what most people consider to be a normal life.  But thanks sincerely for trying - good info.

I tend to view these issues on two levels - first - What can I do with my life? and second - because I do deal in large scale systems - How does this play out to generalized systems? 

I understand that there are nuances to all of this - I do.  But I think that even if we could address the tremendous education effort that less "processed" food would require (if by some miracle time appeared in my life at least I have the advantage of knowing how to cook/bake/preserve) there is an underlying asumption that to have the sustainable, local production that so many dream of, people will need to spend considrable extra time in food preparation.  In 21st century America, I think this is a bit of a stretch.  I ponder mightily how we can take most of the convenience of the current food production and distribution systems and make them more locally focused - and accessible to a large group of people than just those who can afford to shop Whole Foods.

So far, no answers, but I consider that new business models are built each day and it is always good when serious thinkers start to take up the cause...

Again, Peace.

ananda's picture
ananda

This may be worth a read?

http://www.slowfood.com/newsletter/C274517218e7b1BBDCwlCDE8E98A/en

Bittman's new book, just out.   I see he's using a phrase originally coined by my own Food Policy Professor, and use by Gordon Brown's Cabinet as the title for their groundbreaking attempt to join up all the food policy strands in the UK.   We've stepped back several decades since then as the new Govt seem to think the food industry can police itself!

Andy

proth5's picture
proth5

I'm sure it is worthwhile reading.  Without specifics, It's hard to evaluate if the book would even have a chance of addressing my highly unusual parameters, though.  I'm a reformed hippie - I've got plenty of good recipes and meal plans.  But since I am a reformed hippie - they are a bit harder for me to execute than any individual who regularly leaves work to go to their own home and lives the majority of their days with access to a kitchen can accurately imagine.

Without sounding too shrill, I see a lot of "local" foods movements being two tier - one for those who can sign up for the time, expertise, and limitations and the other - oh well, that's the rest of you just eating mindlessly at fast food outlets.  There's got to be a better way - again - a better way that I have not yet found.  And yet, as I have said above, when really serious thinkers get involved I hope some good may come.

Industry policing itself! - and I've got some mortgage backed securities to sell you :>)

Pat

picosinge's picture
picosinge

...and accessible to a large group of people than just those who can afford to shop Whole Foods.

But perhaps the prices at Whole Foods are more accurate reflection of the true cost of decent food?  And the prices of junk food are low because the average consumer does not take into account the tax money gone into subsizing corn production, the environmental degradation from concentrated feedlots, the health impact of workers in commercial slaughter houses (the industry with one of the highest occupation injury rate), etc.?

Compared to other developed countries, the U.S. spends the least on food, yet has the highest obesity rate.  Perhaps the solution is not a new business model, but a new mentality with a focus on quality instead of quantity?  I think if we get over the bigger is better attitude, convenient foods and healthy, sustainable foods are not mutually exclusive.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/04/dont-look-united-states-household-food-spending/36279/

(It is hard to convey the tone of voice on a message board.  I am not trying to be contentious, just throwing out my thoughts and observations).

 

 

proth5's picture
proth5

you make valid points.  And certainly US agricultural policy has made an impact on out current food supply chain (and perhaps that's another reason why I am so obsessed with making good bread from triticale - a grain whose fate was sealed by agricultural subsidies for wheat and corn).  There are hidden costs that are borne by all of us - I do know that.

Unfortunately, I would have to say that the prices at Whole Foods represent more that fact that they position themselves as a premium shopping experience and have found that they can price food accordingly.

Of course other developed nations have benefits that the US does not - such as paid leave and health care (will not get side tracked by that...) - which is to say that when people need to prioritize spending in the US, they will put things that are a bit more variable at a lower priority.  And we have built systems to accomodate their wishes. 

To go back to the points of the original post - the US is very much more dominated by the interests of "business" than anything else (for example just about all of our television programs are sponsored by one business or another, whil in the UK there is a tax that supports certain broadcasters).  Individuals can demand things, but unless the delivery systems are in place - unless we create the business model to supply these things  - the demands go unmet.   They do - amazingly enough.  (No, really, the grocery store where I used to shop discontinued carrying King Arthur Flour - a product that arguably carries premium prices and high margins because they wanted to make room for more store brand flour.  And they aren't a chain with a reputation for highly discounted shopping.  Now they hardly care that they lost my business - but I moved all of my supermarket shopping elsewhere over this one product) .  Demand is important, but so is supply. 

It's really a big, complex issue with hopefully good solutions someday...