Local farming is focus for Harvest celebrations

In my small smallholding of three raised beds, I’ve had two salad potato crops, lots of tomatoes, lettuces and herbs, and plenty of raspberries – but, despite resorting to weapons of pest destruction, I failed to prevent the marauding slugs and black fly from halving my harvest.

Last week the BBC ran a series of three programmes ‘Harvest 2013’.   I was amazed that the systems, science, and stark reality of farming and food production in the UK, albeit with a few good recipes thrown in, could be such an eye opener, fascinating and entertaining.

Each programme gave some amazing facts and figures – did you know the average Brit eats the equivalent of 380 medium sized British potatoes every year?  That large factories grow ‘happy’ tomatoes; and that the Brussels sprout crop is on course to be up one third on last year?

We were reminded that last year was the wettest for a century and saw disastrous harvest for many farmers.  2013 has been much better, but it’s always precarious.  Despite our summer heat wave a cold spring had already had its effect on many of our crops.  It’s events like the Newent Onion Fayre now in its 18th year which helps to remind us and helps us celebrate and really appreciate, all sorts of our local farms and locally grown produce!

Churches and schools across the county will be celebrating Harvest as normal this autumn.  But it struck me that it really must be a great challenge to teachers and clergy to do it in a way that focuses, makes senses and does justice in a time when seasons have blurred, vast quantities of produce are imported from all over the world and all year round, yet there is still the fact that many children don’t recognise, let alone eat, a variety of fruit and veg.  And there are the big issues too of course: of fair trade, sustainability, and the hard consequences of crop failures at home and abroad.

Maybe, this autumn is a good time to notice where and how our weekly shop was actually grown; experiment with a new recipe or two and encourage ourselves and others to take a fresh look at the full story of Harvest 2013.

Judith Knight, diocesan Human Resources Manager

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