May Monthly Meetup – Regional Food

May Monthly Meetup – Regional Food


4theRegion Monthly Meetup – Regional Food

Creative Monthly Meetup

Connecting all the good things happening around local and sustainable food across South West Wales

This month, our regional discussion brought together the four local food partnerships – Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, to update on their activites and priorities.

It was great to hear about all the work that the food partnerships are taking forward, and useful to connect the dots across the four counties.

You can catch up on the full meeting recording, or view the PDF notes from the meeting here.

Full Meeting Recording

Meeting Highlights & Notes

Click to read the full report with updates from the 4 partnerships:

  1. Sue Latham from PLANED, Pembrokeshire
  2. Mary Duckett, from Bwyd Abertawe, Swansea
  3. Phil McDonnell from Neath Port Talbot Food Partnership
  4. Augusta Lewis from Bwyd Sir Gar

Coming Up in June 2024:

April Monthly Meetup – Young People!

April Monthly Meetup – Young People!


4theRegion Monthly Meetup – Young People!

Creative Monthly Meetup

What are the opportunities for young people in South West Wales?

This discussion emphasised the importance of engaging young people in South West Wales and ensuring their active participation within their communities. There was a strong focus on involving them directly in decision-making, and ensuring that young people are well-informed about available opportunities, from apprenticeships to outdoor learning to life coaching!

Hear from numerous regional organisations about their projects and initiatives for and with young people.  As usual, collaboration across different sectors is essential to create more inclusive opportunities and make young people feel valued, connected and supported to thrive in South West Wales.

Full Meeting Recording

Meeting Highlights & Notes

Colleagues from across our region share their updates and announcements as part of a co-created celebration of the array of opportunities for young people in South West Wales!

James Dovey from the Battle Arcade Project, Llanelli – Engages young people in building arcade machines and learning to use CNC machines, exposing them to new technologies and ways of working.

Zubs Iftikhar from YMCA, Swansea – Offers a comprehensive range of projects supporting young people: 5-day open access Youth Service drop-in; LGBTQ youth group available on Tuesdays; YTalent music project; Young Carers Service for individuals up to age 25 – and so much more.  Keen to work with local organisations to support young people.  If anyone would like any further information please get in touch

Ffion from Working Options – Recently expanded into Wales, focusing on employability and life skills for ages 12-19.  Provides industry insights and skill sessions, emphasising transferable skills. ! Please feel free to reach out as we begin to expand into Wales to inspire and support the next generation.

Ruth Robinson from SCVS – For those that are working with volunteers aged 14-25 in Swansea we have a Youth Bank Grant available. This up to £1,000 to support youth led ideas. For more information Ii can be contacted at

Alex from Pembrokeshire County Council Business Support Team – Organising a 2-day boot camp for young people’s business start-ups, covering branding, marketing, and social media for individuals aged 16 and above.

Ruth from Selva Coaching – A new social enterprise aimed at coaching young people in their 20s on identity, life goals, and core values.  If you have a person in their 20s in your life who is feeling lost and not sure what to do next please send them my direction as I can offer them some free 1:1 coaching as part of my pilot project.

James Morgan from Swansea Arena – Developing new projects including setting up a music tech academy to offer students real-world, hands-on experience.  The creative sector is growing, and the arena wants to platform and promote local musicians and artists.

Keith Harries from Coleg Sir Gar – Currently offering free numeracy training for people aged 19+ through the Mulyiply project. Details are available on the college website.

Tom Moses, CWBR Youth, PLANED – Highlighted the importance of showcasing positive things to young people and discussed how to amplify these initiatives.  Focuses on connecting young people with town councils and has been successful in integrating them into decision-making processes.  Announced a new project bid for a regional project to connect young people with elective representatives and community project leaders to enhance youth voice.  Looking for collaborators for this initiative. To share the learnings from the Cwbr Youth project – online event Tuesday 23rd 7pm

Rhys Harries from Inspiring Skills – Skills Competition Wales, which provides vocational competitions for young people to showcase their skills.  Winners get the opportunity to progress to UK and World Skills competitions.  Emphasises nurturing mindset skills as well as vocational skills, with support from colleges.

Claire Reid, Gower College Swansea – Fantastic opportunities being shared here. It would be great to collaborate to support our 4,500 full time and 10,000 part time learners across the Swansea area and beyond. As Enterprise Champion I am passionate in supporting students across all learning areas and at all levels of study. Please do get in touch.

Will Evans, founder of Will’s Petting Farm, Swansea – Will is a young entrepreneur;  Excited about working with schools and children to show the lifecycle of a chick, helping connect children with nature and animal care.

Sue Poole from Young Dragons – Focused on promoting opportunities in the construction sector across the region, to primary age children, with special attention to introducing careers to females in construction.  Collaborates with various construction companies through the City Deal, Cyfle, and Raven Delta Group.

Andrew Veevers from Mosaic Professional Development – Discusses the gap between teaching and professional development, promoting experiential learning as a new way to engage with professional development.  CMI highlighted that 82% of managers lack formal training; his approach is proactive in helping people develop necessary skills.

Ian Howells from ACO Training – Offers apprenticeships in Business Admin and Accounting to young people.

Jessica Davies – DVLA – Runs DVLA’s Employability Skills programme, offering free skills sessions within Swansea, NPT, and Llanelli.  Facilitates mock interviews and provides CV tips (general and Civil Service-specific), also demystifying the Civil Service to make it more accessible to those without degrees.

Lucy Cummings from PLANED – Acts as a catalyst for care-focused micro-enterprises in Carmarthenshire.  Provides one-to-one support for setting up and expanding micro-enterprises in the care sector.  Also facilitates a network group for social workers and health board staff.

Saadia Abubaker, founder of Saadia Speaks – Runs a youth empowerment platform aimed at inspiring, uplifting, and empowering young people, especially those from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Tasmin Lee Peckham from Educ8 Training Group – Offers apprenticeships through the Welsh Government, working directly with employers to recruit apprentices from school and provide accredited qualifications.  Apprenticeships fully funded in Wales for both existing and new staff –

Geraint Turner, Swansea MAD – There are a series of webinars and workshops with young people in May-June being run by youth organisations across Wales.

Ashley Davies from Canolfan Gwili – New venue available for all kinds of events,

Caroline from Swansea College of Art (UWTSD) – Graduate Summer Show is on Friday 17th May 6-9pm Alex and Dynevor Campus. Please come and join us to celebrate the wonderful creative students we have.

Lynette Anthony, Cyfle Building Skills – Shared Apprenticeships and Work Experience in Construction. 

Final Notes

  • In the chat, participants asked whether there has been any thought to have a regional conference around young people – all the organisations that work with them coming together and showcasing success stories.
  • If any of these new connections turn into collaborations then please reach out to us at 4theRegion and let us know – these are good news stories that we would love to share! 
  • Participants are encouraged to promote and apply FGA ways of working and goals across their projects.
  • Open invitation for collaboration among partners on various initiatives to further enhance opportunities for young people in the region.

Coming Up in May 2024:

It’s Your Swansea

It’s Your Swansea

Last week we hosted our It’s Your Swansea Conference. Let’s have a look back on an incredible day showcasing everything that’s great about Swansea and hearing from the people, organisations and businesses who are making change happen.

Swansea Arena playing host to our It’s Your Swansea Conference, 7th March 2024 (Pic: Innovation Photography)

The conference opened with exciting announcements and updates from key local partners, exploring how Swansea is addressing the challenges of our time and embracing opportunities in 2024.

Cllr Andrea Lewis, Joint Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Service Transformation at Swansea Council, gave an exclusive insight into the schemes that will make Swansea an even better place  to live, work and socialise. She said “Swansea is a real city of opportunity. These are exciting times.”

These opportunities include a major new high tech sustainable office development at 71/72 Kingsway, linked to the “living building” at Picton Yard, one of the greenest buildings in Wales; the transformation of a former BHS store into a new community hub; redeveloping the Civic Centre site for leisure and hospitality; redeveloping old buildings such as the Palace Theatre and Albert Hall; transforming Castle Square to be greener and more welcoming; and much more!

Perhaps the most exciting thing is the £4bn renewable energy project, potentially including a tidal lagoon, a battery farm to store renewable energy generated, a floating solar panel facility, an oceanic and climate change research centre, eco-homes anchored in the water, and a hyperscale data centre.

Cherrie Bija is CEO of Faith in Families, who have been providing skills and opportunities such as free breakfast and sports for kids for the last twenty five years.

Faith in Families have been approached by Amazon with opportunity to run a warehouse which was something they had never done before. They take Amazon’s surplus goods and give them to people, such as shirts for interviews. In fact they can provide pretty much everything you need for a home. Parents aren’t buying things like toothpaste because of cost of living crisis, so Faith in Families can provide them with dignity. 

They have launched Cwtch Mawr, Wales’ first multibank, which aims to identify and help forty thousand familes this year. Giving them brand new items says to them “You’re worth it, we believe in you”. Forty thousand items were given out on two days over Christmas. They put coats out and said “Please take a coat because we need the space”. It was several days before people were actually taking them, but they gave out fifty coats, as well as things  like brand new football boots for children. They can provide all the things that turn houses into homes.

Serena Jones is Executive Director of Operations at Coastal Housing Group, who provide safe, affordable, quality homes that meet sustainability targets. She said they are “working hard to address the deepest housing crisis I’ve seen in thirty years. The systemic challenges are real and biting, but it’s good the Welsh Government understand link between housing and climate change.” She believes “Sustainability is also about people.”

Coastal Housing have installed hybrid heating systems in their properties leading to a 70% reduction in energy bills, volumetric water cylinders resulting in a 38% energy decrease (which can be overriden for hot water if needed), solar PV with sensors to see their impact, and apps to monitor carbon monoxide and general indoor air quality.

Professor Ian Walsh, is Provost (Swansea & Cardiff) at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, which is currently ranked as the top university in the UK for active graduate businesses. It was a fascinating update. Did you know work at the university has transformed the way we repair windscreens on cars? UWTSD”s latest building, the Innovation Matrix, will be as close as possible to net zero, but can’t get there completely because of the computers. It already has about a 70% occupancy and will be opening in June, providing an ecosystem where businesses can thrive.

We heard from young people who are seizing the opportunities on offer here in Swansea, and inspiring others to do the same.

Amy Tanker has volunteered with a number of organisations. As a Psychology & Criminology Student at Swansea University, she was particularly keen to volunteer with Families and Friends of Prisoners Swansea. Not all prisons have family services like this, so volunteering with them meant she had social policy research opportunities and was able to get an internship.

Saadia Abubaker, Founder of Saadia Speaks, wants to empower the next generation of leaders. Born in Sudan, she moved to Swansea age two. Growing up, she experienced a lot of racism, but seized all the opportunities she could. She joined the Youth Sports Trust to encourage more girls like her to do sports, and now uses the same approach to build her brand. She said “People are not always supportive of my ideas, but if one organisation says no to me another will say yes.” She asked “Will you join me in inspiring the next generation of leaders?”

Fatima Lopes said “I grown up here my whole life. In school I couldn’t wait to leave because I didn’t know the opportunities that were here.” She said working as Student Union President at Gower College Swansea has made her aware of of those opportunities, and she will be going to Swansea University.

She said “During Covid, I was in year 10 and 11, and this is when I’d normally do work experience, so I didn’t get this. Students are now more hesistant to embrace opportunities because of lockdown.”

She’d like a sector wide approach on business and schools linking together, similar to Cardiff Commitment. She said students are very passionate and this can be harnessed with clubs and societies. She’d like something similar for people in work. This should be combined with mental health support for people in work and education.

She chose to go down an academic route, but if she’d done an apprenticeship, believes she would have faced stigma and a lack of knowledge, and this needs to change.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we also welcomed four women to share their stories of overcoming challenges and embracing opportunities in Swansea.

In school Alison Vickers, Managing Partner at Bevan Buckland, knew she wanted to be an accountant (or a detective). In 1986 she got a three month trial with Bevan Buckland, earning less than £400 a month. She rose up through the company and in 1996 joined the board of what was still a very traditional practice. One of her first acts was to end the ban on women wearing trousers! Bevan Buckland now employs a hundred and twenty people and are the biggest independent accountants in Wales. Alison said being based in Swansea hasn’t held them back. She’s learnt everything new is an opportunity, prepare well, and enjoy it!

Joy Ogeh-Hutfield, a Transformation Coach and Leadership Consultant, sees opportunity everywhere. She said “Sight is seeing things as they are, but vision is seeing how things should be. Having a vision means the city has something to give back to you. Gain more clarity by thinking about how your vision can bring change. My greatest joy helping clients understand their true authentic self. Invest in you, because if your cup is empty you have nothing to give. Enhance what you are and what you do.” She added “Teachers open the doors but you must enter by yourself.”

Eight years ago Amy Price, Director at The Social Butterfly Marketing, was a job jumper with bad mental health. She’d never learnt about self employment in school and was in in-work poverty. She said it was very strange attending her first networking event while still working in a call centre, it was “lonely being the youngest business woman in the room, but I’ve grown and I pick up awards in front of those people.” She feels she now lives a good life and doesn’t want to sacrifice more.

Her advice is “Stay in your own lane. Life is full of unique challenges, some days are harder than others, but just try your best.” She believes women are more resilient and risk adverse than men, and have a lot of side hustles but don’t see this as business. She said “I still have imposter syndrome and accept anxiety is a part of me. This year I finally felt I run proper business. I say yes to any opportunity Swansea presents to me and know this helps my mental health.”

Everything Kim Mamhende, Chief Officer of The CAE, does is about empowering people. For her it’s about change in the community, and underpinning that is equity and ensuring everyone has opportunity to do what they want.

She believes everyone has right to live their dreams, and the Welsh dream is achieving what you want without having to move, which is also being about equity and opportunity. She said “Opportunity is about creating. You can’t wait for a seat at the table sometimes you need to create your own table. Entrepreneurship is about adding value, creating your own opportunities and enacting positive change. It’s not always an easy journey.”

This year, we’re exploring even more of the region where we’ll be welcoming everyone to the following It’s Your… Events, so make sure to save the dates!

It’s Your Pembrokeshire, 8th May, Queens Hall Narberth

It’s Your Carmarthenshire, 11th July, Yr Egin

It’s Your Neath Port Talbot, 12th September, Blancos Hotel

Supporting Local

Supporting Local

At 4theRegion we’ve always been passionate about supporting local.

Swansea City Centre Conference 2023 Photos

When we spend our money with big businesses, most of it leaves our local economy and lines the pockets of distant shareholders. When we spend our money with a local small business, it creates benefits for local people, and recirculates in our economy, where it has a much more positive social impact.

Perhaps the most important thing for supporting independent retail in Swansea is for more of us to make the effort to support local whenever we can. How can people, businesses and organisations across Swansea collaborate to promote the cause of our local businesses?

This is why “Supporting Local” is the theme for our Swansea Conference. Last year we hosted the first major conference at the newly opened Swansea Arena, and we’re so excited to be back there once again on March 29th!

We’ll have a regeneration update from Rob Stewart, leader of Swansea Council, and major partners, about all the exciting development projects currently underway and coming soon. This’ll include news of the successful Leveling Up bid that will see significant investments in the Lower Swansea Valley and an update from Urban Splash, the development partner on the Seafront and other strategic sites across Swansea.

Swansea Council has said it wants as much work from regeneration projects go to Welsh businesses as possible. And it was good to see a regional firm like Ministry of Furniture be one of the first businesses to benefit from a project to redevelop Oxford Street’s former BHS and What! store into a new city centre community hub. Ministry of Furniture has been appointed to design the furniture and fixtures scheme, working on the contract with the council and main contractors Kier Construction. Ministry of Furniture worked for the council on the most recent fit out of the Civic Centre, largely with remanufactured furniture. As a boost to the circular economy, they aim to move the majority of that apparatus to the new hub.

Many people across our communities are struggling to afford healthy food for their families, an unacceptable situation that’s been compounded by the cost of living crisis. So what needs to happen to make healthy, affordable and locally produced food available to everyone in Swansea? How can we connect people to where their food comes from, and how to grow and cook it?

GRAFT is a garden and workshop, based at the National Waterfront Museum, working with local communities, schools and adult learners to grow food, preserve seeds, keep bees, and learn cooking skills in a clay oven. Volunteers are invited to join an intergenerational curriculum of outdoor learning, wellbeing and making connected to food. All of the garden’s infrastructure has been built by the team and participants who are learning woodwork and metalwork skills, alongside horticulture.

Farmers across our region face a huge number of challenges in a vulnerable and uncertain sector. The farming industry needs to substantially change to address the climate and nature emergencies, but farmers often feel unfairly blamed or misunderstood by people in towns and cities. How can proactively engage with local farmers to understand their challenges and how they can be better supported? Creating links between farms and local communities and customers is essential to relocalising our food supply chains and creating a resilient food system for Swansea.

Public sector procurement is often recognised as a key lever for change, with the potential to provide a steady and reliable market for locally produced food and drink. The Welsh Government has launched a new initiative meant to encourage more local spending on food by the NHS, schools and local government. But change isn’t happening fast enough. What are the challenges around putting more local food on the public plate – in hospitals, schools and other settings – and how can we overcome them?

At the Swansea Conference, Bwyd Abertawe, a local community based food partnership, will be launching the Swansea Food Charter, as part of their effort to get everyone working together towards making Swansea to become a Sustainable Food Place, where healthy, local and  affordable food is available to everyone, promoting the wellbeing of people and the planet.

At 4theRegion we believe that the creative industries present a huge opportunity for jobs, entrepreneurship, regeneration and wellbeing across Swansea. By investing in creativity we can breathe new life into our high streets and town centres. How can we make sure there are opportunities here in Swansea for people to develop rewarding careers, and build successful businesses, in the creative, digital, arts and cultural sectors?

People in Swansea have an amazing mindset and willingness to help each other out. Elysium have over 100 studios they can rent out across 4 buildings in Swansea. They started off in messy art painting and now have photography studios, TV broadcasters and other creative industries using the space. If you look at creative projects in other cities, there are lots of disparate studios that are always competing. We don’t seem to have that as much in Swansea. Of course, not everyone knows what’s here! How can we better promote and connect all the good stuff that’s happening, to strengthen the sector and engage more people in the arts?

How can we make sure that Swansea retains (and develops) a vibrant and diverse mix of independent retailers, in the face of huge competition from big name brands and online shopping? To survive and thrive as an independent retail business, entrepreneurs need to adopt innovative strategies that set them apart from the global competition. So how can local businesses in Swansea embrace technology?

Russell Greenslade, Chief Executive of Swansea BID, has said the majority of the independent businesses Swansea BID has supported in opening in the city centre in the past 18 months have a very strong digital channel presence.

He said “The strength of the independent business is being nimble enough to respond to trends and situations with instant decision capability. They can be better placed to find their niche, innovate, have more power over profitability, provide a personalised experience, and be their own boss.

“As businesses, we operate in different and more challenging environments since bouncing back from a global pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis. The challenges include staying relevant as customers evolve, embracing online shopping and harnessing the power of digital to help overcome challenges. Using technology to analyse our customer data, we can adapt accordingly to put customers first and use digital, data, technology and the intelligence they provide to improve the experience and anticipate customer needs enabling business growth.”

The Swansea Conference & Exhibition is going to be an unmissable day. If you haven’t yet booked your free ticket, please take a moment to do it now! There’ll be over 120 exhibition stands showcasing local businesses and community organisations, interactive exhibitions from the universities, Oriel Science, and Plantasia, opportunities to meet local companies, and a Youth Voice area celebrating some amazing young people. Find out about local job opportunities, meet new suppliers, pick up lots of free goodies, and feel proud of the people and organisations that make Swansea great! There’s something for everyone!

Acting today for a better tomorrow

Acting today for a better tomorrow

Nothing is more important than leaving the world in a better place than we found it for future generations. How can we ensure our children have full bellies and curious minds? How can we care for and share with others? How can we ensure we count the earth beneath our feet and in faraway lands as our equals?

No longer should we focus on growth, instead focus on thriving, wellbeing and resilience in communities. The battleground for next ten years is not harder faster life but more balance and better connections (Pic: Brennan Tolman)

In 2015 Wales introduced the Well-being of Future Generations Act, becoming the first country in the world to legislate in the interests of future generations. This inspired countries such as Canada, Ireland, Scotland and Gibraltar to introduce similar legislation. It also inspired the creation of the UN Special Envoy for Future Generations, with Nikhil Seth, the then UN Assistant Secretary General, saying “What Wales is doing today, the world will do tomorrow.”

The Well-being of Future Generations Act places a legal responsibility for policy makers to create inter-connected solutions to improve cultural, social, economic and environmental wellbeing, via seven goals, including ambitions for a healthier, more equal, and environmentally resilient society, and a wellbeing economy. Notably, the goal for a “prosperous Wales” doesn’t mention GDP, and instead defines growth in terms of “an innovative, productive and low carbon society which recognises the limits of the global environment”, with an emphasis on “decent work”.

The term in office of Wales’ (and the world’s) first Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe, came to an end on January 31st. Derek Walker, currently also CEO of Cwmpas, replaces her, and we look forward to having the opportunity of working with him in his new role. Just before leaving office, Sophie Howe published her Future Generations Changemaker 100, which she described as “a list of some of the extraordinary people that my team and I have been inspired by over the seven years since I took up post”. 4theRegion are on the list (we’re number 4)! We’re so honoured to be on a changemakers list with Micheal Sheen!

At 4theRegion, we believe strong relationships and inclusive networks are essential if South West Wales is to respond positively to the challenges we’re all facing. Co-creation, collaboration and inclusion have shone through as key priorities in the implementation of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act – and that’s what we are all about!

The beginning and end of 4theRegion is young people. Younger generations are our future, so how can we equip young people across South West Wales with the skills and mindset to thrive?

How do we ensure every child gets to hear all the opportunities available to them?

We could get inspirational young professionals, who are more relatable, to speak them. We can encourage businesses to give young people an opportunity to volunteer, which is more beneficial to a day in school.

We should also consider the pressure of the question of “What do you want to do when you grow up?” and perhaps reframe it to be “What kind of person do you want to be when you grow up?” Do this next time you speak to a young person – placing the focus on the opportunity to build a happy, healthy and fulfilling future. Self belief, resilience and curiosity are key attributes that enable young people to seize opportunities and discover their own path.

Wales now has a new purpose driven curriculum, designed for well rounded, innovative citizens. It includes mental health education and eco-literacy, while encouraging young people to follow creative pursuits. We’re also moving away from traditional exams and moving towards learning for learning’s sake.

And how could we improve wellbeing for those who’ve entered the workforce?

A Senedd Committee has said Wales should make “serious moves” to introduce a four day working week. Wales has some of the longest working hours in Europe. Whereas, in Iceland 86% of workers work a four day week. A four day working week means you work reduced hours with no loss of pay. It’s argued it could improve mental health as shorter hours reduce the risk of stress, anxiety and burnout. It could reduce our carbon footprint by reducing commuting. It could have a positive effect on gender equality, as four day week pilots suggest women report the largest increases in wellbeing. It also appears to boost productivity. Countries where people work the least number of hours are actually more productive on an hourly basis.

The four day week debate also scratches the surface of an ongoing discussion among economists. GDP has long been used as the ultimate measure of a nation’s progress, often with the effect of seeing policymakers chase growth at any cost.

Of course it’s very easy to point to the headline grabbing changes. But we think often what’s more effective for cultural transformation are the small things (that are actually really big things).

We’re talking about the movement for real change within our communities. A conversation at a primary school, food bank, community garden or upcycling café is often more meaningful than an address to the UN or a keynote speech at a business event. These are the conversations that make a difference at a local level, sow seeds for the future, and that create a network of wellbeing roots in our very soil. They are the conversations that inspire hope in a world that could do with a little more hope. And that’s because these small moments build to become a powerful force for change from the core.

Research acknowledges that wellbeing means different things to different people and is best understood using methods that pay attention to how wellbeing is done by people, moment by moment.

No longer should we focus on growth, instead focus on thriving, wellbeing and resilience in communities. The battleground for next ten years is not harder faster life but more balance and better connections. And we need people who are in poverty involved in the discussion of the direction of travel for economics and wellbeing. Doing to people never works. This needs to be hyperlocal, because we can’t wait for large corporations and governments. As we do this we will make mistakes but we need to learn from each other to see what happens next.

It’s basically based on empowerment. Where people need empowerment, give them the resources, bits of help and guidance as and when necessary, but basically put them in charge. And that changes the dynamic, and makes people not hopeless and know they’ve got something they can do. Which is great!

Ask yourself how much can you do in your own community and become self-reliant? See who the connectors are. In different communities different people and organisations play that role. Make connections with people who are like minded. This can mean community hubs, engagement with outdoors, community engagement, local engagement (we’re passionate about this at 4theRegion, and want to see more deliberative democracy, people’s assembly, sense of agency around our own communities), and arts and crafts. What are businesses doing to support the humanity of the workforce?

A wellbeing economy demands truly transformative change. Yes, at a policy level, but that thinking has to have a place to live. It needs to live in schools, cafes, homes, shops, banks, in business, and in everyday life. In a wellbeing economy, we believe physical and mental wellbeing will be a fundamental measure of its success. It seems straightforward that if more people feel healthier in mind and body, communities thrive and the economy benefits.

Is it possible that Wales, supported by the Well-being of Future Generations Act, can lead the charge globally? We think so. Join Wellbeing Economy Wales at 7pm this evening to discuss what we need to change to make the wellbeing economy a driver of societal behaviour, not a trickle down consequence of coerced, second hand investment.

Oh and our third annual Swansea City Centre Conference takes place on March 29th. It’s set to be an incredible day, showcasing everything that’s great about Swansea and hearing from the people, organisations and businesses who are making change happen. It’s open to all, and YOU are invited!

Where does our food come from?

Where does our food come from?

We believe that access to locally sourced food is more important than ever. The last couple of years has demonstrated the weaknesses in global supply chains, and with the uncertainties around climate change and the political landscape, this isn’t going to get any easier!

Barbecue chicken breast served with spiced wedges and seasonal vegetables as part of our Gower Field to Fork project

Our grandparents knew where their food came from, and probably produced at least some of it themselves. But somewhere along the line we lost that connection. How do we get back these connections to our food? How do we get healthy, sustainable, locally grown food to local communities?

How can we reconnect young people with farming and the land?

Our recent Gower Field to Fork project looked at just that. Working with Bishopston Comprehensive School, Castell Howell, Gower Farmer’s Market, Red Media, Western Slade Farm and Little Walterstone Farm, we brought Welsh food to Welsh school plates.

Gower has a proud history of being self-sustaining in farming and food production. Not long ago, “everyone” had a garden and grew vegetables, kept chickens and so on. But over the last hundred years this has dwindled to the point where only one farm was able to produce the quantities of food needed for our project.

Castell Howell ensured farmers got a fair market price for their produce in the hope that they will be encouraged to continue growing, keeping local farmers and future generations of local farmers working and shortening our supply chains.

Locally sourced potatoes, beetroot, cauliflower, leeks, and honey were converted into delicious, fresh, nutritious meals, chosen by pupils for pupils, with beetroot brownies for dessert! The pupils were amazed food in supermarkets is flown half way around the world, when much fresher and more nutritious food can be grown on their doorstep.

The new curriculum allows schools in Wales to access more creative and holistic resources, so any lesson could be themed around sustainable food and farming. Learning about food means children are more likely to try new food, have better diets, have a better understanding of nutrition, learn life skills, and accept responsibility.

School gardens restore the soil, and help children learn in authentic contexts, connect with nature and their communities, boost their immune systems, reduce obesity, moderate moods, reduce anxiety, develop empathy, and practice risk.

All these things apply to adults too, and research has shown gardening will also reduce your risk of health problems such as stroke, depression or Alzheimer’s. There’ll always be a benefit from growing your own food, even if it’s just knowing that for the next few days you don’t need to go to the supermarket!

So what can we do to feed ourselves and be as self-sufficient as possible?

Local networks and community activism are a key driver for change, putting the issue of healthy local food on the agenda and leading grassroots initiatives. The Sustainable Food Places movement believes a transition to a healthy, sustainable and more equitable food system requires not just strong national policy but also collaborative action between local policy makers, businesses and communities.

Bwyd Abertawe, whose interim chair is 4theRegion’s Co-Founder Dawn Lyle, is seeking to make Swansea a Sustainable Food Place. It has recently secured Welsh Government funding to grow the Good Food Movement in Swansea, which will build public awareness and active food citizenship around good local food.

Bwyd Sir Gâr Food is also a member of the Sustainable Food Places Network, and is beginning its own very exciting journey to make Carmarthenshire sustainable by ensuring equitable access to healthy, high quality local food.

Access to land is reportedly the biggest constraint to growing more food locally. What if we created a directory of available land, and called on businesses and landowners to lease it at peppercorn rates? What if new developments included community allotments and green space? A lot of public land is unused because no one knows who owns it. If in doubt, surely just make the land available?

Community supported agriculture (CSAs) are partnerships between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared. They offer a guaranteed fair income for growers throughout the year, because households subscribe in advance and growers know that whatever they produce, they have a market for. Locally grown food is provided directly to households with a very low carbon footprint, and the money spent is retained locally, creating worthwhile employment for local people.

Cae Tan CSA has successfully proven over the last few years that growers can create an economically viable business, produce a good amount of food, and have a wealth of benefits in terms of community cohesion, the environment, and education.

Cauliflower mac ‘n cheese as the vegetarian option for our Gower Field to Fork project

And of course we also need more urban and peri-urban farming!

Room to Grow are already repurposing tired old concrete gardens and under used land and turned them into vibrant “Grow Your Own” spaces packed full of nutritious herbs and vegetables. They will help build and maintain your garden planters and raised beds, share the produce and even learn some great new recipes to help you get the best from your garden.

Meanwhile, Biophilic Living Swansea will feature two south facing greenhouses on the roof of a mixed use development. The largest greenhouse will be serviced by an aquaponics system designed to produce up to 4.5 tonnes of fruit, vegetables, salad and herbs a year. The aquaponics system will create a continuous cycle where waste produced by fish, living in onsite tanks, adds nutrients to the water which feeds the greenhouse plants. The water is then filtered and recirculated back into the system. The plan is that residents will run the farm as a social enterprise.

Finance can also be a barrier to growing local food. The Sustainable Farming Scheme will only finance farms that have more than three hectares in production. This would exclude many CSA schemes. A recent study by Food Sense Wales has shown small scale investment can have a significant and positive impact on horticulture businesses, with sales of vegetables increasing on average by 74.5%. Food Sense Wales is calling on the Welsh Government to create a new infrastructure grant scheme for small scale horticulture that would speed up the growth of the sector and lead to more sales of locally grown vegetables.

And what about more traditional farms?

Many farmers don’t like CSAs and see people growing their own food as doing it for fun. But we don’t feel farms are in conflict with CSAs. In fact, farmers in Pembrokeshire have already given access to growers. And with fifty hectares of land needed to provide a community with the horticultural produce it needs, clearly there’s going to be a need for larger farms. How do we proactively engage with existing local farms and farmers to understand their challenges and how they can be better supported? It’s clear we need more and better facilities for processing locally grown produce, such as abbattoirs, bottling, washing, packaging, distribution, processing and manufacturing facilities.

Community food hubs are another way to connect people to where food comes from. It’s a great model for suppliers and producers, because it creates a guaranteed marketplace that will generate vital incomes. Food hubs can’t compete with supermarkets on price for some foods such as pasta, but you’ll find your overall weekly shop should cost less. And it’s more nutritious! Despite this food hubs have experienced difficulties getting people to shop there. FarmCo found they needed to spend a lot of time and effort on marketing and customer retention, and ultimately market themselves as an online food shop, rather than a hub.

What can we do to support local producers?

Swansea Food Partnership aims to create a vibrant and prosperous food offer for Swansea, strengthen and shorten supply chains, enhance food tourism, and bridge the gap between rural and urban food. They have also carried out a feasibility study to map local produce and shorten supply chains, run in partnership with Urban Foundry and Afallen.

The Welsh Government has also launched a new online resource, “Buying Food Fit for the Future“, to encourage more local spending on food by the NHS, schools and local government to help support Welsh producers, create more jobs, and boost prosperity in local communities.

If you’re a business, do you serve locally sourced, seasonal food on your menus and promote its provenance? Do you have an ethical purchasing policy? Do you have land that can be made available for community growing?

As an individual, do you still shop at supermarkets or do you buy as much as you can from local retailers and producers? When you go to a restaurant, do you ask them whether the food is local? Whether the gin is local?

And we could go further. The Scottish Government recently passed the Good Food Nation Bill, which commits to making Scotland a country where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve, and eat each day. Is this something we should be campaigning for here in Wales?

Access to locally sourced food is more important than ever. Our grandparents knew where their food came from, and we need to get that connection back!

On January 17th and 18th we’ll be hosting Food for the Region, sharing updates, explore emerging projects and encourage collaboration on all things relating to growing, producing, distributing, sharing and caring about food in South West Wales.

If you eat, grow or buy food, this event is for you! We’re inviting farmers, producers, distributors, processors, caterers, retailers, public procurement, regulators, communities, campaigners, and people who care about what we eat and how it’s produced, to come together once again to talk about what we want for our regional food system. You can register here


Gower beetroot brownies for dessert!