Regional Food Conference 2021

Regional Food Conference 2021

FOOD FOR THE REGION

5th & 6th October 2021

A Major Conversation about our Regional Food System, brought to you by Swansea Environmental Forum, Grwp Resilience and 4theRegion.

Hosted over Zoom over two consecutive days, the Regional Food System Conference brought together over 100 people to discuss the issues and opportunities relating to our food system in South West Wales.

REGIONAL FOOD ROUNDTABLE

Prior to the conference, we invited thought-leaders and experts to discuss their perspectives on key issues and opportunities relating to our regional food system, including Patrick Holden from Sustainable Food Trust, Katie Palmer from Food Sense Wales and Jane Powell from Food Society Wales.

View our Food & Farming Playlist here.

EVENT COVERAGE

ARISING ACTIONS & THEMES

Capturing the key messages from this two-day co-production event, here are some of the recommendations and responsibilities for communities, businesses, organisations and individuals at every level.


Local Authorities & Policy Makers

  • Continue conversations with local authorities to offer land up to community groups.
  • Create an assembly made up of people to keep up these conversations and take some of the ideas forward into forming solutions.  Councils and the Welsh Government need to be involved so that they can tackle all the barriers being faced.
  • We desperately need an overarching food and farming strategy for Wales that links up climate, biodiversity, health and economy.
  • Ensure that government departments work together with organisations both regionally and locally
  • Education/health/local government all need to work hand in hand to ensure the survival of food and farming in Wales that enhances our environment.
  • Taxing unhealthy food and subsidising fresh/local food would go a long way to solving the poverty trap.
  • Many government groups are still working in silos, who can we get to put pressure on them to collaborate?
  • Make it compulsory for County Councils to free up unused land for growing projects.
  • Increase government support to grow healthy food.
  • Communication from local authority with the local community early in the process of assigning land use.
  • Councils and the Welsh Government need to be involved so that they can tackle all barriers being faced.

Communities

  • Local food not only improves our food security but also improves the resilience of our local economies, especially our farming communities, who need support from all of us to transition to sustainable and regenerative farming. 
  • Across the UK producing 50% of our food leaves people highly vulnerable – that needs to increase upwards to at least 80%
  • There needs to be less divide in society, especially with food inequality.
  • Scaling up of public community gardening schemes and education on how communities can grow a small but significant amount of fresh produce.
  • Make community orchards more commonplace.
  • Increase the number of community supported agriculture projects.
  • Increase access to affordable and nutritious food across small, rural communities.
  • Community food growing needs to be fully inclusive, with funding and training. 
  • These events could become the norm and an established feature of every community; 
  • Build the awareness of the power of the collective.
  • Community gardening should be firmly established as alternative social prescribing for people.
  • Increase the importance of embedding a new culture which could be via linking up stakeholders and creating networks.
  • Connect people who would like to learn more about farming with farms who need pickers, milkers etc.
  • Replace the present, highly centralized industrial food model.
  • Community shared meals can bring people together.

Individuals

  • It is difficult for a lot of people to get food that is affordable, locally produced and environmentally sustainable.
  • We all need to be empowered food citizens
  • Get to know your own local area, what is produced there, how you can access it, even forage for it. 
  • Instill people with the skills and resilience to face challenges. 
  • It’s for each individual to come together with interest groups to ensure these conversations continue.
  • Cost of real quality food is really prohibitive to many families, especially with all the reductions in universal credit and increases in fuel and energy bills.
  • Spread the word on what local initiatives exist. Increase awareness, both of community activities by consumers but also for community projects to be aware of grants and support they can apply for.
  • Grow what you can using what space you may have.
  • Realise the value of your food if you grow it yourself.
  • Share and donate surplus food. Engagement through different and more empowering models than food banks.

Businesses & Producers

  • Farmers and growers need to upscale growing to make it financially efficient. 
  • We need to accept what we are able to do in Wales – some things we can do, some we can’t.
  • We need the right people working in business to break down silos and work together.
  • Tackle the struggles of competition against factory farmed produce.
  • Meat, dairy and plant based diets are not a black and white issue. 
  • Focus on producing high quality vegetables, fruit, grain, meat, milk and eggs using regenerative practices.
  • Create opportunities to show how important skilled chefs and producers are to our economy.
  • Engage with hospitality businesses to ask what products they need.
  • We must facilitate local producers to remain viable and quickly ramp-up opportunities for new entrants into farming and horticulture.
  • We need to involve tech specialists to assist food producers in collectively getting fair prices at markets/or direct to consumers.
  • Enable closer connections between small food producers
  • More engagement and understanding of what produce is produced locally. Perhaps tours could be a way of showcasing local producers.
  • Wales has limitations in terms of the climate, it doesn’t enable us to be that efficient.
  • It’s always going to be a problem in Wales just because of our land base and our climate.
  • Increase knowledge of what’s already here for producers, such as local food washing facilities, abattoirs, depot points, etc. 
  • Create an accreditation or branding for businesses to showcase that they are proud to be users of local, sustainable produce.
  • Put pressure on supermarkets to be local and use this as a way to reach different consumers who may not engage in the food system in other ways.
  • Highlight the importance of informal distribution links between producers and consumers.
  • Stricter labelling of food explaining where it comes from, resources used to produce it, carbon footprint, etc.
  • Scale up and increase the number of local food partnerships.
  • Work with supermarkets to increase the amount of local produce.

Procurement

  • There is a huge opportunity to take control over our local supply chains. 
  • Shortening of supply chains and localisation could be key in helping the reliance on food banks and how far we travel to get produce.
  • Wales could be a first for completely self-sufficient growing and local distribution of food.
  • We should compare the issues with the food supply chain to historical issues faced in communities with coal.
  • Increase the value of food in our procurement system.
  • Brexit is an issue, some supply chains have become longer as a result.
  • Procurement locally for hospitals and schools would generate business locally and help keep people healthy. 
  • The supermarket price ignores the social and environmental costs which society has to pay.
  • There needs to be demand to drive the supply and for the producer to change their route to market. 
  • Milk vending machines have allowed farmers to cut out the middleman and make a better return, without a major cost to the consumer. 
  • The true cost of producing cheap food needs to be transparent and damage to the soil, biodiversity and climate must be built into the costs.
  • More joined up system to create scale – not about making individual suppliers bigger necessarily, more about joining them

Education

  • Education surrounding growing food, cooking and food confidence is key for future generations. 
  • Growing, producing, cooking and preparation skills are lacking in the curriculum. 
  • More education is needed on seasonal eating.
  • Every school ought to ensure that every child takes part in growing, harvesting, preparing and eating food.
  • Use primary schools as a way to cascade knowledge about food systems across generations.
  • Educate people on foragable foods, edible flowers and remove the stigma surrounding food procured yourself.
  • Supermarkets should engage with local schools and communities, teaching and supporting local growing groups/educating individuals and communities on how to cook.
  • Schools could organise trips to farms and encourage a hands-on approach to learning about the food system.
  • The task may be not to change the curriculum, but to support teachers in delivering it. 
  • Schemes such as Healthy Schools can help teachers.
  • Horticulture and agroecology usually aren’t covered until higher education.
  • Tell children and young people the truth about food production and give them power to make decisions.
  • Make learning about cooking more creative and fun. Many food-box schemes use interesting methods to educate.
  • Remove the stigma of jobs being “low-skilled” in the farming industry.
  • Youth groups, scouts and guides can help with education outside of school.
  • There are a lot of opportunities for young people within the food sector and education.
  • Invest more into education and extra-curricular activities such as producing and growing.

Environment

  • The climate emergency is a huge challenge, especially with health and food security.
  • Be clear and aware on the impact our global food systems has on climate change
  • Reduce the number of animals and animal products being shipped across the world.
  • We need to address single use plastic and throwaway waste. The plastic wrap our fruit and vegetables are wrapped in, as well as single use utensils often found in catering and retail.
  • We need to do better than recycling, we need to reduce waste of all types.
  • Knowing how to correctly store produce is important to reduce food waste.
  • We need to think about how our food systems adapt to the effects of climate change like drought, flooding, wildfires etc. 
  • Food waste that goes into landfill is a huge contributor to emissions. Food waste needs to be tackled if we are to reduce our emissions.
  • Wales’ economy is very reliant on an industry (steel) that is a huge contributor to climate change
  • Desperately need the end to battery chicken farming, cruel, not nutritious as a food source and bad for the climate. 
  • The issue of ammonia pollution from the poultry industry has a large impact on air quality.
  • We have to remind ourselves that humanity is devastating ecological systems and all our local actions should be avoiding anything that might tip this beyond a point of no return
  • Address the environmental impact of the food system by changing the way land and seas are managed
  • Adoption of more sustainable farming, forestry and fishing practices. 
  • Promoting sustainable agricultural and agroecological practices that work with nature to reduce artificial inputs and lead to a reduction in pollution. 

Land & Forestry

  • We need to encourage regenerative practises such as food forests and agroecology.
  • Mixed farming seems to have little support and monocultures are encouraged.
  • 14% of land in Wales is suitable for arable cropping. It has to be examined if we can use land to grow in different ways, using agroecology and urban spaces.
  • Land is expensive to buy, and farmers are reluctant to lease for a sufficiently long period.
  • Free ranging chickens much prefer to forage in broadleaf woodland than on pasture; if the woodlands are well planned, they can be used for food production too.
  • Consider agroforestry and permaculture solutions in strategies for community food resilience. 
  • Planting trees to make forests can be beneficial for food. Natural woodlands are also food forests.
  • Trees and hedgerows can work harmoniously with farming.
  • Look at creative methods of growing, such as vertical farming.
  • Increase access to growing spaces for communities.
  • New developments should consider community allotments and green space.
  • Use empty buildings to create more markets, greengrocers, butchers, etc. Make these affordable to run by reducing business rates.

Health

  • There are health implications with pesticide use and soil contamination.
  • We need to prioritize soil health, measurement of crop quality and nutrient density
  • We need to tackle aggressive advertising and remove processed food as easy choices.
  • Reliance on processed food can lead to diet-related health issues. 
  • Increased plant production can drive a release of land to support more tree planting or bioenergy crops. These measures imply a shift towards meeting healthy eating guidelines that would also have a positive impact on human health.
  • Poor mental health in agriculture is high. We need to increase support for workers in the industry.
  • Raise awareness of resources; Many farmers don’t know how to access other markets, grants, etc.
  • Remove the term “organic” as a marketing buzzword and replace the labelling to legally contain all the chemicals it contains.
  • Bionutrient meters can measure nutrient density in food in real-time prior to purchase.
  • If we don’t get diet related disease under control, we risk overwhelming the NHS or having to cut other public services to pay for it. 
  • Healthy food requires understanding of what foods and nutrition sustain good health.

General Comments

  • Meat and dairy make up only a third of the calories we eat. Yet 85% of UK farmland is used for feeding and rearing livestock. However about 80% of Welsh land is Less Favoured Area and is suitable for growing grass but much more challenging for growing fruit and veg – this is why we have lots of sheep in Wales converting the inedible grass into edible protein.
  • It’s important to understand why we make the choices we make. How important is it to eat bananas and avocados? Is it natural to eat food that doesn’t grow in the climate in which you live? The further we get from the source, the producers, the more unaware we are of the impact of our choices— unfair trade, human slavery, inaccurate reporting of pesticide use, etc. At what point is it not worth the convenience?
  • Community discussion events as the norm.  Bringing together a full, inclusive cross section of the community – farmers, landowners, suppliers, shop owners and supermarket managers, ordinary people from every sector of the community, activists, everyone – to listen to each other, talk and discuss together, broaden their perspectives, develop mutual understanding and debate what to do about it; share ideas and start to form collectives to make their ideas happen.  
  • We should realize the benefit of the natural world, the wonder of encouraging the wellbeing benefits of actually connecting with nature . This is also  all very much about working within communities because we’re all in this together as well, so bartering, swapping, exchanging, sharing ideas, always being open to new ways of doing things, listening to others, and working together. It’s really a big part of the way forward.
  • The starting point for addressing the environmental impact of the food system lies in changing the way land and seas are managed, with the adoption of more sustainable farming, forestry and fishing practices. Precision farming, agroecological systems, agroforestry, low-impact silvicultural systems and innovative horticultural systems, are options being looked at to change land use. Promoting sustainable agricultural and agroecological practices that work with nature, will reduce artificial inputs, leading to a reduction in pollution. While the volume of production may also be reduced, profitability for landowners is often improved due to a reduction in costs. 

 

NEXT STEPS

Thank you to everyone who took the time to attend and contribute to the wide ranging discussion. This is just the start of what we hope will be an ongoing conversation leading to real change involving our regional food system.

We will be updating this page with the full event report and a full Manifesto using ideas, comments and opportunities shared in the event.

There was a consensus that we should keep this conversation going, with a regular regional community-led food system forum through which people can engage meaningfully with decision-makers, producers, retailers, farmers and each other.

If you are a regional organisation that recognises the need to involve communities more in your service design, strategy or policy development, or if we can support your upcoming consultations or community engagement objectives, please get in touch. We welcome the support of regional partners and look forward to hearing how you intend to address the recommendations of this conference.

And if you are someone who would like to stay involved with conversations and activities relating to food and farming in our region, one way you can do this is to reach out to us (email zoe@4theregion.org.uk)

We will also be emailing all conference attendees with future events that we think you will be interested in – and we invite you to keep us posted about your projects and initiatives so that we can share, connect and support!

Regional Transport Conference 2021

Regional Transport Conference 2021

MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER

9th & 10th February 2021

A Major Regional Conversation About Transport, brought to you by Swansea Environmental Forum and 4theRegion, sponsored by Natural Resources Wales and South West Wales Connected.

Hosted over two consecutive days via Zoom, the Regional Transport Conference brought together around 150 people to discuss the issues and opportunities relating to transport in South West Wales.  A detailed report of the Event Aims, the format of the event, and feedback from participants is available as a PDF here:  EVENT REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS

TRANSPORT ROUNDTABLE

Regional transport thoughtleaders were invited to discuss their perspectives on key issues relating to transport, two weeks prior to the conference, in a roundtable discussion, recorded and released as part of our podcast and Youtube series, Build Back Better.

PRESENTATIONS

READ OUR MANIFESTO

Capturing the key messages from this two-day co-production event, here are some of the recommendations and responsibilities for communities, businesses, organisations and individuals at every level.


What Local Authorities Can Do

  • Co-production – talk to communities about sustainable transport
  • Prioritise investment in active travel routes
  • Support active travel with street lights, secure bike parks…
  • Create bus lanes!
  • Lead the way by switching to EV fleet (as in Swansea)
  • Provide staff with access to pool cars, e-bikes and e-scooters
  • Re-establish the waterways – use local canals
  • 20mph zones to improve cycling safety and deter cars
  • The biggest deterrent to cycling is safety!

Planning Policy

  • The planning system needs to catch up with WBFGA goals
  • Town Centre First – no more out of town developments
  • Develop supplementary planning guidance
  • Insist on active travel and public transport strategies
  • Don’t permit new homes to be built that require car ownership
  • Encourage community car-share schemes and renewable EV charging
  • Insist on bike storage for every home
  • Secure bike storage for every business / destination
  • Stop allowing low density out-of-town developments
  • Offer workshops and support for developers to promote best practice
  • Promote the vision of the 5-minute town/city
  • Encourage resources back into communities to reduce need to travel
  • Stop building hospitals that can only be reached by car!
  • Revise Local Development Plans to reflect the WBFGA

Communities

  • Create mobility hubs with shared ebikes, e-scooters, bike storage
  • Crowdfund for EV charging and EV car share co-ops (dan@awel.coop)
  • Set up a Bike Library, provide road cycle training in the community
  • Establish local groups (eg Living Streets) to create change locally
  • Keep it local: buy local and use local services
  • Promote and coordinate lift sharing (eg local Whatsapp groups)
  • Withdraw mileage reimbursements for local councillors/officers
  • Refund transport fares instead!
  • Make cycling or walking to school the norm – work with schools
  • Promote/support community transport options that already exist
  • Establish a community transport and taxi company
  • Recruit local volunteers as community drivers – provide shared vehicles
  • Help people become confident public transport travellers
  • Invite Transport for Wales to come and talk to your community
  • Encourage stories and visible representation in active travel

Bus and Train Operators

Treat service users as the experts!  We need to involve people who use public transport and those from seldom heard groups, at the start of transport design and ongoing. People who use the transport systems have got the answers, and sometimes these are cheap and simple things to implement.

  • We must enable bikes on buses and trains as a priority
  • Empower communities to design their own networks
  • Involve young people in designing campaigns to promote public transport
  • Involve disabled communities in designing support for accessible travel
  • Accessible timetables and information – colour coding can help.
  • Promote Traveline Cymru – collaborate to offer the best user experience!
  • Use technology to enable personalised travel plans
  • Collaborate and integrate with community transport organisations
  • Connect up transport modes – every bus should go to the train station!
  • Increase the number of bus stops around town
  • Plan a mix of express/direct and stopping / “round the houses” buses
  • More more space for wheelchairs on buses
  • Proactively address isolation, depression and health inequality
  • NPT, Swansea, LLanelli & Carmarthen are ideal regional hydrogen electric bus routes
  • Improve the profile and promotion of public transport
  • Make transport interchanges more welcoming and safer
  • Safe waiting rooms at all stations – safety concerns deter travel
  • Waiting rooms and toilets need to be open outside of ticket office hours
  • Recruit local volunteers to support people with additional needs
  • Involve communities around stations – eg community gardens, social enterprises
  • Promote discounts such as My Travel Pass – https://mytravelpass.gov.wales/
  • Public transport needs to be cheaper.  Or free.

 

VIEW THE EVENT REPORT

Employers & Businesses

  • Talk to staff about how they could reduce car use
  • Make reducing car use / decarbonisation a KPI
  • Choose office locations in town centres / public transport hubs
  • Ensure staff have other options – then charge for car parking
  • Promote, coordinate and incentivise car sharing for staff
  • Reward / incentivise active travel and public transport use
  • Provide showers and changing facilities to support active travel
  • Ditch the dress code – accept people in bike gear at work
  • Support staff to buy bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters (eg Wheels to Work)
  • Consider setting up a bike library
  • Be flexible about start/finish times to enable public transport use
  • Enable a mix of home working to reduce commuting
  • Provide staff buses to and from nearby communities (eg DVLA, Amazon)
  • Employers could collaborate and pool resources
  • Get support to install EV charging points
  • Set up an EV pool car scheme so staff access to cars only when needed
  • Stop reimbursing car mileage – pay for public transport fares instead
  • “40p per mile for cycling, not petrol!”
  • Meet clients at sustainable travel hubs eg train stations / town centre
  • Recommend sustainable travel options to clients and visitors
  • Make international travel a rare exception – meet online
  • Join the Swansea Bay Sustainable Travel Planning Forum (j.cornelius@swansea.ac.uk)
  • Talk to local bus operators to make the case for new services

General Comments

  • Transport should be regarded as a universal basic service – like healthcare and education.  Plus decarbonising transport is a priority to avert climate disaster.  Lobby your politicians to make it so!  Demand that governments stop spending money on new roads, and put that money into public transport services instead.  Public transport needs to be cheaper.  Or free.

  • Investment in rail is welcomed, but buses carry more people and reach more communities, so we will get much more ‘bang for the buck’ by investing in bus services.  If governments are going to bail out transport operators in hard times, and subsidise their operations (ie socialising the losses), it should be possible to make greater demands and re-regulate the transport industry to provide universal access to decent services.

  • We need much more infrastructure for electric vehicle charging across the region, but private EV cars are not the answer and won’t address the climate crisis or transport inequality.  EV Car Share projects should be supported in communities and by employers – so that people can have access to a car without needing to own one.

  • In towns and cities where sustainable travel options exist, and once governments have invested significantly in those options, we should support new legislation that makes car users pay the true cost of car use (eg congestion charging, parking charges, tolls).  In rural areas, those same policies would be unfair and would worsen travel inequality.

  • Planning policy is a key lever.  We must stop allowing low density out-of-town development which makes people car-dependent, and embrace a “town centre first” approach for residential, commercial, leisure and health developments.  Locating jobs, services and facilities in local communities will help make sustainable places where people don’t need to own a car.

  • Fair pay and conditions for delivery drivers and cyclists – which is a growing sector thanks to the growth of online ordering.  Van delivery drivers are paid per parcel thereby incentivising drivers to drive fast and unsafely.  We need a real living wage paid to all workers.

 

REGIONAL TRANSPORT MANIFESTO

Capturing the wisdom and insights shared during the 8 hours of discussion over the two days of the conference, we made extensive notes and recordings, which were later analysed and summarised into a concise list of recommendations.  These recommendations not just for politicians and council executives, but for businesses, employers, transport operators, communities and individuals – because we all have a part to play in creating a more environmentally sustainable, and more equal and accessible, regional transport system.  The recommendations that were co-produced by 150 conference participants have now been published as a clear and easy-to-read Regional Transport Manifesto. 

Click through the slides below, or view the PDF here:  SWWCo Regional Transport Manifesto 2021.

PARTICIPANTS & FEEDBACK

What did you like about the event?”

  • Ability to have a say
  • Opportunity for everyone to share concerns and put forward ideas – a good mix of people from different places and, organisations and interests
  • The breakout sessions were full of interesting information and ideas
  • Wealth of ideas, appreciated and facilitated by the organisers
  • The cross section of professions/perspectives represented at the forum
  • Good level of discussion via break out rooms
  • Plenty of positive interaction
  • It was virtual and didn’t involve lots of people driving to the venue
  • The efficiency of break-out rooms, discussion and back into the main room was seamless
  • That participants were able to contribute freely and there were lots of good ideas.
  • The opportunity to exchange ideas with a wide range of individuals and organisations
  • Lots of different representatives….. not just the usual suspects! Also very well run.
  • Very well organised, with a good structure over the 2 days. 
  • I would like to be involved in helping with a car share group.
  • Everyone was encouraged to contribute. Breakout rooms efficiently handled. 
  • Great atmosphere.
  • Positive conversation amongst a wide range of people. Space for creativity.

The chart shows the mix of sectors that conference participants represented, which was an unusually good mix of public, private and community perspectives.  The event was intended to be an inclusive online event for car users, transport users, cyclists and pedestrians, even those who had never been involved in conversations about transport before.

Overall, how would you rate the event?”

To capture the wisdom and insights shared during the 8 hours of discussion over the two days of the conference, we made extensive notes and recordings, which were later analysed and summarised into a concise list of recommendations, which we have published as a Regional Manifesto. 

SWWCo Regional Transport Manifesto 2021

A key point to note is that our manifesto includes recommendations for all of us – not just for the politicians and council executives, but for businesses, employers, transport operators, communities and individuals. Everyone has a part to play in the transition to a greener, healthier, more equal, more integrated, more accessible and more affordable transport system for South West Wales.

EVENT REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS

NEXT STEPS

Thank you to everyone who took the time to attend and contribute to the wide ranging discussion.  This regional transport conference was the biggest and most inclusive conversation about travel and transport that South West Wales has ever seen, and tapped into the huge desire people have to discuss the issues and get their voices heard.

This is just the start of what we hope will be an ongoing conversation leading to real change for good. There was a consensus that we should keep this conversation going, with a regular regional community-led transport forum through which people can engage meaningfully with decision-makers, transport operators and each other.

If you are a regional organisation that recognises the need to involve communities more in your service design, strategy or policy development, or if we can support your upcoming consultations or community engagement objectives, please get in touch. We welcome the support of regional partners and look forward to hearing how you intend to address the recommendations of this conference.

And if you are someone who would like to stay involved with conversations and activities relating to travel and transport in our region, one way you can do this is to reach out to us (email zoe@4theregion.com) and ask to join the Community Rail Partnership.  We will also be emailing all conference attendees with future events that we think you will be interested in – and we invite you to keep us posted about your transport related projects and initiatives so that we can share, connect and support!

4theRegion Members Conversation

4theRegion Members Conversation

4theRegion Members Conversation

Thursday 19TH March 2020

4theRegion held an engaging online conversation exploring how we can enhance community resilience and how current events will impact our future. 

Event report

On Thursday 19th March, 4theRegion hosted an online conversation on Zoom for members across South West Wales, providing them with a platform to discuss how their businesses and communities are adapting according to current events.  This event report aims to capture key themes that arose during this meeting.

We are finding ourselves in uncertain times and there is no doubt that businesses across the region are going to need to adapt and innovate to survive. This conversation focused on empowering people, crowd-sourcing wisdom and actionable ideas and exploring ways we can develop stronger community networks. 

Appreciated enquiry was a key theme through this discussion, focusing on asking positive questions in order to focus on our strengths. When we focus on our strengths, we are more empowered than if we were to dwell on fear. What would we like to see emerging from the current situation? Where do we see opportunities, causes for hope and approaches to future action?  

EMERGING THEMES

  • We need to keep calm and support one another. We should continue to support each other, remain positive, happy and allow leadership to shine through, especially during uncertain times.
  • There’s a natural inclination to return to our personal experiences to guide us. There is an importance to retain perseverance and determination. Reflection helps to identify resolutions.
  • We need to remember our purpose, why we are here and who we are here for. We all have our struggles and whether it’s personal or business we need to be there for one another.
  • Those with leadership responsibilities need to allow for time and space to reflect.  Well-being is vital and it’s important to avoid becoming sucked into the mentality of “we have to solve everything”. Let’s be curious about what will emerge and trust the process.
  • An acceptance of the current situation becoming a new way of life. Maintaining effective communication and relationships are vital. There is an importance of nourishing ourselves through networks and drawing on the wisdom and experience of others.

Future Hopes

  • We have the opportunity to become more environmentally sustainable. The environment is experiencing a positive impact through less travel.
  • Stronger community ethos to continue. Communities are rapidly mobilising and breaking down barriers, ensuring the well-being of our peers is seen to. We want to see a world where we’re living in a fairier, happier and more localised world, where scarce resources see more efficient use.
  • Embracing of IT and the digital age. More organisations are being forced to learn more about trading and working online. Increased confidence in our own abilities and more efficiency and purpose around what we do.
  • Finding solutions for those who are experiencing loss of income. We want a shift in priorities for funding and resources. We want to see communities transformed by grassroots.
  • We may become more comfortable with uncertainty. We have a shifting paradigm and have been mobilised by fear. Leaders in our communities are stepping up and replacing fear with love.

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NEXT STEPS

Despite the uncertain times, conversations like these showcase the resilience and positive mindset that remains in our community networks. Technology has allowed us to mobilise support groups for those in need across the region as well as allowing many businesses to adapt and continue operating. The success of this conversation allows for continued discussion regarding future plans and ambitions, whether it be personally or virtually. 

If you would like to be a part of future conversations, please contact dawn@4theregion.com and zoe@4theregion.com or follow us on our Eventbrite page.

 

 

Event Report – Community Rail Partnership

Event Report – Community Rail Partnership

South West Wales Community Rail Partnership Event

Friday 24TH January 2020

Swansea Train Station

On Friday 24th January, 4theRegion held a launch event for the community rail partnership. This is our write up of the event, intended to capture the key discussion points and themes.

Event report

In partnership with Transport for Wales (Rail), 4theRegion is now host to a new Community Rail Partnership for South West Wales, covering the four counties of Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. 

Held at the Grand Hotel opposite Swansea Train Station, the Community Rail Partnership launch event brought together people and organisations from across the region, to discuss the potential to make change happen for the region, by working together under the banner of the new CRP.

The Community Rail Partnership seeks to connect a team of organisations, businesses and individuals who want to see the region flourish in alignment with the 7 well-being goals outlined in the Well-being of Future Generations Act. By maximising the beneficial impact of the rail networks and existing services, we can aim to generate more footfall, spending and activity within the heart of communities across the South West Wales region. 

The new CRP will aim to engage with communities, businesses and organisations along the South West Wales rail network in order to champion all of the unique identities of each location, create a shared sense of place and facilitate collaboration towards achieving greater social, environmental and economic value in the region.

emerging themes

  • The creation of a South West Wales Community Rail Partnership a benefit to local communities – The CRP can be utilised as a voice to improve transportation in the region, providing a beneficial effect on local economy.
  • Cycling, leisure and transport – Better joined up working between different modes of transport. Opportunities for better cycle storage on Transport for Wales. Promotion of accessible information regarding cycle routes to encourage leisure and tourism in the region.  
  • Local economical and environmental benefits – Using sustainable transport to reduce the carbon footprint of individuals in the region. How would we encourage commuters to leave their car and use the rail network?
  • Disused spaces along rail networks could be used as hubs for business and social enterprise. Transport for Wales want to see train stations developed into hubs for business and community use.  Vacant station buildings could be adopted and repurposed.  Train stations could play a bigger role in local communities, bringing people together, addressing social exclusion and community cohesion.
  • Inter-connectivity and identity – Aim to bridge the four regions of South West Wales. Celebrating the unique identities of local destinations would benefit a wide range of businesses and individuals.

challenges

  • Timetables don’t always align to local events – Improved travel synchronisation with major events such as sport and festivals could be beneficial to the regional economy.
  • Community transport connectivity – Public transport services require improved connectivity and delivery of travel information in order to encourage commuting via public transport.
  • Accessibility – Promotion of South West Wales as a region. People may not be aware of what’s on their doorstep due to lack of communication and distribution of information.
  • Transport, travel and the environment – Key challenges in a world needed to reduce carbon emissions whilst promoting access to the natural environment. How can we encourage people to consider public transport as the first option?
  • Frustrations over limited / unreliable services.  While the CRP can build a business case for continued investment in more trains and services, the purpose of the new CRP for South West Wales is not just to talk about the trains, but to leverage the benefit of the services we already have, to connect the regional offer and encourage more joint working.

 

NEXT STEPS

During this first conversation about the new Community Rail Partnership, we heard from diverse organisations and individuals, about their priorities and ideas.  4theRegion has subsequently drafted a document outlining the purpose of the new CRP, its proposed structure, and a job description for the new Community Rail Officer.  These documents are will be published during March 2020, but you can review the drafts at the following link.  Please get in touch with your thoughts and with any questions!

Community Rail Partnership for South West Wales – Mission & Structure

All questions and comments should be directed to dawn@4theregion.com and zoe@4theregion.com 

 

The Art of the Possible – Procurement Forum

The Art of the Possible – Procurement Forum

4theRegion in partnership with EFT Consult convened a forum at The Grand Hotel in Swansea with interest in local economic development. Our goal was to foster discussions centered around the importance of retaining regional spending and how this can be achieved within the existing statutory framework and procurement laws.

Community wealth building has emerged as a powerful approach to local economic development, reorganising local economies so that wealth is not extracted but broadly held and recirculated within the region. These ideas are being applied by a growing number of businesses, public and social sector organisations across the UK who are now driving a shift in economic development thinking.

Obstacles & Challenges

  • End user to procurement specifying the needs – No opportunity to think local/different.
  • Ensuring design of scope is right before procurement process begins
  • Public Sector places too much pressure on SMEs and not enough value.
  • Frameworks can be limiting and can include poor quality suppliers.
  • Social value procurement needs to be at middle management level, needs more time & less pressure to make decisions.
  • Limited ability to appoint prime contractors and influence the supply chain.
  • Short term budget-setting gets in the way of life-cycle. Cost of bidding can be a deterrent.
  • Social value procurement needs to be at middle management level, need more time & less pressure to make decisions.

what’s working well?

  • A growing desire to change for the benefit of the communities.
  • Growing tendency not to award completely on price.
  • Swansea Council have been able to put in contracts under 140k to be awarded to local businesses.
  • Notable changes being made on sustainability, such as supermarkets changing packaging.
  • Dynamic purchasing systems provide a good database of supplies to streamline procurement with better options and choices.
  • Good intentions behind legislation and policies and a willingness to innovate. Laws such as the Well-being of Future Generations Act are tools for positive change.
  • Contractors and suppliers collaborating to bid. Contractors have an efficient understanding of the working environment and the needs of the client.

Other ideas

  • Encourage transparency within procurement, allowing information accessible to all and more ambitious uses of community benefits clauses in contracts.
  • Collaboration between local counties, cross-border working and resource sharing driven by county councils and embedding of community values.
  • Implementation of a circular economy and encouragement of repair, reuse, recycle and reduce.
  • Focus on encouraging new market entrants and growth of existing businesses.
  • More case studies of bad practice and lessons learnt from experiences. Opportunities to scale up good examples.
  • What can we learn from the Preston model as an example of distinct economic development and how can we transform the way we work in South West Wales to achieve similar outcomes for our region?

Noted organisations

  • AB Glass
  • Antur Teifi
  • BESA
  • Bloom Procurement Services
  • Bridgend County Borough Council
  • Business Wales
  • Caerphilly CBC
  • Cardiff Capital Region City Deal
  • Cardiff Council
  • Cardiff University
  • Carmarthenshire County Council
  • Castell Howell Foods
  • Ceredigion County Council
  • CLES
  • Coastal Housing Group
  • Create Construction
  • EFT Consult
  • Family Housing
  • Gower College Swansea
  • Gower Gas & Oil
  • ION Leadership Swansea University
  • KEL
  • Mid & West Wales Fire & Rescue Service
  • Milford Haven Port Authority
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • Neath Port Talbot Council
  • Office of the Future Generations Commissioner
  • Orcogen Limited
  • Perago-Wales
  • PM Developments
  • Procum Ltd
  • Public Health Wales
  • rc2 Property & Regeneration Expert
  • Regional Learning & Skills Partnership
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC
  • SCVS
  • Severn Wye Energy Agency
  • South Wales Police
  • Specialist Engineering Contractors Group
  • Swansea Bay City Deal
  • Swansea Council
  • Swansea ITeC
  • Swansea University
  • Tai Ceredigion Cyf
  • Torfaen County Borough Council
  • VH Procurement
  • Wales Co-Operative Centre
  • Welsh Government
  • Welsh Procurement Alliance
  • Yolk Recruitment

Event Report – Community Support Agriculture & Agroecology

Event Report – Community Support Agriculture & Agroecology

CAE TAN CSA EVENT
WEDNESDAY 13TH NOVEMBER 2019
CINEMA & CO SWANSEA

On Wednesday 13th November, representatives from 4theRegion attended an event entitled, Sustainable Food Production: Potential for CSA in Wales.  This is our write up of the event, intended to capture the key discussion points, themes and “actions arising”.

Event Report

Cinema & Co in Swansea City Centre was packed out on Wed 13th November 2019, with a diverse mix of people from organisations and communities across the region, to hear more about the work of Cae Tan CSA and co-create some answers to a central question: how might we develop more Community Supported Agriculture in Wales?

The event was organised by Cae Tan, Wales’ largest Community Supported Agriculture initiative.  Based on Gower, Cae Tan supplies locally grown veg boxes to 120 Swansea households, and over the last 5 years has created a thriving community around its biodynamic farm.  Cae Tan offers volunteering and learning opportunities to a range of groups and individuals, such as local schools, raising awareness of sustainable farming and reconnecting people to the land and their food.

Rupert Dunn, founder of St Davids based CSA Torth y Tir chaired the event, which opened with a film screening about the work of the FAO, the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.  Featuring interviews with farmers around the world, the film highlighted the importance of Agroecology as a means of addressing the root causes of hunger, poverty and inequality by helping to transform food systems and build resilient livelihoods, through a holistic approach that balances the three dimensions of sustainability – social, economic and environmental.  

Printable PDF Report:  Food Sovereignty, CSAs and Agroecology – for the Region

“Agroecology is the science of sustainable farming as well as a political movement that aims to improve the way food is grown and processed globally.”

“It’s an exciting time for the agroecology and food sovereignty movements around the world,” said Rupert.  “Through the diversity of perspectives of farmers in different countries, there are common threads emerging about the benefits of a return to the traditional ways of managing the land – farming practices that have proven to be sustainable over generations.  We can also see how agroecology is not just a set of techniques. It’s about a way of life, community, culture. It’s a completely different understanding of how food is grown, which impacts every aspect of life for people and the environment.”

From a global perspective, Rupert shifted focus to the agroecology movement here in Wales, which includes the development of Community Supported Agriculture and is raising serious questions about the way “economic scale” farming is negatively impacting our environment and our well-being – particularly the well-being of farmers themselves. 

The meeting agreed that there is an urgent need to transform our food system here in Wales, and a huge opportunity to create a more resilient, more equal and healthier society, if we are able to successfully speed up and scale the creation of more CSAs and more investment in sustainable agricultural practices.

The agroecology movement is not just about agriculture.  It has to be a political, strategic and collaborative movement.  Rupert concluded his introduction by saying that in conventional farming, and in our current food system, the knowledge of ordinary farmers is not being valued enough.  “Economics is pushing farmers into monocultures, where they have to keep 600 cows instead of 60 and can’t grow varied crops”. And yet they know this isn’t sustainable, either ecologically, or in terms of food sovereignty for the population of Wales.

“What we need to create is a “dialogue of knowing” based on the wisdom of farmers about their land.  Let’s work together to identify obstacles and figure out how we can work differently.”

Tom Kane, who is the director of Cae Tan CSA, spoke next about his experiences of creating Wales’ largest community supported agriculture project.  He outlined some of the benefits of the model, which include 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.  

The direct connection between the community and its food has many other benefits.  Where conventional industrial farming has become a lonely and isolated way of life for many farmers, who work on their own on large farms disconnected from their neighbours, Tom described how CSA provides a radical level of community involvement, creating an engaged community around the farm and boosting the well-being of growers, volunteers and everyone involved.

CSA is also a means to low carbon prosperity for rural communities.  Locally grown food is provided direct to households with a very low carbon footprint, and money spent is retained locally, creating worthwhile employment for local people.

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

 

After 5 years, Cae Tan is a stable, well functioning system, and it’s a blueprint that Tom hopes can now be rolled out across the region.

Tom Kane spoke about what he regards as his main challenges, or priorities, going forward.

1.

The first is the need to share the knowledge gained at Cae Tan, by expanding their capacity to provide training and education, to share skills and enable more people to become growers, and support them to establish more CSA projects.  Cae Tan needs funding to carry out this important work of disseminating their learnings and sharing their valuable experience, and Tom regards the creation of a training and support network as a key priority if we are to see more CSAs in Wales.  Locally, Cae Tan is supporting the creation of a new CSA in Llangennith, and is able to support that project in so many ways, including by sharing knowledge and by referring its own waiting list of around 80 Swansea households who want to buy from another local CSA.  Not all new growers would have access to such support.

2.

So, the second key challenge, and an obstacle to the foundation of new CSAs, is the need for financial start up support for the first 1-2 years of each new enterprise.  In those first two years, CSAs aren’t in a position to start selling produce immediately, as they need to prepare the land and get themselves established, find households to get involved, and train volunteers.  All of this means that we need to find ways of collectively supporting new CSA to get started.

3.

And the third priority for the Community Supported Agriculture movement, and for Cae Tan specifically, is to invest in outreach initiatives with local schools.  Cae Tan has a part time schools officer, Jessie Kidd, whose role is to go into schools and teach children about how food is grown.  Jessie supports schools to grow their own food, including growing the ingredients to make their own pizzas – planting the tomatoes, milling the flour, and so on.  At the moment, Cae Tan is involved with 5 schools but they want to do so much more, and too much time is taken up with applying for the funding to renew the project.

Crowdsourcing Wisdom

In the second half of the meeting, all participants were invited to contribute to the conversation, to emerge a shared understanding of the challenges faced by different people and different parts of the system.  Members of the meeting shared diverse perspectives, and there was representation from grassroots farmers, other local food producers, land owners, the Gower Society, universities, all levels of government including Welsh Government officers, two Swansea MPs, several people from Swansea Council, and a wide range of people with different personal and professional interests in food and farming.

Several people spoke of the sad decline of growing on Gower during their lifetimes, and the disappearance of market gardens.  Not long ago, “everyone” on Gower had a garden and grew vegetables, kept chickens and so on. The supermarkets are widely regarded as having destroyed all that.

 

A number of key issues and challenges emerged.

Emerging Themes

  • Access to land – how might we make more land, particularly urban land, available to growers and communities for growing food?  Are there more farmers interested in sharing some of their land, to create CSAs alongside conventional farms? How can we match prospective growers to available, suitable land?
  • The need to educate consumers – people spoke of the importance of reconnecting people with their food, educating people about the value of locally grown produce, teaching people to want local food, and to want to know about the provenance of what they buy and consume.
  • The importance of seed sovereignty and seed sharing
  • The question of scale and speed – CSAs are currently small, slow to develop and hard to scale.  If we are to meet the challenges of the climate emergency, create resilience in the food supply chain, feed more of the population, and make a real health and well-being impact, we need to work out how to scale CSAs at speed.  Cae Tan serves 120 households, but there are more than 120,000 households in Swansea alone…

Challenges

  • Recruiting the skills – not enough people have the traditional skills to enable them to grow food and care for the land.  The movement needs money for training and also funding for more educational outreach to inspire the next generation.
  • Creating an evidence base to demonstrate the mental health and well-being impacts of CSAs on children and families.  Cae Tan is currently working with a child psychologist who is looking at the benefits to children in schools, and the research is shining a light on the many positive outcomes for everyone involved, not least for the teachers.
  • The intersection of poverty and access to healthy food was a talking point, along with the role of a transformed food system in addressing many societal problems.  It was noted that Cae Tan is a very successful example, but other CSAs, for example one in Carmarthenshire, in a more deprived area, illustrates the challenge of starting a CSA and growing a membership base in particular types of community. 

Tonia Antoniazzi, former MP and current MP candidate for Gower, encouraged the CSA community to lobby her and other politicians, to put the issue at the top of the UK and Welsh government agenda.  Government needs to develop better policy around this area, and the CSA movement needs a strong voice in the ongoing conversations about the future of food and farming.

Small producers shared the challenges of starting a viable business making and selling local produce, eg home made locally grown “borlotti bean chocolate truffles”, and artisan bread etc.  “You can do it if your spouse happens to have a well-paid job, but otherwise…”

Connecting buyers with suppliers is a challenge for small producers.  Cafes and restaurants struggle to find local suppliers, there is no equivalent to a commercial wholesaler for the local produce sector – could we create a producers co-operative to engage with commercial buyers collectively?

It was noted that public procurement should be used imaginatively to enable and encourage the growth of Community Supported Agriculture and local food businesses.

And the importance of engineering skills and innovation was mentioned.  Growers need the support of others with skills in machinery, soil science, and other fields of technology / engineering.  One participant shared his dilemma – “I’m a highly-paid engineering academic, but I really want to be a farmer!” This comment speaks to our innate desire to reconnect with the land, which is not about money but is about well-being, happiness, fulfilment…

As the discussion concluded, Rupert summarised some of the shared challenges that had emerged from the room, and proposed a follow up meeting to discuss the potential to create a network or a co-operative of some kind, to support the growth of the sector in Swansea and Gower.

Next Steps

Dawn Lyle from 4theRegion volunteered to help facilitate a working group and a follow up event to explore this as an opportunity area.  4theRegion is a regional network of businesses, organisations and individuals, through which collaborative initiatives such as this can be taken forward by groups of independent changemakers.  4theRegion brings a regional perspective, and asks whether any such network or collaborative could in fact be “regional” (NPT, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire) rather than purely local.  Projects like Pembrokeshire Food Park in Haverfordwest, work being undertaken on the University of Wales Trinity Saint David farm in Carmarthenshire, the role of the National Botanic Garden of Wales, not to mention the many farmers, growers, food producers and enthusiasts spread out across the region:  all could add value and gain benefit from the establishment of a regional infrastructure supporting the agroecology, CSA and food sovereignty movement.

Thank You!

Congratulations to Rhian and colleagues at Cae Tan for an excellent event with a truly impressive range of people in the room.  And expertly chaired in a collaborative and co-creative way by Rupert Dunn. We hope this is the start of a conversation that could make a real difference, and we look forward to co-hosting a follow up discussion to move things forward.

Keep in Touch

May we invite those interested in continuing the conversation to join us on Slack.  Please email dawn@4theregion.com if you would like an invitation to collaborate via this online platform.