Without the Fork to Farm dialogues, and the opportunity to connect with people across the world, we would not be where we are today on food procurement in Fife, they were hugely positive.
Carolyn Bell, Dialogue Convener and Facilitator
The Fork to Farm dialogue in Fife took place from September to November 2021, with a one-hour session each month. It was convened by Carolyn Bell, a member of Fife Council, who saw this as an opportunity to further the council’s aims to work with farmers in the development of the Food4Fife Partnership.
For Carolyn, the success of the Fork to Farm Dialogue in Fife, is due to Fife’s existing work on this issue and Nourish Scotland’s reputation. The Food from Fife network linked to Fife Councils Economic Development department was important in introducing Carolyn to many of the farmers involved. From these initial introductions she was able to build relationships and bring people together for the dialogues.
The impact of Nourish Scotland’s work through projects like Farming for 1.5 degrees , and the fact that the organisation is led by a farmer, known by many farmers in Fife, were also important factors . Carolyn felt these factors were important in encouraging farmers to engage with the Fork to Farm Dialogues.
Furthermore, with COP26 being held in Glasgow, people felt climate change was “closer to home”. [...] “We couldn’t write a food strategy for Fife and make the links between food and climate without involvement from our farmers. The farmers' involvement has been key in creating the pilot procurement projects and moving them forward.”
One piece of advice:
“Don’t give up. There will be lows and highs. Keep talking and bringing people together and seek out those that can help and support the vision.”
The first two sessions were facilitated by Pat Black from Go Deep Scotland and Diana Garduño Jiménez from Nourish Scotland. The first session was primarily dedicated to listening to people’s vision for what kind of food system they would like Fife to have. The aim was to create a space “for people to talk, feel safe, and not feel that they were being judged”. The second and third sessions were designed to build on the themes that emerged from the first session. The need to deliver tangible outcomes for farmers also helped shape the three sessions :
“if you’re asking time of people, you want to give them something back, you need to, there needs to be a balance, it’s listening and trusting…these are business people. If they are going to give up an hour at harvest time, we better be delivering them something that they want to hear. So, we listened and heard about new markets for local food. And so that's what we are developing.”
Carolyn believes that the conversations were largely successful because the council had already spoken with the Procurement and Facilities teams about working with local farmers. Thus, “the fact that the procurement and facilities had already gone through that process of discussion around their priorities, their aims, their vision and what was possible meant that when the two groups met: farmers who could produce the food, and the people who wanted to buy it we were bringing people together at the right time”.
“I knew we wanted more local food in local schools, our councillors wanted it, our communities wanted it and when I started speaking to our farmers, our farmers wanted it. So, my role was to bring everyone together as Public Procurement in Fife were also wanting to buy more local food. Going forward each partner can support the other as the pilots' projects progress. From these first steps we can learn how to make big changes”
These dialogues led to the development of 3 pilot projects aiming to get more local food into schools, and flagship event venues.
Consequently, the fact that Carolyn ensured that the relevant council teams (procurement, economic development, and facilities) were present, allowed direct conversations to be had . This then encouraged other farmers to join the Fork to Farm Dialogue process.
Carolyn produced the film ‘Fields of Hope’ to represent the conversations had during the Fork to Farm Dialogues. The farmers spoke about the importance of soil health, new markets and the links between food and climate. It was an opportunity for farmers to share their own perspectives to a wider audience locally and internationally at COP26. Carolyn believes that having this tangible outcome helped link the group together and promote a vision of how Fife can move forward with their food strategy.