Updated: Oct 18
This isn’t the story of one dialogue but many; multiple dialogues that are happening simultaneously across the region known as the Highlands of Scotland. The Highlands is not a homogeneous region; it stretches from the north of the mainland to Argyll and Bute, and Perth and Kinross to the south, west as far as Skye and across to Moray and Aberdeenshire on the east. Regardless of location each and every dialogue has one thing in common, the creation of a local food system by the local people. Together these dialogues form the Highland Good Food Partnership (HGFP).
An abundant Highland croft
This region-wide conversation manifested in January 2021 as the Highland Good Food Conference (which happened virtually as a result of covid). It attracted over 90 delegates from different parts of the Scottish Highland food sector, including the public, private and third sectors. What united all who took part was the drive to make the local food system better for the planet, the people and the producers. The conference generated a new good food movement in the Highlands, a collective of working groups developing different projects with the support of the HGFP.
The Highland Good Food Conference Flyer
One such working group to come directly out of the conference is an information and resource sharing network of growers and producers in the region. Their aim is to support each other through peer-peer learning, sharing tools and machinery where possible and other resources such as seeds! They also hope to provide support to new-entrant farmers and existing farmers transitioning to more agroecological methods.
Photo credit: Richard Robinson
Another project that was created during the conference is one to develop a ‘greenhouse sector’ in the Highlands. This group is looking to set up various Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) greenhouses across the region with the aim of displacing imports of fruits and vegetables from other countries such as Spain. Each year the UK imports around half of the food it consumes. These imports contribute greatly to climate change through transportation, for example. This reliance on imported food also makes us vulnerable to shortages if something were to prevent these foods from reaching us. The group of innovative Highlanders behind this project are passionate about this topic and have been working since the conference to make it a reality.
Another exciting thing to have happened recently, closely linked to the new good food movement, is the creation of a new position in the local council. This post has been created as part of the council’s strategy to raise awareness of community growing and to support community food growing initiatives. The HGFP have a great relationship with this officer. We will continue working closely with them to order to help community groups identify potential allotments and growing spaces, set up food growing areas in their own towns in so doing building community resilience.
A number of key themes running through this movement are collaboration, resilience, education, sustainability, community, health and well-being, and the interconnectedness of them all. HGFP has at its core ‘big vision’ stuff: a local food system that ensures food security and social justice by connecting and creating positive working relationships between everyone involved in and connected to the Highland food system. This has to include farmers and producers, community growing projects, local government, schools, medical practitioners and hospitals (to name but a few). The nature and subject of the Highland dialogues are varied and there is already a huge number of people involved.
This is only the beginning for this new movement in the Highlands. With a strong vision for the future of food and farming, our dialogues will continue to enable the positive action that is essential for the change we need.
Photo Credit: David Lintern