curiosity about the ways of the world

Food could save the planet – and the economy too


Last night’s meeting at Out of the Blue was cold. Like everyone else Celia and I kept our coats on and held on to hot drinks as long as we could. But the discussion at the Food Summit was so heart warming it reinforced my hunch that food (or how we grow and eat it) offers the best way out of the mess we are making of the global economy and the planet.

So while the government was deciding to coke up the atmosphere by building a third Heathrow runway a mixed bunch of allotment holders, backgreen gardeners, social entrepreneurs, community activists and voluntary groups were peeling off their gloves to vote for greener ways of growing and selling healthy local food in Edinburgh. Or to be precise, Leith. (See  Greener Leith Food Summit report for fuller list of action points.)


The Food Summit organised by the very entrepreneurial Greener Leith.

Hugh Raven, Director of the Soil Association in Scotland, urged us to grow our own (organic) food or at least buy local. Pointing out the carbon footprint of intensively reared pork and chicken, he suggested we eat less but better meat. But perhaps it was the activities of small local schemes that brought most hope.

In the tea break Celia and I stamped our feet and marvelled at all this energy and enterprise; so many local groups working on low, sometimes no, budgets to improve  quality of life in their neighbourhood. This is what active citizenship means but (quick rant) grassroots do need  help from above to help them grow.

Perhaps that’s why so many votes went to idea that the council should employ or fund (probably not quite the same )  a  Community Development Officer to help local community gardens,  food co-ops etc develop their full potential.


The one with most dots is for Leith Farmer’s Market

I confess I have a personal interest in all this (not just because I am on the committee of Greener Leith who organised the Food Summit ).  The recession seems the ideal incentive to change the way we do things. For months now I have fantasised about schemes that would enable people to eat better, spend less and get more fun out of cooking.  So we could reduce our impact on the environment, get fitter, happier and create sustainable jobs  (for me too please!) all at the same time.

Feed Four for a Fiver seemed a good slogan to sell to farmer’s markets,  local shops or even supermarkets.  Too late. They’re all at it now.  Jamie coaxes customers to Feed a Family for A Fiver at Sainsbury’s.  Asda, Morrisons and even Waitrose are all playing  different variations of the same theme.

Anyway, noting the growing number of food co-op schemes in my neighbourhood which could make good stories for Leith Open Space website I went along to Out of the Blue last night.  The response to the meeting was extraordinary and I hope collaborative community action will come of it. Just for the record, my votes went to the community development officer, a community orchard and a farmer’s market for Leith.

But I haven’t totally abandoned that idea of feeding four for a fiver.


This is a great farm shop, I hope to write more about it very soon.


  1. tips crystal

    Do as I say not as I do,

    Once again Hugh Raven is telling the planet how to grow food, perhaps Hugh should put this into practice on his 40,000 acre Ardtornish Estate, not much organic or arable about Ardtornish’s methods, elderly locals remember the distant past when arable production took place on Ardtornish, however anyone under 50 will not have seen this.

    An làmb a bheir, ‘s i a gheibh.
    The hand that gives is the hand that gets!!

  2. Nick Paul

    Hi Fay

    Reading your comments is good to see the interest in developing a better and greener way forward for shoppers in Leith – and I would extend to Edinburgh as a whole – as the whole city can benefit from the increasing interest and awareness of fresh, seasonal, local food shopping.

    In case you are not yet aware, a farmers’ market has been trialled at Ocean Terminal, and we now have this operating every second and fourth Friday throughout the year, running from 10 – 4. Located at the front entrance, it is easily accessible and also benefits from being under cover at the main doors to the centre.

    I know this isn’t right in the heart of Leith, but space and access have been amongst issues to get a farmers’ market located in the immediate area, and Ocean Terminal at least benefits from free parking for drivers as well as being easy to visit by bus.

    I am sorry I wasn’t at the discussion as I would liked to have heard the ideas raised, as well as the potential of the green developments, but I hope that the news of the farmers’ market will get to the shoppers. The producers have a good choice of quality items and prices are in most cases better than the usual supermarket fare, so I hope you can visit the next event which is on Friday, 13th February.

    I trust this info. is of interest in connection with the other comments about the food issues.

  3. Julian

    Well done, Fay. You summed it up perfectly. So much enthusiasm on a cold, cold winter’s evening.
    We’re rearing to go.

  4. Administrator

    What a nice comment to find on a Saturday morning! But oh dear it’s luring me into the tweeting den…

  5. Ally

    Fay, you’ve written this up better than I have. Will ‘tweet’ the link until you get onto twitter yourself…in fact did you know that anything you tag ‘greenerleith’ on will get automatically ‘tweeted?’ Al

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