Common Good Food

Fergus Walker
7th March, 2015


Wild garlic harvest

As the days lengthen, the buds are budding and we prepare to enter what is traditionally known as the hungry gap, I am pleased to announce the formation of this new organisation, Common Good Food, which has its roots in the ground-breaking Fife Diet project.

Common Good Food (CGF) will be an organisation with its sleeves rolled up and its feet on the ground. It will be a hands-on advocate of food sovereignty in Scotland and will champion our right to healthy and sustainable food, supporting communities across the country to take control of the food system by running practical programmes: teaching skills, creating resources, and celebrating the culture of good food in Scotland.

The new organisation has its roots in the work of the Seed Truck, the colourful, Scotland-wide outreach project of the Fife Diet. Made up of a team of gardeners, cooks, storytellers, designers, artists and composters, the Seed Truck has traveled all over Scotland in the last three years – from Auchencairn to Aberdeen, the Black Isle to the Isle of Skye – visiting nearly 100 communities, delivering 400 practical workshops on how to grow and produce your own food, and has engaged with over 10,000 people.

The Seed Truck has visited community groups, schools, events and festivals, embarked on two week long tours and hosted a national orchard gathering, as well as helping to set up four new community garden projects. In our travels we experienced that there is a high level of demand for practical support from community groups wishing to participate in food production. Groups are often ambitious, but lack the confidence, training and tailored solutions to allow them to scale up to significant food production and build working local food systems. Therefore we will take a holistic approach, working in four areas:

CULTURE Encourage people to question our current attitudes to food and inspire them about their intimate connection with food, food production and the earth. Supporting wider community engagement through multimedia arts events and activities and beginning to develop a creative, public discourse, through cultural events and interventions, around the meaning of food, its place in our lives, its cultural role and the vision of the food commons.

SKILLS: Develop community capacity, foster resourcefulness and build knowledge and skills in food growing & food production. Development of a wide programme of training for communities ready to move into food production. Drawing on our existing skills and working with an established team of expert facilitators, we will offer in-situ workshops covering the full journey of food growing, from accessing land and designing gardens, to selling the final produce.

TECHNOLOGY: Design and develop appropriate low impact technologies and resources for community food production.  We will collaborate with gardening communities to develop innovative new tools, equipment and resources that will enable low impact food production. We will create a suite of equipment available for hire, as well as pieces commissioned for purchase. Experience has shown that the lack of processing equipment as a real barrier to small scale food production, and new solutions for portable juicers, vegetable washers, grain mills, etc would fill an urgent gap in the market. Plans for such equipment will be made freely available via the Farm Hack network.

FOOD COMMONS: Work collaboratively to promote the localisation of control over our food system and interlink and develop the elements required for more coherent local food systems. People’s wellbeing, their sense of community, their health and quality of life are directly connected to their relationship with food. We want to demonstrate that with the right support, communities can become more than just consumers. They can develop the capacity to grow their own food and begin to create and participate in the food commons. We should have access to a shared resource, held in common, that nurtures our innate capacity to feed ourselves, our wider community and to look after the land that sustains us.

We will adopt a commons approach to all aspects of our work, aiming to develop real community capacity and resilience in food production, sharing innovation and best practice, developing peer support networks in Scotland. In collaboration with other national and local projects we will support community food hubs develop innovative ways of bringing community-grown food to market.

Common Good Food will be set up as a SCIO (Scottish Incorporated Charitable Organisation). We submitted our application at the beginning of the year and expect to be registered and set up by mid-April. We have applied for funding and hope to be up and running later in the summer. We will be based at a smallholding in West Lothian, but we will be working across Scotland. The team that is leading the project is Fergus Walker (Seed Truck Co-ordinator), Eva Schonveld (Fife Diet project manager) and Mags Hall (Fife Diet membership and outreach co-ordinator).

The Seed Truck was a joint three year project between Fife Diet and WWF Scotland, and received funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund. We are very grateful to People’s Postcode Trust for the funding and encouragement in the last year to explore how to set up the Seed Truck as a more permanent organisation – without them we wouldn’t have been able to do it.

L:ast but not least - we are enourmously grateful to all at the Fife Diet - without whom this wouldn't have been possible. Huge thanks to Mike, Karen, Elly, Meg, the Fife Diet board, and the members!