Talks, demonstrations and debates brought more than 200 people together to reinforce the need to produce good quality local food at the first Marches Real Food and Farming conference.
The event was held on Friday and Saturday, organised by the Shropshire Good Food Partnership and held at Partridge Farm on the Linley Estate near Bishop’s Castle.
The packed schedule featured local and national scientists, farmers, growers and chefs in a diverse programme focused on creating a regenerative and resilient food and farming system in the region.
Shropshire Good Food Partnership founder Jenny Rouquette said the partnership had been inspired to stage the conference by the annual Oxford Real Food and Farming Conference and after seeing the power of bringing farmers together at events like Groundswell.
“We were looking for a way to launch a broad debate about the future of our food and farming systems in the Marches and we hope we achieved that. We were thrilled that there was a real energy at the conference inspired by so many people engaged in different aspects of producing good, local food, and its journey from farm to fork,” she said.
The conference also included a collaboration hub and culminated in a people’s assembly. Views and debates from these will be used to shape a vision for the local food future and how all those involved can work together to achieve it.
One of the keynote speakers at the event, author Chris Smaje, said the conference helped to heighten awareness of the challenges facing food production and the need for wider debate and action.
“As communities we need to be taking more responsibility for our food supply and produce more food for ourselves. That obviously includes local farmers but it also has to include wider local communities more than has been the case historically,” he said.
Speaker Josiah Meldrum, co-founder of bean, grain and seed company Hodmedod, said that the conference showed the importance of bringing people together.
“It is people and the relationships they develop that bring change. Opportunities such as this conference to bring people together from all over the food system are really critical to starting those conversations,” he said.
Regenerative agriculture specialist, Ben Taylor-Davies said the event had celebrated the food grown in the Marches and the people involved. “It’s a wonderful conference,” he said.
The organisers will now consider how to take the experience of the conference and the outcomes forward to support a food and farming network at a bioregional level.
The Shropshire Good Food Partnership, which includes representatives of farmers and growers, retailers, food banks, community organisations and councils, is on a mission to
create a local food system to benefit people, place and planet.
The partnership is part of the national Sustainable Food Places movement, which brings together pioneering food partnerships from across the UK, driving innovation and best practice on all aspects of a healthy and sustainable food system.
Further information is available at https://www.mrffc.uk/ or by contacting hello@shropshiregoodfood or via the social media accounts on Facebook @shropshiregoodfoodpartnership and Instagram @shropshiregoodfood.
Former vet, Shropshire smallholder and author, Manda Scott, with Josiah Meldrum of Hodmedods at the Marches Real Food and Farming Conference.