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A Food Vision for the Stroud District from local people, farmers and groups taking action towards a more resilient, connected & just society

Empowering our community to steward its land and resources to enhance its biodiversity, community resilience and food sovereignty.

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Landwise is incorporating as a Community Benefit Society. In the meantime this application is being led by Stroudco Food Hub CIC

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Landwise has links to: Stroud Community Agriculture Stroud Slad Farm Community Stroudco Food Hub (plus its 52 local suppliers) Stroud Seed Bank Mason Road Estate Residents' Association Extinction Rebellion — Deep Adaptation and Community Suppers Stop Ecocide Pasture Fed Livestock Association Stroud Farmers' Market Loose — plastic free shop Stroud District Action on Plastic Days Cottage orchards MARAH — Methodist Church — food/meals for homeless people Fungusloci Biodynamic Association Oakbrook Farm Crop Swap The Vale - National Health Service Down to Earth Community Allotment CSA Community Orchards Micro Dairy Stroud District Council Stroud Town Council Dursley Council Nailsworth Council Land Workers’ Alliance Land Justice Network Long Table Transition Stroud Fair Shares — waste food distribution Food Banks Stonehouse Climate Action Group Trinity and Slade Climate Action GroupBee Town Edible Stroud Stroud Community Medicine Gardens and Apothecary

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.stroudco.org.uk

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Stroud District, Gloucestershire

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United Kingdom

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Stroud District is a local government District in Gloucestershire, England. It includes the towns of Stroud, Dursley, Wootton and Nailsworth

What country is your selected Place located in?

United Kingdom

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Stroud District offers a unique combination of natural topography, a mix of traditional and modern farming, community spirit and a history of out of the box thinking that makes it an ideal setting to develop a new and sustainable food system. We believe our vision of such a system will provide an example for other places, particularly in the UK, and we are already working to disseminate progress made so far.

Whilst not wanting to generalise, Stroud has an interesting dichotomy of mainstream vs alternative, business as usual vs a desire for system change. Some of us have lived here all our lives.  Some of us moved to Stroud because we heard about the amazing things that are happening here.

The District has a very diverse spiritual background including all mainstream religions along with an increasing interest in Earth-based beliefs such as Druidry.  These latter have a strong interest in building a better food system more in-tune with Nature.

Many ‘Stroudies’ are interested in alternative food-growing and food-distribution enterprises and have developed successful small-scale community businesses as alternatives to supermarkets.

Others see the future of food as maintaining the status quo, holding on to the current mainstream supermarket system that promises cheap food and food choices unrestricted by seasonality (although some supermarket managers in the District are keen to source more food locally).

Much of the cultivatable land in the District is farmed by families who have owned the land for generations.  Some of them are interested in the rise of regenerative Community Supported Agriculture locally.  Others are focused on adapting current mainstream farming practices to climate change.

There is a growing concern in the District about climate change, Brexit, and both global and national economic instability.  Mental health is increasingly problematic and 32% of school children in the District are on medication for stress, anxiety or depression.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Stroud District is mainly agricultural with a celebrated threefold division of ‘forest, vale and high blue hill’ that has shaped the nature of agriculture locally. Valleys are traditionally associated with dairy farming & pasture for beef plus orchards. Higher ground with sheep & cereal crops. Woodland primarily silviculture & sheep with arable & orchard on richer lowlands.

Stroud District has 326 farms and its utilised agricultural area (UAA) is 14,000 hectares (total croppable area of 45%). Permanent grassland accounts for 37% of UAA. Total area of arable crops was 2,500 hectares in 2019 with a majority of cereals & oilseed crops (52%). 78% of these crops left the District as animal feed. Horticultural crops accounted for 490 hectares.

Stroud District livestock in 2019:

  • Cattle & calves: 5,200;
  • Pigs: 3,900;
  • Sheep & lambs: 12,600;
  • Breeding & laying fowl: 32,500;
  • Table chickens: 87,000.

In terms of land area the District is 82% rural.  74% of the population lives in the various urban concentrations.

Agriculture provides employment for 900 people in the District but 80% of food is bought from supermarkets with local food accounting for just 1.5% of food consumption.

2 centres of agricultural excellence: Royal Agricultural College & Hartpury College (University of West of England) are in the District.

30 years ago the District was white British but that has begun to change. Part of the mix has been Stroud District Council offering homes to 10 refugee families fleeing Syria.

Food available, and eaten, locally, has changed. Pubs, cafes, restaurants, shops & markets now include a range of (often imported) food, some with definite Middle Eastern influences. Vegetarian and vegan food is more widely available.

19% (and rising) of the adult population being obese and there is an increase in diabetes and other diet-related illnesses.

Stroud has a long history of alternative thinking. The Chartist movement & Whiteway anarchist colony was founded here. Innovative thinking is ongoing with Extinction Rebellion, Stop Ecocide & Pasture Fed Livestock Association founded in Stroud. Stroudco Food Hub is one of the founders of the UK Open Food Network.

Soil Association defined Stroud Community Agriculture as a 'beacon Community Supported Agriculture project'. We were an early adopter of the farmers' market concept, selling local produce at our multiple-award winning market. Another market sells mostly food, including an organic fruit & veg stall that predates the farmers’ market.

Our group is a diverse mix of alternative, hippy elements and conservative, mainstream elements. We all agree we need to build our vision for a productive, resilient & harmonious food system for our future.

We attended a session at a recent Oxford Farming Conference on the dangers of polarisation in the farming community & are committed to finding ways of farming that accommodate differences and are open to change as we go through this challenging process of political & climate change.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

125000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Our large-scale farms rely on cheap labour as pickers, packers etc. This directly impacts their ability to produce food now.  There will not be enough cheap labour post-Brexit.


These farms are experiencing a loss in soil quality after many years of intensive farming.


Land is suffering from loss of biodiversity (especially pollinating insects), soil erosion, degradation & reduced fertility. 


Changes in weather patterns;  

  • droughts last longer; 

  • rainfall is heavier; 

  • extreme weather/storms/frost;

  • weather can no longer be predicted by the seasons. 

This makes planning very difficult.


40% of our food is imported. Even 25% of indigenous foods are imported.  Most of our bread wheat comes from USA.  95% of our fruit is imported.  95% of food grown is directly dependent on fossil fuel so food prices are coupled with global oil & gas prices.   Food price inflation from July to Sept 2008 reached 13.8% as oil reached $150 per barrel. 


Other inputs apart from oil & gas are becoming rapidly depleted.  Phosphate is an essential nutrient for modern, intensive agricultural production.  Mineral reserves of phosphate are forecast to last 20-50 years, with 700% price increases in the last year.  Britain imports 80% of its phosphates.   


Some of the district is low-lying especially in the Severn valley. As sea levels rise flooding may result, with salt deposited on the land. Even if the sea does not flood, rivers are likely to flood.


Food production needs to shift from efficiency and bigness (lots of calories) to total biosphere resilience and quality of nutrition


For every 2 tonnes of food eaten, 1 tonne is wasted.


We need food democracy so that the general interest is not sacrificed to narrow economic interests


Recent consolidation of production, manufacturing and retail across the food supply chain.  8 supermarkets hold 93% market share of food retailing.  Therefore too much power in hands of industry buyers.

Number of farms has declined by 14% in 10 years

UK has 1 of highest concentrations of land ownership in world; 1% of population owns half of UK agricultural land.

Average age of farmers is 59 

Farming has highest rate of suicide

The subsidy system, global financial insecurity and lack of regulation results in speculative land buying which jacks up land prices & excludes new farmers

Planning system makes it hard for land workers to build homes to live on their land

Pay and conditions for farm workers is declining since abolition of Agricultural Wage Board and society undervaluing farming as an activity

Inequality could increase.  The vulnerable may starve

Population growth; mass immigration, disease, hunger, poverty, homelessness

Rise of disease for humans, plants, animals

Poor medical resilience

Lack of skills and knowledge around food and land management & cooking & growing

Breakdown of financial systems and social structures resulting in panic, breakdown of law and order; vandalism, crime, rioting, loss of social cohesion/tribalism

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our large-scale farmers need:


  1. Automation is their only alternative to replace cheap labour and requires vast investment to maintain farm size and structure as it is. 


  1. Infrastructure if a farm cannot get (or loses) a supermarket contract it needs this local infrastructure for processing and distribution:

  • regional veg processing to supply public procurement contracts

  • local accessible abattoirs

  • alternative distribution mechanisms.


  1. Soil health Precision farming is necessary to minimise inputs. This needs investment in R&D for effective monitoring of different practices and support for farmers to do bioregional scale farm-based trials.


Stroud District hosts 3 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects with a fourth in planning.  The first Stroud CSA was set up in 1999.  CSA uses regenerative, agroecological farming practices to produce high quality food that improves soil quality.  It is also a new economic model with the farmers being financially supported directly by the eaters with no ‘middlemen’.  We need to set up a LOT more of these projects.


Stroudco Food Hub, established in 2006, is a not for profit, cooperative social enterprise with 55 local producer members providing a total of 1,200 product lines on an Open Food Network online shopfront.  320 shopper members order online and collect from a Stroud church hall or local pick-up points every Saturday.  This model could be replicated in all towns in the District.


Stroud Communiversity already hosts visits from other communities interested in replicating the success of the many community-leg food growing and food distribution projects in the District.  We are keen to scale up these dissemination activities and train up teams of animateurs to work with other communities.


We need fundamentlly new ways of working being demonstrated in many of the Stroud projects and beginning to be documented by researchers at the Open Food Network - see https://www.openfoodnetwork.org/a-new-way-of-working/


By 2050 the Stroudwater canal should be restored, joined to other major waterways; making water transport of food possible. 


Re-learn traditional skills such as manual horticulture, food preservation, etc.  There are people in our District who can teach us these things


Reintroduction of barter/exchange eg crop swap /seed swap


Democratisation of land - change planning laws and land ownership


Build community - fully inclusive - outreach to whole population


Train more herbalists


Herbal medicine gardens


Disseminate wild food knowledge


Stroud Seed Savers developing landrace seed; educating amateur growers about seed; in future years they could expand, working at a larger scale to bulk up successful seed types. 


Solar powered community freezers for anyone's surplus crops to supply community kitchens


We want to use ceremony in different ways for sharing and caring.  We want to make sure that nobody is excluded


We need to mainstream this vision and involve everyone.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Stroud District Food System is led by strong democratic control & participatory governance with active participation from a vibrant & politically engaged civil society; making the most of all indigenous wisdom about working ‘in council’ & drawing on multiple forms of communication with all beings human & non-human.


Sustainable farming practices provide enough healthy food for everybody regardless of income, status or background while enhancing the biosystems for all life forms.


Land is no longer treated and traded as a commodity but understood as a common good of all beings for food, shelter, social, cultural & spiritual practices.


The Food System supports the health, wellbeing, social welfare & economic stability of everyone working in it.  Everybody earns a living wage & works in a safe environment, safe from all forms of exploitation, discrimination and racism.


We protect & regenerate natural resources and communities; building soil structure & fertility, cooling the planet & preserving biodiversity.


Strong links between farms, food workers, schools, adult education & communities meet intellectual, spiritual & cultural needs as well as nutrition.


Wide range of outlets for buyers and shoppers to purchase food including markets, farm shops, food co-ops & online food hubs all networked with each other, making food as accessible as possible with minimum food miles.


The knowledge & skills needed to produce, process, preserve, distribute & prepare food are protected, developed & invested in; supported by democratic & decentralised education systems & by appropriate research & innovation.


We have been building resilient food growing & food distribution systems for over 20 years in this District & want to offer our learning, facilitation, experience & support to other communities who are interested in developing similar initiatives.  Similarly, we are keen to learn from the experience of others & to continuously adapt our systems 




Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

It is 5th January 2050.  Britain is one of the few countries with a climate where vegetables and fruit can still be grown.  There are high levels of immigration.


The 2025 Land Trust Act facilitated community stewardship of local land in perpetuity for food production and biodiversity improvement.  It also provided a process to transition from land ‘ownership’ to stewardship.


The Open Food Network (OFN) https://www.openfoodnetwork.org/ is now deployed globally so that food producers, shoppers & buyers can build short food supply chains creating rich, diverse distribution networks giving maximum return to the producer & keeping food affordable to eaters.


The Open Food Credits system was adopted globally in 2023 so that

  • Shoppers & investors pay into a Producer Reserve Account on the OFN. This is backed by Reserve Credits issued to the shopper / investor.

  • 30% of this Reserve Account is regularly distributed in cash to producers, who repay in food produced or cash, if they don’t produce enough. Producers must always clear their negative balances if they want to remain in good standing on the global OFN.

  • Production (including producer’s profit) is bought by buyers on the OFN, with cash funded into their Shopping Accounts.



Stroud Food Council is a distributed collaborative organisation run by committed people all over the District. It blends aspects of sociocracy & holacracy with governance elements we have developed over time in response to specific challenges & tensions in those models. Deliberation is emphasised so everyone who is interested to contribute to the shaping of a decision can do so while agile concepts like lazy consensus are incorporated to make sure things get done

We take inspiration from permaculture paying attention to the resilience and sustainability of the Council.  We encourage everyone to develop their own leadership within the community & we try to avoid over-dependence on any specific individuals by ensuring that every role can be done by at least 2 or 3 people & that each person can fulfil at least 2 or 3 roles. 


We are observing an SFC gathering.  The gathering is open to all.  Everyone has a voice.  Elected representatives have a vote but the vote is rarely used as the community has re-learned to make decisions by consensus.


Standing item - ceremony to open the council, offer thanks to the land and hear of recent communications with the other-than-human beings of this land.


Decision - how to accommodate the latest influx of refugees:

  • More land workers are needed on Oakbrook farm & accommodation can be found there

  • For one month each family will be offered a free veg share from Stroud Community Agriculture & free daily meals at the Long Table.

  • They will be paid the universal minimum wage in Stroud Pounds https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroud_pound

  • Arrivals Survey shows that some of these refugees have experience in setting up agroecological farms.  They will be given priority access as new land comes available.

  • These refugees have a strong food culture.  We will invite them to join the Long Table planning process & ask if they would like to cook a meal from their culture.  Social Team to liaise with them re appropriate music to accompany the meal


Ongoing issue about land ownership

  • Highcroft Farm has land that is suitable for horticulture

  • The owners want to charge an annual rent and offer no security of tenure

  • Facilitation Team has been working with Highcroft landowners and local community and proposes an initial one year agreement to grow veg on 10 acres and to allocate 30% of all produce grown on that site for Highcroft Farm to sell on their Open Food Network shopfront.

  • Allotment Team to talk to landowners to consider offering small areas of land close to the village to local residents as allotments

  • Community team to work with landowners to offer;

    • Landworkers to help with work on other parts of their farm

    • Income to Highcroft if they want to host our annual harvest festival

  • After the first year we can review veg production levels and consider signing up to 200 acres of Highcroft Farm to the new Community Land Trust agreement for the land to be used in perpetuity for the community food production.


Review annual decision to import citrus and olive oil from Spanish Community Farm through the Sail Cargo Alliance

  • This arrangement has been in place since 2005 - https://openfoodnetwork.org.uk/la-jimena/shop

  • Council agrees to make all produce available for community ordering on the common Open Food Network shopfront 

  • La Jimena is inviting Stroud residents to travel by sailing ship to help with the olive harvest in return for a free fruit share. 


Education Team reports

  • Helpers needed to;

    • work with school children to build forest garden in school grounds & teach food preserving skills

    • teach diet issues re health and soil/gut microbiome

    • develop practical skills & learning about stewardship

    • Share local knowledge & Earth celebrations

    • Localised food variegates & cultures (kefir, etc)

    • preserving festivals

    • pottery for food preservation (kimchi pots, etc)


Stroud Hospital has asked for specific herbal medicines & extra meat for recent refugees with malnutrition.

  • We will ask Ruskin Apothecary to provide seeds & ask the Allotment Committee to assign land for cultivation of these herbs.

  • Meat will be provided from control of deer, squirrels & rabbits in Folly Wood.

  • Herbs and meat will be traded on the Open Food Network with the hospital tagged as a priority customer.


New drying sheds and grain mills needed to expand fruit drying and grain production this autumn 

  • Infrastructure team to provide quote


Recent research has suggested climate might suit production of soya beans, peanuts, apricots and almonds.

  • Folly Farm to plant test beds & review


Stroud District Food System Tech Team is part of global work to develop;

  • new uses of solar power new tech to develop new ways of growing food that’re climate change resistant 

  • techniques of protein production from fermentation.

Council supports proposal that these new technologies be shared around world as open source tech.


Celebrations Team planning;

  • Imbolc celebration at the Folly Wood fire circle on 1st February

  • Wassailing & tree-planting party at Forest Green

  • Children’s party to celebrate Spring & plant beans at Slad Farm


Land Management Team:

  • Town Council has agreed we can plant up Victory Park with vegetable beds as long as there is still public footpath access through park.

  •  Garden Share Scheme now has 85 gardens owned by elderly people being worked by young people who needed land to grow food.  Good reports of social links being developed - reducing loneliness in old people.

  • Latest production figures for Stroud District woodlands

    • Foraging

    • Meat production

    • Fire wood

  • Recent research on permaculture methods

  • Planting plans for nut and fruit trees.  All new tree planting will be on agroforestry principles.

  • Plans to extend natural drainage systems to prevent flooding

  • New brownfield sites coming available for food growing will be taken on by Edible Stroud

  • Plans to develop wildlife corridors; diverse habitats; integration of wildlife with food growing

  • Brambles - landscape scale


Open Food Network Team providing open source software enabling direct sales and distribution links between farmers/growers and eaters/buyers.

  • 124 new local producers signed up this period.

  • 10 new OFN shopfronts in the District linking to local producers https://openfoodnetwork.org.uk/shops#/

  • Buddying system established for shoppers without internet access to phone a buddy who will take their order.

  • Food poverty projects use OFN food hubs to take referrals from health and social services to provide subsidised food to people on low incomes or with diet-related health issues.  These projects also help people learn to cook from raw ingredients and give them a link to the land their food comes from.  See https://drive.google.com/file/d/1468hQeMzTg4Vytyv8vPfjoHPF9yjCmt_/view?usp=sharing



Retail and Distribution Team reports:

  • 3 new farmers’ markets in the District - all using online OFN shopfronts to maximise the geographical reach of the markets by encouraging producers who sell at the market to take home pre-ordered boxes back to their farms to be collected by local shoppers.

    • These markets all have bursary programmes so that shoppers who can afford to pay more for their produce can subsidise shoppers with less income.

  • 6 new food co-ops set up this period.  Buying dry goods from wholesalers and distributing plastic-free using OFN shopfronts

  • Stroud District is now part of the South West Food Network on OFN.  This enables all farmers, growers, processors and manufacturers in the District to trade with all OFN outlets across South West UK using a commonly-developed transport infrastructure provided by all members of the Network using their own vehicles and interim warehousing.

  • This will give us access to fish being landed by sustainable fish co-ops in Plymouth & other produce being imported by the Sail Cargo Alliance into ports on the south coast.


Food Standards Team

  • Since the collapse of the Soil Association certification programme we have developed local certification standards allowing anyone collecting produce from a farm to give feedback on a range of veg production & animal welfare measures.  This certification is publicly available on an interactive forum where the farmer/grower can comment or feedback.


Food Waste Team

  • Household cooked food waste volumes continues to drop.  

  • Composting programme producing 2 tonnes of compost per month available to all veg growing projects.


Communiversity Team

  • We have had requests from 6 other communities wanting us to provide animateur support; needs people from all our Teams; most of the support can be offered online.

  • Need to update our online toolkits with the latest experience from the projects above.

  • Everyone is welcome to join the visit to Hebden Bridge to learn about their protein fermentation experiments

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email
  • From the Open Food Network UK

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