The Cornwall Diet?

A group of people in the Kingdom of Fife, in east Scotland, have been engaged in an experiment for the last year or so to see if they can source 85% of their diet from within Fife.

Their reasons are to reduce the environmental impact of their food and to, once again, enjoy fresh, seasonal food. It has proved quite challenging – people have had to learn or relearn cooking skills and how to preserve the summer harvest for winter consumption. Also, we have all become too used to having oranges and bananas, and salads all year round.

Fife and Cornwall share many common features – they are both peninsula counties with long coast-lines and are both predominantly rural. Fife has a population of 360,500, an area of 507sq miles and 115 miles of costline. Cornwall has a population of 501,265, and area of 1376 sq miles and 433 miles of coastline. Cornwall, therefore, has more acreage per person – but undoubtedly has to support a higher tourist population than Fife.

The reasons for attempting to adopt a Cornwall diet are:-

  • reduction in CO2 emissions from food miles
  • better quality, fresher food – higher in nutrients, lower in saturated fats and additives
  • better for the local economy – money spent in local shops stays in the local economy, money spent in chain stores ‘leaks’ out of the local economy
  • increase in food security – Cornwall will be more prepared for decreased supplies of oil
  • better animal welfare
  • increased awareness of where food comes from
  • better social cohesiveness – shopping in local shops and Farmers’ Markets is more interactive, decreases social isolation
  • better value for money
  • better deal for farmers, fishermen and all local producers
  • reskilling in traditional food preparation, including food preserving techniques

There are also numerous challenges:-

Can Cornwall become 85% self sufficient in food?

  1. is there enough land to grow food for over half a million people, not to mention tourists in the summer?
  2. Is the land sufficiently fertile?
  3. What about competition for other uses eg housing, fuel crops etc?
  4. Can food grown locally fulfil all our dietary requirments – for protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals and other trace elements?
  5. Will people be willing to forgo foods such as bananas, avocado etc?
  6. Can Cornwall afford to give up land presently used for commercial growing to supply supermarkets etc – do we need to trade?
  7. Can enough food be grown without inputs of petroleum-based technologies?
  8. Will growers be prepared to try new ways of marketing – Community Supported Agriculture, co-operatives etc?
  9. Are there sources of advice and support for growers?
  10. Will the councils and other statutory bodies support the initiative?

I think it would be a worthwhile challenge – clearly the small number of people adopting the Fife diet and thriving on it, despite the challenges, is not proof that Fife could become 85% self-sufficient, but they are highlighting the difficulties. A group of people with various expertise and knowledge could collectively experiment a Cornwall Diet. It would be good to know what potential challenges a largely locally based food system will throw up, before we are forced into it by greatly diminished energy supplies.

Please get in touch if you are interested.

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