Blue Finger Project. Use new home-grown policy to protect the Blue Finger and start creating a resilient and healthy food future.
A change in Bristol's land-use policy to safeguard and enable long term food growing on Blue Finger land. The 'Blue Finger' is an area of mostly rare Grade 1 agricultural land in north Bristol/South Gloucestershire with high natural fertility. It used to be Bristol's Market Garden Quarter and while still mostly configured as smallholdings is, in large part, unproductive due to past economic challenges of small scale production when industrial scale took over. The context has changed dramatically now. Local food provides many answers to the problems of food security, wellbeing, health, purpose, poverty, social cohesion and employment and there is a rapidly growing demand for local produce. The Blue Finger is Bristol's best soil asset. What is done with this land is symbolic of Bristol's committment to being a green capital and it's ability to do the very best with the assets it is fortunate enough to have.
Council policy currently supports building a Park & Ride car park on this land at some future point and wants to safeguard the land for that purpose, doing away with it's natural food growing potential. Transport planning must be undertaken in ways which do not undermine future resilience. Exchanging premium soil for tarmac will blight Bristol's reputation and undermine rather than build future resilience. This is why policy change is necessary.
How this idea fits Ideas Lab criteria:
To adopt policy to protect food growing land in this way does not need to be limited to the Blue FInger, this is just the beginning. This kind of home-grown policy would be groundbreaking in the UK and it is entirely achievable. It is a simple idea that has the potential to be transformatory in our city, region and country and is transferable to any other place where there is policy-led development and there are people who eat. To withdraw the Park&Ride safeguard would mean this prime food-growing land can be put to good use straight away rather than leaving it without use or investment for a decade. It would save the Council/Gov't from wasting millions of tax payers pounds on hastily and poorly thought through car infrastructure which will, for numberous reasons, blight the communities it is intended to serve.
The Council is well aware of this situation and is in a good position to act now before the Local Plan policy is set in stone in 2014.
You're in good company!
Such a policy change, to protect our best food growing land, is currently supported by hundreds of individuals and organisations including the four West of England authorities (via their Duty to Co-operate schedule), local growers, farmers and horticulturalists, educators and trainers, local communities, national organisations including the Soil Association and CPRE, food businesses, the Assistant Mayor and other parts of Bristol City Council including Bristol Creen Capital partnership team, the members of The Bristol Food Policy Council, Bristol Food Network and members of the Sustainable Food Cities Network. To adopt a change in policy as suggested here would be cause for huge celebration in Green Capital year 2015 which is also International Year of Soils!
The multiple positive impacts of a simple change.
Such a policy change must be designed to enable different models of resilient urban food production to flourish, kickstarting long term growth in agriculture-related training, education and employment. To ensure we can feed ourselves into the future we first need to learn how to do it from those who know. Beacon Lane Starter Farm is a prime example of this. They have deliberately chosen Blue Finger land because of it's exceptional fertility and accessibility. The policy context must exist to enable initiatives like this to thrive.
Blue Finger growing will be looking at achieving high productivity through high natural soil fertility. The natural quality of the soil provides growers and consumers with a built-in advantage both in the nutritional content of the food and an increased likelihood of successful harvests every year, even in a changing or volatile climate. The frontiers of soil science show that soil health and fertility is the key to future food security. The Blue Finger therefore can be a showcase for what is possible when this knowledge is heeded and practices enhance the natural 'bio-functions' of soil.
The location in north Bristol / South Gloucestershire means easy access to and for local buyers, high visibility, high levels of public participation, opportunities for non-fossil fuel based transportation and opportunities for successful cross-border collaboration.
Policy change itself has no capital cost. Council owned land can be made available for growing projects as in the case of Feed Bristol. Other plots may be bought through crowdfunding as in the case of Beacon Lane and private investors are interested in buying land for sustainable agriculture.
Funding will be necessary for research and feasibility and for installing infrastructure and facilities. This can be done on a project by project basis with support from a range of different sources.
What is critical is that local government is consistent in giving political and administrative support to this activity on the Blue Finger and elsewhere in the city, and across the West of England region on which the city will so greatly rely for future food supply.
Why the contribution is important
Bristol is a hungry city. It must lead the way in creating a strong local food economy across the city and the West of England region. This cannot be done while food growing land remains vulnerable nor while there is a lack of commitment to urban food production.
Safeguarding land for food and upscaling food production are two of the key components of the Bristol Good Food Plan (Launched Dec 2013). This plan is rooted in solid understanding and evidence of how a resilient food system works. Protecting the Blue Finger for food growing would be clear statement of commitment to realising the Good Food Plan in accordance with its whole system approach, as growing on the Blue Finger will have innumerable spin-off benefits to the system as a whole.
Future food security for Bristol is a policy issue. Policies need to be built into the system now if we are to start creating a productive urban agriculture sector across the West of England to sustain our health, wellbeing and basic nutritional needs in an uncertain future.
And lastly, Bristol is European Green Capital 2015. It is a member of the 100 Resilient Cities Network of the Rockefeller Foundation, it is a member of the UK Sustainable Food Cities Network, and it has a Food Policy Council and a Good Food Plan. So why would the Council rather put food growing land under tarmac? What does all this stand for if it has no bearing on Council policy and the decisions that follow about how we use our land and feed ourselves?
by user932309 on December 18, 2013 at 02:02PM