Landworkers’ Alliance AGM 16-17 November
Held in Manchester this year, our 3rd AGM brought together 60 people, including many growers, farmers and woodland workers and attracted many new members from the area.
The event was kindly hosted by The Kindling Trust who are doing wonderful things to encourage a more localised food system with small-scale growers and farmers at its heart. They organised all sorts for us, from the AGM location to the food and beer. So big thanks to The Kindling Trust for all of their support.
Sunday morning started with a brief history of The Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA) and its overall aims. Alexa de Ferranti, our Chair, reported on the activities of the last year. Highlights have included protests such as the Food Sovereignty Football on Parliament Square (check out landworkersalliance.org.uk to watch the film); meetings with numerous MPs and MEPs; farm walks and socials; launch of the South West Seed Savers’ Cooperative; launch of the Groundspring Network for new entrant farmers; various meetings in Europe with other members of the European Coordination of Via Campesina and generally building alliances with producer organisations. It has been a busy year, and it doesn’t look likely to slow down.
Next we heard from Rebecca Laughton (Bee) and Jyoti Fernandes about one of our main campaigns. This is about our vision of agriculture in the UK, with small and medium scale ecological farms producing the majority of our food needs. LWA have produced a report (Feeding the Future) on our requests to change of policy to Defra, which highlights what we consider to be the main obstacles facing small scale farmers in the UK. Future work includes a study into the productivity of small scale farms compared to larger scale and a bid with Coventry University for EU funding to carry out further research.
Next we introduced our guest speakers, Helen and Chris from the Kindling Trust spoke about the work that they do to rebuild rural and urban supply chains. Manchester Veg People was set up to help link restaurants with local producers and has been a great success in guaranteeing a market for many growers and farmers. The FarmStart Manchester project has been set up to help budding growers gain access to land and have tutoring and mentoring from experienced growers in the area. They are doing truly great work and lets hope such projects can be replicated throughout the UK.
Haidee-Laure Giles from War on Want spoke next about the potential impact of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on food production in the UK. This trade agreement would have detrimental effects on small scale producers. It was important to have an international perspective and highlighted why we are part of the International movement of La Via Campesina.
Lastly the OGA’s very own Alan Schofield stepped up to talk about the OGA and its work in lobbying and set the activities of the LWA in the wider context of the history of horticulture and the organic movement over the last 30 years.
After lunch we split up into groups that discussed various campaigns and issues such as GM, seed legislation and seed cooperatives and succession of farmers.
Finally the core business was discussed, with some of the core group standing down and other members filling the gaps. After an impromptu performance by a members’ friend who happened to be a poet, Jyoti delivered an inspiring speech to end the meeting, after which the barrels of beer and bottles of cider were opened, dinner was eaten and the Ceilidh began.
Monday started with a tour of Moss Brook Growers’ site of field scale veg. We were given a great tour by Rob who talked about the struggles of starting up a horticultural business, and told us why they choose the crops they grow on their 21 acre plot. It is a very different business to Glebelands City Growers who we visited in the afternoon. This 2 acre site focuses on high value crops such as salad and herbs. It is a totally different way of growing – on a smaller scale, relying on more hand tools and intensifying cropping on the limited area. The two tours highlighted how different growers’ jobs can be depending on what scale they grow on and what crops they decide to grow. Both sites seemed to be producing great vegetables, using quite different approaches.
All in all the AGM was a great success and good to meet some new members and have their input on how the LWA should focus their energy and campaigns. Next is the Oxford Real Farming Conference in January, where we will be hosting several sessions, so come along and join us.