I have worked in food and farming most of my life, as a career and as a volunteer. I began in agricultural information work, then moved into education, public engagement and community development. From 2000 to 2015 I worked for Organic Centre Wales, supporting organic supply chains across Wales through a website and events. I’m now a freelance writer and educator, and I volunteer with Aber Food Surplus (my host organization), Penglais Community Garden and our local school garden. I am also Vice Chair of the Dyfi Biosphere. Nationally, I am volunteer coordinator of the Wales Food Manifesto, where we are holding a vision for a better food system based on shared values of fairness and care. Food is not just a commodity, it’s the source of life, and it can bring us together. This is essential if we are to respond effectively to global challenges.
Why are you drawn to this area of work, and how have you helped community groups take action in the past?
Food projects interest me particularly because eating and growing food together are such powerful ways to connect and inspire people. They link us naturally to shared values of community which I see as key to responding to climate change. Aber Food Surplus are really showing how this works, using supermarket surplus food to create new links in the town and get people talking about the future of food.
Government policy is all very well, but it needs to be grounded in local action, and informed by it. So I am excited by the Renew approach of working with community groups and connecting them to national and global goals. Having worked in both policy and as a local volunteer I am keen to see what more can be done to bring both aspects of social change together.
While at Organic Centre Wales I organized several national conferences at which community organizers, teachers, farmers and others were given a speaking slot to share their experiences to do with food in schools. I have also helped organize smaller food-based events all over Wales, including demonstration school meals featuring local suppliers and community groups, a miniconference for Food Cardiff, a ‘soup stories’ event with a church and a synagogue in Cardiff, a meal for pensioners and primary school children in north Wales, an event called ‘Let’s Talk about Food’ in Aberystwyth, numerous community meals, and a community Christmas tea in Aberystwyth last year.
What’s your vision of the area where you live and/or work in 2050? What will have changed and how will we have got there?
By 2050, people in Aberystwyth don’t take food for granted any more. With far more local production, in gardens, public spaces and farms, all the town’s eateries are serving meals sourced from the local area. There is a circular food economy, with minimal waste, and we are proud of our food heritage. Young people learn to grow, cook and eat together in school and at university, and people of all ages take part in shared meals and use community cooking facilities.
This happened because we used food as a means of drawing people together, including community meals and gardening sessions. We linked that to research at the university and the political process of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, and we also drew in restaurants, shops and the tourism industry to make full use of the power of human connection to drive real world change. We live very differently now, much more centred on people not possessions, and we’re happier.