A highland good food conversation

Aug 1, 2023

Fuggo King is a host, supporter and friend of WWOOF and writes here about her connection with a vibrant local food system.

What is a Food Partnership?

Until 2021 I had no idea what this was. Then a friend recommended some interesting online events called the Highland Good Food Conversation. The 5 afternoon online Zoom events focused on different projects that were proposed and discussed over the weeks. You can find much more detail here.

I was inspired by the contents of the discussion around more local, affordable and available foods, plus the huge variety of interests and openness in the smaller groups that we could take part in. My main interest was in community growing projects across the Highlands and how to help them get started or keep going, with an accent on sharing knowledge and resources.

There were other WWOOF hosts joining in, but I also gained a much wider view of what is happening in north Scotland by listening to some of the innovative and exciting projects proposed. These ranged from mobile egg selling, growing all our winter salads under glass in Scotland, looking at seed sovereignty, getting all schools to grow food, engaging with restaurants for local food sourcing, and looking at circular food economies.

I was not familiar with all these terms and more, but learnt a lot. So from this came a food partnership which is funded and supported by Sustainable Food Places, Scotland Food and Drink, The Pebble Trust and Transition Black Isle. There are both paid and volunteer roles in the charity. I started as a volunteer and am now getting paid to produce some of the podcasts for the organisation. I have really enjoyed making friends with the group and while we still work mainly online we are all close enough to meet at times.

This is how the Highland Good Food website describes the food partnership:

“Would you like to be part of creating a local food system that is better for the planet, better for people and better for producers? Well you have come to the right place! This Conversation aims to support and inspire local people to come together to create a food system that is fair to all.”

At the same time as the partnership was getting set up a local village garden was hosting a free food garden and swap stall. This has also grown into a weekly volunteer space, with a local co-op shop supplying free food to go alongside what is grown on the plot. This and other initiatives are linking people more closely with nature and where our food comes from.

Here is a picture of a stall we had at the Dandelion Festival in Inverness in September 2022

The map on the food partnership website aims to share and link many different groups across a very diverse geographical area. What I have learnt about this area is that if you have an interest in common then people will travel far and wide and will also know each other across vast spaces. The membership is also free and plans to stay that way.

With everyone getting back to work in 2021 and beyond, volunteering and changes can feel slow, but the slow change can be more sustainable and far reaching. Many things were discussed that have not yet fully emerged and many surprising talents have been found and welcomed, with councils, community groups, schools, the NHS, crofters, businesses and individuals all welcome to participate.

The small and friendly team have encouraged and supported each other, with the back-up of a board of directors. There are more food partnerships starting up all the time, each with its own unique problems and approaches.

The podcasts that I am working on started with one on WWOOF of course! (hence being asked to write for the newsletter) You can listen to it here.

Now I have an experienced editor and some tips to get better recordings. My next one should be out sometime in July and will be looking at “Creative ways to make a living on a Croft” – in case you don’t know – the Crofting Commission has strict and somewhat confusing rules about what is allowed on a croft and how it is funded. I hope to learn more as I talk with those benefitting and bringing imaginative practises into living on the land in Scotland.

Meanwhile keep WWOOFing and spreading the word of the community that can inspire and link us all.

A big thank you to Fuggo King for this article and for the photo.

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