The Mixed farming – histories and futures LEADER funded cooperation project adapts to COVID in mid-Wales

 llysiau ffres ar y bwrdd

COVID-19 has brought misery to untold millions across the globe.  If anything good is going to come out of this, then we need to learn how to avoid disasters like this, or be better prepared for next time; whether that be viral pandemics or the multiple threats from climate change.

Excepting maybe water or clean air, few things are as fundamental to human existence as a reliable source of nutritious, healthy, affordable food. When the novel coronavirus arrived in the UK in March 2020, the shelves in our shops started to clear, people started panic buying as the realisation came home that we have become dependent on long global food supply chains that were fragile and rooted in countries whose infrastructure was being shaken to its core.

Here in the small market town of Machynlleth, and elsewhere across the UK, the local population turned with renewed interest towards the relatively small, often neglected local producers and distributers of home grown food – meat and veg. They may be small compared with the conventional food economy, but they are reliable and, to use the jargon of people whose job it is to worry about the future – resilient.  In response, people started growing more - the local butcher with his own slaughterhouse supplied by nearby farms, found himself an increasingly popular man.

The Mixed farming – histories and futures project started in April 2019 with the objective, way before the pandemic, of making a small local contribution in the Dyfi Biosphere area to food security in the context of a changing climate and loss of biodiversity.  The project shows, with reference to historic data and using online maps, that much more can be grown in mid-Wales than currently is; and that historically, agriculture in the area was more diverse up until the not so distant past.

Unable to engage with the farmers we had planned to meet with, we turned to weekly zoom meetings with Planna Fwyd! - a group of volunteers and growers that organised themselves as part of Machynlleth’s coronavirus community response.  One of the results was the local ‘Producers & Distributors’ food map on the website.  By providing detail on 25 enterprises (shops, farms, market garden) growing and selling fresh, local produce, we aim to support an expanded local food economy.  

Going forward, we are going to continue to use technology to encourage people to buy local - next year, we will see an expanded ability for people to buy fresh local produce online.  We are also hoping to see that virus-induced appreciation of the local food economy translate into a post Brexit agricultural subsidy system that supports the traditional small Welsh family farms that are the backbone of our agriculture in producing a wider variety of products – as long as it is done with a view to greater care for Welsh ecosystems and reversing the loss in biodiversity.  

Maybe next time global supply chains are destabilised, we will be less vulnerable as we will have put in place measures to support our farmers and growers in producing the wide range of products that Wales can provide.

Mixed farming – histories and futures
Planna Fwyd