On Growing Crops For Human Consumption

The need to grow more of our own food has been highlighted by recent national and global events.  Importing 50% of the food we eat will always leave us vulnerable to shortages or escalating prices over which we have no control. 

If we want to increase our national food security and food self-sufficiency (why wouldn’t we?), then we have to be prepared to leave tired old pronouncements such as “we’re only good for growing grass” behind and be willing to embrace new opportunities. 

We are not denying that there are challenges to growing crops for human consumption – there are.  Fifty per cent of the UK’s agricultural land is classed as Less Favoured Areas with that figure rising to 86% in Scotland and 81% in Wales.  In these areas, where growing food is more challenging or at times impracticable, Government subsidies favour livestock production over growing crops for human consumption.  We are lobbying to change this with a Motion already appearing before the Scottish Parliament proposing that farmers and crofters across all three Payment Regions receive subsidies whether they choose to grow food or rear it.  As one farmer in our survey said, “I’d be interested in growing more crops for human consumption if it was incentivised”. 

Notwithstanding, several of the farmers and crofters we are working with are showing what is possible, even in Less Favoured Areas, when we are willing to depart from traditional narratives and discover what can be achieved.  

Mark Dickinson, in Westray, Orkney, is growing a huge variety of nutritious food in harmony with nature, attracting some of the island’s rarest birds to his biodiverse oasis.  Gina Bates, in Sutherland, turned a traditionally grazed croft into the Highland’s first plant protein croft with an orchard of native hardy hazelnut trees; and Clare Haworth on the Isle of Lismore created a tea plantation.

Crops traditionally grown in Less Favoured Areas, such as hemp and fava beans, are experiencing a revival with new markets for these products opening up.  New/old ways of growing cereals that require no inputs, no ploughing, and no rotation hold great promise as a path to feeding us without destroying the planet.  Meanwhile, high quality protein for human consumption made directly from, wait for it, grass and clover has begun its journey through the Novel Food approval process. 

Browse our case-studies with an open mind and, please, get in touch if you want to explore the options for your own farm or croft. 

Growing Crops for Human Consumption

Case Studies

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