The Answer Lies In The Soil

08:12 Wednesday 10th October 2012
The Bigger Breakfast
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Farmers in the county say bread may have to be imported if we have another bad summer like we’ve just had. The price of fruit veg and cereal also set to rise, after figures from the NFU show the amount of wheat harvested has dropped by almost 15% over five years. The news comes after one of the wettest summers in recent years, and what’s been described as one of the worst harvests in forty years. .. Let’s speak to Ian Tennant from Peterborough Environment City Trust. With him as well is Kim Coley. Ian, you don’t eat a lot of meat and stuff, do you?
IAN TENNANT: Well I do eat some dairy, unlike Kim who’s a vegan. But what I try to eat is mostly fresh raw fruit and vegetables.
PAUL STAINTON: Is it a prerequisite to work for Peterborough Environment City Trust? You’ve got to be a veggie?
IAN TENNANT: No, not at all. We’ve got a mix of carnivores omnivores and more radical people. (THEY LAUGH)
PAUL STAINTON: Does it affect you so much then? Because the price now of cauliflower, your cauliflower soup is going through the roof.
IAN TENNANT: It is. It is going through the roof. But what I would say is that for most people in Peterborough, a lot of people in Peterborough, we still do have a disposable income. And for me, for example, because health is a real big priority for me, up to a certain point I’m still going to buy all the food that I want. For example, last month I reduced the price of my monthly contract, my mobile phone contract. And that will allow me to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables.
PAUL STAINTON: So you’re not going to speak to people as much, but you’re going to eat just the same.
IAN TENNANT: Exactly. Speak to people? (THEY LAUGH)
PAUL STAINTON: Kim, we’re coming to some sort of a tipping point I think now, aren’t we, with prices in the shops? It’s getting to the point where I’m going round thinking, right, what’s on offer. Ooh I’ll have that instead. Or I’ll have that. Or that’s a pound, or whatever. But some things that you really enjoy buying, tins of sweetcorn for instance, a year ago they were 40p, own brand. They’re all 60 pence now. They’ve gone up 50%. Are we getting to the point where something will have to happen? There’ll be a huge shift, do you think?
KIM COLEY: Well I think it’s more important now to eat fresh fruit and veg than ever before. And I think ..
PAUL STAINTON: But how do you when you can’t afford it?
KIM COLEY: Well I think prices have always fluctuated. And it’s the same with petrol, People will take it and take it and take it to a point, but now more and more people are getting electric vehicles, or trying to bike to work for example. And it will be the same with fresh fruit and veg. More and more people will either go the wrong way, and go for more processed food, but we all know that that can lead to more disease. But hopefully more people will be empowered to grow their own and be more sustainable.
PAUL STAINTON: But it’s not always that easy to grow your own, is it?
IAN TENNANT: It’s not all that easy to grow your own. But this year lots of small producers and small organic farmers, although some crops really struggled, because of the poor weathr conditions, other crops have done really well. So for example I had a great crop yield of runner beans this year. So you just have to be a little bit more creative about what you use and what you cook.
PAUL STAINTON: Buying fruit’s a bit of a tricky business at the moment, isn’t it?
IAN TENNANT: It is. .. I was really pleased to see that Waitrose are stocking weather-damaged fruit, and maybe that will shift, because in Cambridgeshire we package a lot of fruit for national supermarkets. And built into that process is sometimes above 30% wastage, because supermarkets think the consumers ant the perfect apple, or the perfect carrot. But actually about 30% or 40% of the knobbly carrots and spotted apples get thrown away. So even though yields of crops are down, if supermarkets can change that trend, maybe there is a silver lining to this cloud, this year.
PAUL STAINTON: Right. So we actually might make more of the food we produce is what you’re saying.
KIM COLEY: And just to be a bit more radical, I don’t know if you watched that programme on BBC Horizon not long ago, Eat, Fast and Live Longer.
PAUL STAINTON: No, I tend not to. It scares me, things like that. (THEY LAUGH)
KIM COLEY: You can actually fast for example, and it’s good for your health. So twice a week you could do a fast. And then you’ve got two days worth of savings. You could spend more on veg.
PAUL STAINTON: So what can we do? Some quick tips, if you could. just to help us save a few pounds then.
IAN TENNANT: Well, you can try and find out which crops have done OK this year, for example I mentioned runner beans. And you can ..
PAUL STAINTON: I blinking hate runner beans.
PAUL STAINTON: With a passion.
IAN TENNANT: Yes, well .. maybe go for those weather-damaged apples then.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Up for that. Yes. Strudel.
IAN TENNANT: Yes. Some apple strudel, apple crumble, be quite good.
PAUL STAINTON: A lot of apple.
IAN TENNANT: Juice your own apples as well.
IAN TENNANT: If you buy a juicer you can make your own. It’s fresh, and you don’t need as much to get all the vitamins that you’d get from cartons.
PAUL STAINTON: Give us a tip. How am I going to save money going round the supermarkets for the next year? Everything’s going to go up. What am I going to do? Shall I just grow my own stuff?
KIM COLEY: Have you got a garden?
KIM COLEY: We could come round and help you dig it up and get it ready for you.
PAUL STAINTON: You could do that while I’m at work, couldn’t you? That’s be great. So I just come home and reap the rewards.
KIM COLEY: There’s also a local food co-op in Peterborough, and Riverford Organic is just down the road as well. So there’s lots of people on tap that have got more of the local stuff.
IAN TENNANT: Another great project in Peterborough is Incredible Edible Peterborough. And Cross Keys Homes are taking a lead on that. And they’re actually helping people to grow fruit and vegetables in their .. in spare space around their houses. So it could be on your street corner if you’ve got a bit of grass like that. So that’s another one, as well as Peterborough in Transition, which is all about building resilience in the local food system.
PAUL STAINTON: Excellent tips guys. Hopefully it will help.