Sept/Oct News 2015

September/October 2015 News

Local Blueskin Food

Local Blueskin Food

One of the great pleasures of living in Blueskin Bay - and in rural areas generally - is the chance to be more connected to our food supply, whether it is through growing our own veges, or buying eggs from a neighbour. 

 But what is the state of food production in our local community? What what might this mean in terms of the resilience of our communities?

 These were among the questions the BRCT was keen to explore in the Blueskin and Karitane Food System Report - the first real comprehensive report into Blueskin's local food systems.

 We already knew there was significant enthusiasm for and activity in food locally; after all, BRCT grew out of a visioning process in 2006 that also gave birth to the Weggies, and BRCT has supported a number of food initiatives over the years including the Waitati Edible Gardeners group and Waitati Open Orchards. 

 Now, supported by a Lotteries Commission grant, we had the chance to investigate this in greater depth. Primarily researched by environmental consultant Rhys Millar, the report considers issues such as the history of food action in the Blueskin area; the potential impacts of climate change on food production opportunities; a comparison of calories commercially produced in the region with those consumed; informal and home-grown food economies; and gauging the attitudes towards – and appetite for – greater development of the local food systems.

 The result gives us a more vivid picture of the current state of our local food economy.

 Key findings include:

  • Based on a population of 2800, the Blueskin area requires 2,313 tonnes of food each year, and commercially produces 1837.2 tonnes. However, this is overwhelmingly weighted towards beef and lamb, producing more than seven times that required by the local community. In all other food groups except dairy, Blueskin is a net importer of calories from other areas.
  • The fertile alluvial Waitati river plain equals in size the land that would be required to sustain our population in fruit and vegetables; however this area may be particularly susceptible to impact of climate change.
  • Around 75% of households surveyed are producing some kind of food, including fruit, vegetables, berries, eggs and meat.
  • Approximately 35% of those producing food at home reported being self-sufficient in at least one food item, but none claimed complete self-sufficiency.
  • 81% of those surveyed agreed that knowing where food comes from is important, and 76% indicated a strong interest in supporting local food initiatives.
  • Growing and exchanging local food adds to our sense of wellbeing. The report affirms the value we place on these simple activities on this for their own sake, quite aside from the economic or environmental advantages of doing so, and this is worth celebrating as a special feature of life in Blueskin Bay.

 We now need to consider how these findings can be applied to our vision of a resilient, sustainable and thriving community. For example we might want to focus on our ability to withstand a crisis that could cut us off for weeks. Or we may prioritise positioning ourselves to cope with changes to the economy and food supply due to the incremental impacts of climate change. And of course we want to ensure a vibrant, desirable community where food producers can make a good livelihood and connect with their customers.

 Your input and feedback is welcome and encouraged!

 The report can read it online (go to www.brct.org.nz and look under ‘Resources’) and email comments to office@brct.co.nz .

 By Nicola Mutch