A fair and sustainable local way of feeding urban communities

Julie Brown, director of Growing Communities’, a trading and wholesaling operation, says her mission is to feed urban communities locally in a way that is fair and sustainable in the face of corporate dominance and climate change.

Two of her suppliers, Martin and Sarah Mackey, grow potatoes and kale, in Kent as tenants on their holding, Ripple Farm. They sell some of their potatoes at local markets for a pound a kilo, about the same as you would pay for the equivalent grade in a high street supermarket. They also Growing Communities which mixes their potatoes with other produce in vegetable box schemes, starting at £7.75 for a week’s supply for one.

In conventional production, the average price for potatoes at the farm gate has been just 11p per kilo recently (less than a fifth of what Brown pays). A large-scale supplier to supermarkets or manufacturing will typically get only this small fraction of the retail price of around £1 per kilo in the shops, with markups along the way for complex transport and logistics systems, processors’ costs, retail margins and executive pay.

Fair price

Julie starts from the position that the price she gives the Mackeys for potatoes must cover their cost of production and enable both of them and their staff to earn a reasonable living. So she pays them 60p per kilo for delivered goods. Her packers are paid the London living wage, the amount the Resolution Foundation calculates is required to cover the real cost of living and in good years, a share of the profits in bonuses.

Pay ratio

One of her organisation’s governing principles is that the pay ratio between top and bottom should be no more than 2:1, so Brown takes a salary of £30,000 a year. Unlike many agency workers supplied to industrial farms to harvest and pack, the workers on Ripple Farm receive holiday pay, sick pay and good protective clothing to keep them warm and dry.

Short supply chain

Her supply chain is short and direct, keeping other costs to a minimum. She also believes her customers should know where the money goes and explains that most of her markup goes into wages. Suppliers like Martin Mackey can plan for and control routes to market, remaining outside the system of supermarket and big manufacturing just-in-time delivery that now accounts for the vast majority of UK production.

Local workers

Large-scale producers say they have to bring in migrants because local people do not want these jobs, especially where they are seasonal, and small wonder. The Mackeys’ business, on the other hand, is arranged so that there is year-round employment five days a week, and a hard stint outdoors in the morning might be balanced by a less arduous indoor job in packing and admin in the afternoon. The work is tough and physically demanding, as agricultural work has always been, but it is not allowed to be crippling. Finding good staff is not always easy but with good pay and conditions, the jobs have been filled by local recruits.

To summarise:

  •  Food is sourced sustainably.
  • Distribution is low carbon
  • Trade is fair, meaning that: farmers are paid a fair price, food is affordable (but not ‘cheap’) and workers are paid living wages

And farms are directly connected to the urban communities they feed: trading and distribution are organised around community-led retail systems which prioritise local and direct sourcing, enabling supply chains to be shortened and communities to source increasing amounts from closer to where they live.

 

 

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Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Lucas Plan on 26th Nov!

Veteran trade unionists and younger activists see Nobel prize-nominated plan as inspiration for the future

Leading figures from the left, trade union, environmental and peace movements are coming together at a conference on November 26th with a fresh perspective on tackling current crises, using the ideas of socially useful production pioneered in the Lucas Plan. The Plan, produced by workers at the Lucas Aerospace arms company, showed how jobs could be saved by converting to make socially useful products, rather than weapons. See www.lucasplan.org.uk,  for more information on the Lucas Plan.

lucasplanThe conference will focus on 5 key themes:

  • The Lucas Plan and socially useful production.
  • Arms conversion and peace.
  • Climate change and a socially just transition to sustainability.
  • The threat to skills and livelihoods from automation.
  • Local/community economic and industrial planning.

LWM will be running an informal workshop on the last of these. Linking all these issues is the need to rethink how we can produce what people and society actually need and overcome corporate domination through their control of technology.

Highlights of the conference will include:

  • Talks by Phil Asquith, Brian Salisbury and Mick Cooney (Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Combine).
  • Screening of a new film on the Lucas Plan by Steve Sprung.
  • Contributions from: Chris Baugh (PCS), Suzanne Jeffery (Million Climate Jobs Campaign), Hilary Wainwright (Red Pepper), Natalie Bennett, Molly Scott-Cato and Jonathan Essex (Green Party), Philip Pearson (Greener Jobs Alliance), Romayne Phoenix (People’s Assembly Against Austerity), Mary Pearson (Birmingham Trades Council), Tony Kearns (CWU), Mika Minio-Paluello (Platform), Philippa Hands (UNISON), Stuart Parkinson (Scientists for Global Responsibility), Dave Elliott (Open University), Liz Corbin (Institute of Making), Tony Simpson (Bertrand Russell Foundation), Dave King (Breaking the Frame), Simon Fairlie (The Land magazine), Karen Leach (Localise West Midlands), Marisol Sandoval (City University), Tom Unterrainer (Bertrand Russell Foundation), John Middleton (Medact), Gail Chester (Feminist Library), Julie Ward (Labour Party), David Cullen (Nuclear Information Service) and Richard Lee (Just Space).

The conference on the Lucas Plan 40th anniversary will be held at Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (138 Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 6DR) on November 26, 2016. See www.lucasplan.org.uk. The conference is being organised and sponsored by: former members of the Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Combine, Breaking the Frame, PCS, UCU, Million Climate Jobs Campaign, Green Party, Scientists for Global Responsibility, Campaign Against Arms Trade, CND, Left Unity, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Red Pepper, War on Want, Conference of Socialist Economists, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Newcastle TUC, Medact, and Momentum.

Tickets are £10/£5 concessions: To book for the conference, visit

www.lucasplan.org.uk/tickets. For more information, email info@breakingtheframe.org.uk

BACKGROUND INFO: The Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Combine’s Alternative Corporate Plan (‘The Lucas Plan’) was launched in 1976 and became famous worldwide, sparking an international movement for socially useful production and workers’ plans. Facing the threat of redundancies, the Combine collected 150 ideas from shop floor workers about alternative socially useful products that could be produced by the company, instead of relying on military orders. Many of the innovations in the plan, such as hybrid car engines, heat pumps and wind turbines were commercially viable and are now in widespread use. Although the Alternative Plan was rejected by Lucas Aerospace managers, it was instrumental in protecting jobs at Lucas in the 1970s. The Combine was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and Mike Cooley received the Right Livelihood Award in 1982. More information about the Plan, including the 53-page summary of the five 200 page volumes, can be found on the conference website, www.lucasplan.org.uk.

Update: International Alliance for Localisation

Early in December this blog reported that Local Futures has gathered a cross-cultural, North-South network of thinkers, activists and NGOs – the International Alliance for Localization (IAL). It already has members from over 30 countries and Localise West Midlands is one of the member organisations.

isec report coverIn the wake of the Paris climate talks, Local Futures has released a 16 page action paper entitled Climate Change or System Change? (left).

It argues that globalization – the deregulation of trade and finance through an ongoing series of “free trade” treaties – is the driving force behind climate change.

The climate problem can only be tackled effectively if governments stop subsidising globalisation, and begin pursuing a localisation agenda instead.

A recording of Local Futures’ first webinar, with community economist Michael Shuman and Helena Norberg is now uploaded on YouTube.

Climate Change or System Change? will be the focus of the second international webinar in January, as part of the Global to Local webinar series. More information will follow soon.

Contact via http://www.localfutures.org/contact-us/

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See in more detail: https://britain2020.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/localisation-a-systemic-solution-multiplier-simultaneously-lowering-co2-emissions-restoring-democracy-and-providing-secure-livelihoods-part-1/

Brief extracts from the 16 page action paper entitled Climate Change or System Change? – may be seen here: https://britain2020.wordpress.com/localisation-systemic-solution-multiplier-part-2/

 

A message from Delhi about growth blindness: a manufactured disease

An economic system created by and for moneyed interests:

devinder sharma 4Analyst Devinder Sharma writes about universities, educational institutes and business schools which are churning out graduates and postgraduates who are made to believe in the magic potion of growth. Newspapers are full of reports and quotes about growth. Finance ministers everywhere in the world swear by economic growth.

TV anchors, most of whom have not ventured out of their plush offices for years, are hung up on economic growth because that is what they have read in the university, and if they ever try to question the growth paradigm, the business house owning the channel will throw them out.

He concludes: basically, it’s all about protecting and saving your job. Whether you are a journalist, economist, academician, credit rating analyst or a politician, singing the growth chorus will help to save your job.

  • When we are told 80% of Americans live in ‘near poverty’ we just ignore it.
  • When we read that pollution levels in China and India are reaching dangerous levels, we take it as a small sacrifice that people must make for the sake of growth.
  • When the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tells us that the world is getting closer to a tripping point, we go back to textbooks which tells us that every disaster is a business opportunity – meaning more growth.

The EU’s 5th Project: transitional Governance in the Service of Sustainable Societies

Olivier de SchutterOver the years, a handful of thinkers, including some economists, have begun to question the sustainability of growth economics. Their number is growing with each passing week. While the objective of this piece is not to take you through the corridors of alternative to growth economics that is building up, look at the latest initiative by Olivier De Schutter, who till recently was the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. He called for a conference: The EU’s 5th Project: transitional Governance in the Service of Sustainable Societies, which has just been held in Brussels, May 8-9, 2014. Olivier says:

We need alternatives to GDP growth as the goal of public policy, and we need alternatives to work and wealth accumulation as the driving forces in our lives. A genuine transition in the way we live is the only true path to sustainability. But it must be accompanied by a transition in the way we govern. This is Europe’s fifth project.”

 Schutter header

Booking closed well before the event as demand exceeded the number of places. Among the speakers noted were Rob Hopkins of Transition Towns, and social epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson.

The EU’s 5th Project Conference posed a few key questions. These are the basic questions that every sensible person should be asking:

There are already distinguished people working on a radical overhaul of the food system, making it more local and sustainable. There are social entrepreneurs, academicians, thinkers, writers and activists who are talking of the Economics of Happiness. There are environmental movements across the globe that are fighting for bringing in some sanity in the economic growth paradigm. Their voice is growing.

Sharma ends: “Meanwhile, stand up and be counted. It’s time to remove growth blindness. At stake is your own survival, and the future of your children. You can’t leave a dead planet behind”. #

Extracts from a post by Devinder Sharma to Ground Reality

If the solution is not a Green New Deal then what is it?

 

Colin Hines, co-founder of Localise West Midlands, sends news of a report advancing a much-needed debate about how to move the UK out of the counterproductive politics of austerity and into the age of the Green New Deal.

GND anniversary cover 13He sees this as a matter of the utmost urgency and thinks that if it isn’t introduced rapidly, we are likely to enter another economic slump, adding:

“A Green New Deal could be implemented now if the political will existed. It calls initially for a £50 billion a year investment programme to boost economic activity, in a way which provides jobs on a living wage in every community in the UK, while reducing our ecological impact”.

The latest Green New Deal Group report published on September 10th proposes funding through the following measures:

  • tackling tax evasion and avoidance;
  • a programme of Green Quantitative Easing (QE), where the Bank of England ‘creates’ tens of billions of pounds to be used in a targeted fashion to fund a Green New Deal, generating jobs and economic activity that also transform the economy for the future. This is very different from any previous round of QE;
  • controls to ensure that banks that were bailed out by the taxpayer also invest in such a programme at low, sustainable rates of interest;
  • encouragement for pension funds and other institutional investors to invest in the Green New Deal;
  • buying out the private finance initiative (PFI) debt using Green QE and redirecting some of the otherwise huge repayments into funding green infrastructure.

This real Green New Deal would create employment, generating wages, salaries, profits and tax revenues – from both the public and private sectors. Tax revenues could then be used eventually to finance the economic deficit and pay down the national debt.

More than that, insulating every home and building in the UK, transforming our transport system for a low carbon future and ensuring maximum efficiency in the use and reuse of raw materials would create jobs across the country.

Investment in renewable energy could be targeted so that it would help to rebalance the economy away from London, while also providing reliable sources of clean energy and enabling the UK to show global leadership on climate change.

Larry Elliott of the Guardian ends his article by addressing the first reaction of many:

“In one sense, the timing could hardly have been worse for the new GND report. The economy is growing again. Memories are short. But ask the following questions. Do you think a recovery that currently requires households to get deeper into debt is for real? If it isn’t, how long before the age-old problems of the UK economy reassert themselves? Are we any closer to grappling with the triple crunch than we were five years ago? If the solution is not a GND then what is it?”

GND summary

An article on the subject by the economics editor of the Guardian may be read here.

 

Will the end of traditional growth paths lead to ‘cosmopolitan localism’ ?

lessnet headerSteve Schofield, whose work in Bradford was covered on this blog some time ago, focusses on the real security challenge of the 21st century caused by resource depletion and climate change.

The evolution of the international system was driven by the ambitions of the larger industrial states, defined by elite, corporate groups that control central government policy and requiring access to the energy supplies, raw materials and markets  considered vital to their interests.

There will be an extremely dangerous period in which some larger states implode through social and political breakdown, experienced as the end of traditional growth paths and compounded by the use of external military power which is unable to promote real security.

Viable alternatives when the globalised economy enters its terminal phase

The economic momentum that led to the creation of larger states is being reversed and the international system will experience fundamental restructuring on a scale not seen since the early days of the industrial revolution.

It is essential to start planning now for a successful transition from imperialism to local security.

Schofield predicts that smaller countries, or autonomous regions of larger countries  will be able to provide better prospects for economic and environmental security by focusing their investment on local energy, food and other essential production.

As the crisis deepens, the UK could be the first localising state by taking steps such as:

  • ending its military subordination to the United States, closing all US bases,
  • cancelling its armament programmes for long-range power projection,
  • make substantial savings from arms expenditures to help support investment meeting local security needs for energy, food, housing and transportation.

An international system of cosmopolitan localism could emerge from this fundamental economic restructuring, holding out the prospect of resolving the new security challenges from resource depletion and climate change, while  building a long-term peace.

Read the whole article here: http://www.lessnet.co.uk/security/security1.html

Steve Schofield is ’one of the foremost experts on demilitarisation and the conversion of military resources to civilian use’, now devoting more time to community development in Bradford.