Climate meeting given something to chew over…

Dozens of people came to the recent Climate Change meeting in Newport to hear speakers talk on the subject of ‘Local Food – Miles Better.’

Ruth Illman from Godshill Organics spoke of the challenges of predicting the correct amount to grow and getting the market price right. She pointed out that people were a little more prepared for local organic food but not always enough to merit the risk of expanding the amount of crops grown and then them not being sold. She highlighted the fact that locally and UK grown organic fruit and vegetables had very low carbon inputs, as no artificial oil-based chemicals are applied to the crops.
She also stressed that buying local produce is a boost to the local economy and jobs.

Paul Heathcote from Afton Park and Chinashop Rare breeds spoke of his commitment to producing traditional tasty varieties of apples along with locally produced beef from rare breeds of cattle. He spoke of the need to find more local producers to help meet demand and to provide a greater variety. However, he pointed out that a high proportion of his customers were tourists rather than local people. The shop at Afton Park is now stocking a wide range of local produce including heritage varieties of potatoes.

Andrew Willard of God’s Providence House restaurant in Newport spoke of his personal mission to support other Isle of Wight businesses. His company buys locally whenever he can, and not only food. On his menu is Isle of Wight meat from Hamiltons and local honey, along with in-season vegetables. When he can’t buy local he purchases from Island rather than mainland wholesalers and shops. He is a keen supporter of the Farmers’ and Producers markets, and can be seen every Friday in the Market in Newport stocking up with local fayre.

The meeting was delighted to welcome green entrepreneurs Jackie Phillips and Rachel Foy from the The Real Island Food Company who are extending availability of local produce by offering a weekly delivery service of a broad selection of local foods at very competitive prices. They have a wide-ranging customer base, including busy mums with families, people with disabilities and elderly people without transport.

The final speaker was local diary farmer Mrs Judi Griffin, representing the County Land and Business Association. She highlighted the CLA’s and NFU’s support for local food and urged people to support the “Just Ask” campaign, where shoppers are encouraged to ask if produce is local.

The IW Action on Climate Change group held the open evening to look at local and regional food and its impact on the local environment. Some ninety five per cent of fruit is imported into the UK along with around fifty per cent of vegetables*. On the positive side there is a growing demand for local food with farmers’ and producers’ markets springing up all over the country.

The cost of food miles to the UK, including time lost from congestion, road wear and tear, ill health from pollution and noise, and road crashes, is £9 billion a year. The average distance we drive to shop for food each year in the UK is 898 miles, compared with 747 in 1992.*

Speaking for the Footprint Trust, who sponsored the meeting , Ray Harrington-Vail said,

“This educational initiative is seeking to inform the public and businesses about the challenges of climate change. It aims to give a positive message as to what can be done in our daily actions to reduce our impact on the planet. We support the NFU campaign for local food.”

“We were delighted at the recent commitment from the IW Council announcing that it is committing itself to cutting carbon by 4% per annum and that it is working with Carbon Trust to achieve this saving. We hope to be working with the new leader of the Council, Cllr David Pugh, in looking for ways to help the public and businesses also achieve similar reductions.”

On Saturday 2nd February the IW Action on Climate Change will be hosting another public event focusing on the subject of Peak Oil.
For more information about the group please visit


* Source: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2005