Feeling Hopeful

Leicstershire Food Summit, Stanford Hall Estate, 06/04/2022

The feelings of overwhelm that arise when we stop to think about the extent of the humanitarian crises we are all living in can often leave us feeling hopeless. Today, cycling down the driveway to Stanford Hall, a one thousand acre estate actively working towards improving their land management practices, I wasn't sure what to expect from the first ever Leicstershire Food Summit. Sometimes, I can come away from these type of events and feel deflated as so much of what is spoken on is often problematic, heart-wrenching and terrifying as we face the stark truths about how broken our food systems are.

Being greeted by friends on arrival is always a warming touch, and a strong reminder that I made some great friends here last year on the estates Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project.

The day began with Nick Fothergill, custodian of the estate, delivering a positive and hopeful explanation of the changes that have already taken place to improve the land at Stanford Hall, and a hopeful look into what the future holds for them to. This was a postive to start to the day.

After this introduction to the estate, another couple of incredible talks were delivered by Joe Stanley from the Allerton Project, and Emily O'Brien from Sustainable Food Places, Leicester. They both shone through as they offered hopeful perspectives and solutions to the pressing issues concerning our food and agriculture systems.

After the enlightening start to the day, we headed over to the CSA where Hayley, another landworker on the farm, and myself were to host a couple of small groups for a tour of the four year old developing project. This was very enjoyable as I love sharing in the amazing work that goes on there, and the hopes and possibilities contained within the seven acre field. After walking around and enlightening others to the landwork, I had reminded myself why I love the place so much, and why growing our own food using these methods is absolutely crucial in our world today!

After a beautiful lunch, I attended one of four workshops. I joined the workshop hosted by Go Learn focusing on community skills. It was great to connect with other beings with empathy and compassion engrained into their beings that is delivered in the amazing work they all do working on the front line of food poverty in Leicester!

The group workshops ended and we were all brought back together for some time of gravitating towards those in attendance that we feel would be great to connect with. I radically invited councillors to discuss issues around land access and to talk about what consequences, if any, would look like if green spaces were to be guerilla planted. This was received with laughter by the entire room, although I sensed a level of recognition as the room was full with individuals aware of just how bad food poverty is, and is only set to worsen.

A flying visit to the tiny home project, also on the estate, was incredible and inspiring. It was lovely to witness the extravagent ideas discussed the last year having been formulated and constructed in the most awe inspiring way. Is this what the future of small holdings will be? Farm arcs on wheels, who knows, but if these have anything to do with it, it will.

As the title suggests, I have not come away from the days discussions feeling hopeless and deflated. Quite the opposite in fact. It was encouraging to know how many people there are involved in Leicestershire County Council that are aware of the issues with our fragile food systems and taking action in a multitude of ways. Afterall, it will be standing in solidarity with one another that truly rectifies the mistakes of days gone by, and a new food system can be born, one that focuses on food sovereignty for all.