By Farm Member Michelle Worn
I said I would look into food miles for the Spring edition of Bennison’s newsletter, specifically the
journey of a green bean, but alas all is not as it may first appear.
Having read various articles I can conclude the picture is hazy and that food miles cannot be interpreted without the consideration of other vital factors such as farm practices (non-organic vs organic), employment, processing, packaging, storage and transport! Looking at food miles in isolation gives a false impression.
For instance, unsurprisingly, reports show that it is less environmentally friendly to grow out of season tomatoes in Britain under glass than it is to import tomatoes from Spain. The energy needed to heat glasshouses in Britain during the colder months to ripen tomatoes uses significantly more energy than transporting them from Spain where the warmer climate does the job.
So, eating seasonally is directly tied into food miles too. Interestingly, British apples harvested in September and October are then cold stored which, for a while, still outweighs carbon emissions from flown in apples, but by August, the lines cross. The amount of energy required to keep them fresh will then overtake the carbon cost of shipping apples in from New Zealand. Therefore, in July and August it is argued that is better to buy apples from New Zealand.
It is, like most things, a balancing act and very much personal choice and circumstance driven but regardless, it is no doubt beneficial to take stock.
As a family of 3, writing this article has again made me consider how we do things versus how I want
to do things. My grandad had an allotment in his back garden – I still have his book of plot notes –
and the idea of growing what you need, in sync with your local seasonality and hence reducing all
unnecessary outputs sits the most comfortably. However, I do appreciate that space, health, time
and ‘the rest of life’ makes this harder to become a reality.
This is where supporting local, organic veg schemes such as Bennison Farm really helps address these issues. The farm supports the lives of local people and the vegetables are grown and sown organically, processed by hand, stored in an old truck body, packaged (only where necessary and then mainly in recyclable materials), and finally driven no more than 8 miles from the farm for collection. Wondering about the mileage of that green bean? Most coming from Kenya, it’s 4237 miles!
Articles I used and / or found interesting: