I have a simple philosophy, shared with our new prime minister David Cameron – we choose how we want to shape our lives, our destinies and the world around us; and the challenges we accept and the choices we make are our responsibility and can bring about big changes.
The Women’s Food & Farming Union recently launched a London branch and I was invited to become their spokeswoman – an invitation I gladly accepted. And to start the ball rolling I came up with a challenge to help bridge the rural-urban divide (something the WFU has held as one of its most important philosophies for more than 30 years) that would encourage the shopping public to re-connect with local producers of good honest food: For one month this summer I would like to invite everyone in this great nation of ours to ban themselves from buying their fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy, grains, juices and even dried goods from the massive, over-commercialised chains.
Instead, look local. Think ahead with your shopping and visit your neighbourhood farmer’s market, the farm shop and privately owned grocery store. Find a co-op that supports local producers, but use only fresh, seasonal items for that one-month period.
In essence, my “Ban the Supermarket” challenge is about stripping away the convenience, ease (and if one is honest, the laziness) of food shopping, forcing us to really consider the broader farming issues behind the products in our basket.
It also offers the chance to make shopping much more of a family and community experience. To learn once more how to interact with your neighbourhood and to discover little jewels of local knowledge that many of us overlook. Lifetime friendships have been formed just by shopping locally.
And finally, pay attention to your carbon footprint. When I was a child the arrival of sprouts was an event. I find it unfathomable that we support the importation of out-of-season vegetables.
I can almost hear the cries of: “I don’t have time to run around different places for my weekly shopping”. Well make time. Do research online, then take your family with you and enjoy the experience – rather than viewing it as a necessary evil.
Such a lifestyle change may pose a difficulty for the percentage of the population that thinks, as the HGCA survey found that, “bacon comes from sheep”. But come on shoppers… we British have always been noted for our ability to stand our ground against all winds and weather to face any challenge.
This summer, ban yourself from the supermarket for one month – upset the supermarket apple carts and your own as well. If you’re lucky, you could change your shopping habits for good.
• Will shoppers desert the supermarkets for a month? Or is convenience still king? Tell us what you think on our forums.