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There aren’t many perks to being a Ranger – just doing the job is enough, of course. But yesterday this Virtual Ranger actually got a present from the Country Land & Business Association to help promote their latest campaign, Just Ask!
Yes, it’s a fetching new apron for the keen amateur chef. And what’s this he’s holding? A lovely potato salad made of vegetables that were grown by The Wildlife Gardener, and it’s to demonstrate what this campaign is about: helping to remake the connection between food and farming. The CLA website explains:
The Just Ask campaign is seeking to encourage the general public to ask where the food on their plate comes from whenever they are out for a meal ” whether in a hotel, restaurant, pub or canteen. The campaign aims to increase public awareness of the origin of food so that the consumer can make an informed choice as well as helping the public reconnect with food and farming. We are asking that when you eat out you simply ask where the beef in your steak, where the apples in your apple pie or the milk in your custard comes from. The objective is simple: to raise both the public’s and food chain operator’s awareness as to the origin of their food.
So, why is this important and why should we care? Knowing about where our food comes from is useful to us for several reasons – perhaps the most obvious one is the idea of food miles – a term which refers to the distance food travels from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer. In simple terms, more food miles means more fuel used and more contribution to global warming. But there’s also a subtler reason, which is probably why the CLA are running this particular campaign. Encouraging consumers to ask about food origins is only a small step from them asking their supplier for locally produced food. “Buying British” has been promoted for decades, but these days we should expect much more detail and information about the origin of food. Did it come from near me, or far away? And was it all produced there or was some imported from elsewhere? What sort of farming conditions produced it?
Encouraging producers and suppliers to create local and easy to follow markets and food chains is important not just because it benefits farm businesses – clearly an important issue from the CLA point of view – but for all of us, because it will benefit the wider countryside and landscape. That’s why The Ranger is interested in this too. Local supply chains support and promote more small enterprises, and a much wider and more changeable diversity of products. Local varieties of fruit and vegetables, seasonal specialities, and premium local products are things that we have sometimes given up in the search for quick, homogeneous, cheap, sanitized food. Along with this we also have lost some of the small farms and farmers that have created and maintained the countryside landscape we enjoy so much. Just Ask is a small but valuable step towards helping us to understand this connection between the landscape and the food we eat, and how we can all play our part in supporting it.