Greater Manchester's sustainable food conference, FeedingManchester, reached a landmark tenth meeting on Thursday 5th July, gathering individuals and organisations together once again with shared interests in creating a more equal and secure food chain for the county.
The conference was officially the summer gathering, which meant that beer and BBQ would follow , rewarding everyone for their input during the afternoon. The atmosphere was typical of the season, with optimistic conversation flowing between attendees, finding common ground regardless of diverse backgrounds as growers, local authority representatives and individuals leading inspirational community projects – to mention just a few.
The session opened with FeedingManchester Coordinators Beth and Rob introducing the new 'Wanted and Offered Board' which allowed people to post problems that they thought other attendees might be able to help with and opportunities they wanted to provide for other people in the room. The number of messages on the wall grew quickly, with numerous posts crudely but effectively drafted on stickers providing immediate links between people who thought they could work together. The remaining, unclaimed posts will be posted to the FeedingManchester website forum in the hope that they will all find a home soon.
Festivals and events were next on the agenda, and members were told all about the opportunities presented by the Manchester Food and Drink Festival, Tameside Food, Drink, Health and Wellbeing Festival, Feeding the 5K and Envirolution. To collaborate, ensuring a meaningful presence at such events to promote sustainable food was the overarching aim, and members were encouraged to play as full a part as they thought they could manage.
Kirstin Glendinning from The Big Dig introduced the opportunities available to community gardens, allotments and other neighbourhood growers as the national initiative gets underway. Designed to get more volunteers familiar with the soil, The Big Dig will provide support to both growing projects and people interested in lending a hand, putting them in touch with each other and increasing the number of people involved in growing, harvesting and cooking crops.
The attendance of Jade Bashford and Rebecca Marshall from the Community Land Advisory Service provided a practical focus for the main session, delivering separate presentations on how people can negotiate leases and licences, plus practical advice on gaining planning permission for fledgling growing enterprises. A series of exercises got people thinking from the perspectives of both landlords and tenants, with participants having the opportunity of asking the experts questions that related to their own problems and ambitions. The knowledge seemed immediately useful to many people in the two presentations.
In summing up the afternoon's key discussion points, there was one final opportunity to check the 'Wanted and Offered' board and pick out a few choice opportunities before everyone decamped to Hulme Community Garden Centre for an evening of vegetarian sausages, real ales and locally grown salads.
The next FeedingManchester is due to take place on Saturday 10th November 2012.