Krishna Consciousness & Ecological Awareness

Churches pledge to buy local food to support farming community
January 12, 2008, 6:34 am
Filed under: Environmental Politics, Morality


By Rebecca Paveley, The Diocese of Oxford Reporter

Churches across the Diocese of Oxford have pledged to buy in local food and services in a bid to support struggling farmers and rural communities.

In a groundbreaking pledge the diocesan synod – the decision making body for the diocese – agreed unanimously to back a call for all churches to use local food at meetings and social gatherings wherever possible.

It is hoped that congregations will continue to keep the pledge when it comes to filling their own shopping baskets at home.

The Church of England nationally has launched a “Shrinking the Footprint” campaign which aims to try and tackle climate change in ‘faith, practice and mission’.

The pledge by churches in our area aims to support local rural communities and businesses, and to cut down on unnecessary food mileage, so  reducing carbon emissions.

The Revd Richard Hancock, area dean for the Vale of the White Horse in Oxfordshire, said: “What makes no sense is that food produced locally which does end up in local shops has first had to travel some 60-100 miles to a distribution centre before being driven back in another lorry so I can put it in my shopping basket.

“The hard reality is that our farmers are in crisis. 70% have no one to hand on their business to, and more importantly their knowledge to future generations.

“What will become of our nation is we are unable to feed ourselves?”

Livestock farmer Dickie Green, who is also a churchwarden at Ashbury St Mary on the Wiltshire border, said: “It is good that churches support the fairtrade movement but we have to think about what is happening in this country. It is a tough life for farmers today.”

The pledge commits churches to using local produce wherever possible alongside fairtrade goods, such as tea and coffee.

The Diocese backed a call for churches to use fairtrade products a few years ago, but Diocesan rural officer Glyn Evans said the two pledges would not clash.

This motion – brought by the Vale of the White Horse deanery – won unanimous support from synod members, who are appointed from churches across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

One a more local level, several deaneries have already passed local resolutions in support of the pledge, including Henley, Newbury, Deddington and Chipping Norton and Claydon.

Oxfordshire is the most rural county in the South East and though the Diocese as a whole is classed as wealthy, there are real pockets of deprivation, many in rural areas, said the Revd Glyn Evans.

Some 25%  of rural dwellers have no access to a car and there has been a rise in depression, drug abuse and alcohol related incidents among youngsters in rural areas.

Farmers are also three times more likely to commit suicide than any other profession, he said.

The Diocese of Oxford has a team of rural officers, clergy and lay people, who work to support those struggling to maintain a living in the countryside and synod heard from several of them about the work they do. 

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