Food and Farming
A cost-of-living crisis, a fractured global supply chain and war in Europe have all had a significant impact on how we live our lives. No longer will we be able to bank on low interest and inflation rates throughout our lives. But these challenges can be addressed through national and local solutions.
Last week I attended Groundswell, an agricultural conference run by my partner’s family, to learn more about how farmers can operate in a more regenerative manner. As well as serving as a forum for discussion, it also explores methods of improving our supply chains, enhancing food security and developing a healthier relationship between food production and consumption.
As the cost of living rises, we need to double down and listen to those agricultural and fishing forums and employ their best practices to help keep food prices down. Cutting out the faceless middlemen in supply chains and ensuring that supermarkets “look local” first will help improve “at-gate farm” and “at-port” prices as well as support the local economy. If we buy local, we not only meet our food security targets and build resilience into our system, but we also produce better quality food and safeguard the environment.
Levelling Up is as much about investment and skills as it is about supporting existing businesses and sectors. Within our coastal and rural communities, this can start with our food-producing sectors, because if we get this right then new jobs will come, the investment will follow and then wages and productivity will rise.
It is a great conundrum for those running our transport system - how do you run a bus route with low prices when passengers are not as prevalent? In city centres, this is not a problem as you can introduce congestion charges and ultra-low environment zones, but in rural areas, such approaches fall flat and rightly so.
South Devon’s train lines have long since been removed and while there are ongoing plans to reopen stations of old, the focus must be on improving bus routes. To do so, we need to introduce smaller buses for our town centres and better buses for our town-to-town routes. We need the investment to help purchase those vehicles and to help keep the prices low.
If we start with green vehicles operating at low prices across towns and villages in South Devon as well as linking up to regional hospitals, we will help draw people back to public transport. While the RAC seems confident in suggesting that petrol and diesel prices will come down, we should not waste this moment to help provide an improved model of public transport.
For some, this might sound like an impossible challenge. But already, great local bus companies like Tally Ho are adapting their operating models to work with train operators, providing a joined-up service across South Devon. I urge all readers to look up their 164 bus route. We need more cooperation, more innovation and more engagement from every bus operator, train manager and public official.
Such thinking should not be beyond us and it would come with the backing of every business across the region. We need to find local solutions and serve them as examples for others. It is, for this reason, I will be doubling down my work with local bus operators to find new solutions to help address residents' demands.