Due to its favourable climate, the South West is an important food producing region, with natural resources to support the production of fruits, vegetables, grains, as well as its most abundant crop: grass. Grassland forms an important part of Devon’s landscape for livestock agriculture, the food industry and leisure and tourism. Devon has over 70 percent of its land under commercial farm holdings, of which over 75 percent are grasslands.
In the first phase, separate working groups looked at the themes of Grasslands and Livestock Production; Environment and Biodiversity; Health and Thriving Communities and New Entrants to Farming. This work investigated local initiatives to support farmer mental health and a survey with local colleges to understand routes into farming. The individual working groups’ reports can be read here, whilst an over-arching report, Grass-roots: a sustainable future for food, farming and the countryside in Devon and the South West, authored by Catherine Broomfield, draws together findings from across the working groups and sets out a vision for Devon.
The inquiry is chaired by David Fursdon and coordinated by Henri Greig, with support from Catherine Broomfield. We collaborate with people across the region to achieve our goals: building working relationships with local partners and stakeholders who are already operating in fields of health, education, farming, fisheries, food production, processing, distribution, public sector procurement, biodiversity, ecosystems, and environment. We'll work closely with our centres of academic excellence, the University of Exeter and Rothamsted Research at North Wyke, and with partners to resource the transition to resilient, diverse and sustainable local food systems working in harmony with nature.
In the next phase of our inquiry, we are focussing on working with other projects in Devon around procurement and the climate emergency, as well as developing pilots to explore some of the recommendations in the Commission’s report, particularly the National Agroecological Development Bank and Land-use Framework. Our ambition is for the South West to be an exemplar of sustainable food and farming systems in action, by respectfully utilising our unique assets of climate, landscape, and regional gastronomy, to support the health, well-being and prosperity of current and future generations. And in so doing, positively contribute to our shared global mission to halt climate change and halt the degradation of habitats and precious natural environments. In developing our workplan for the next three years, we have identified four key themes: