Following on from our award-winning 2019 series about the UK grains, CEREAL, comes our second in-depth production, Who Feeds Us?
The COVID crisis exposed a food system failing to serve its most basic purpose: to nourish all citizens of our society. As supermarket shelves were left empty and the hospitality industry shut down overnight, many people turned to farms and local CSA schemes to buy food. Many small scale food producers stepped up to feed their communities in new ways.
Who Feeds Us? is a chorus from the people who have fed us throughout the pandemic: people from all over the UK, of many different ages and beliefs, from different backgrounds, regions and classes; farmers, growers, community leaders, healers, chefs, beekeepers, and fishers.
We share the experiences of these people and explore what it really means to take on the responsibility of feeding and nourishing our communities. Join us, as we consider how the pandemic has made clear that food doesn’t come from shelves – and never did. Instead, food comes from the sea, the soil, and the hands of people.
Throughout the course of the series, we learn that farms feed us in many ways, and that food is just the beginning. It turns out ‘feeding us’ is not just about getting any old food on the table and calories in our bodies, it’s about nourishment, community, healing and a sense of self-worth. It’s about respect for the animals, the plants, and the people putting food on our plates. What people really want from their food system is dignity and justice.
As the COVID-19 lockdown hit the UK in early 2020, our nation suddenly looked very different. Supermarket shelves were empty and, for the first time in most people’s lives, we started to question how we were going to feed ourselves, and our families. Almost overnight, localised food systems went from being niche fantasies to a vital source of sustenance for many people around the country. But who – and what – made up those localised food systems? Where did this sudden burst of community provision come from?
There is a growing consciousness developing around food, based on ideas of reverence, and gratitude. How have the people who care for the animals that feed us – both in life and in death – changed during this time of crisis? How has the way they understand the future of food been altered by the pandemic, and their own responses to it? How do they see their own place in that future?
As lockdown came into effect, and supermarkets struggled to restock their fruit and vegetable aisles, the idea of “growing your own” took on a new significance. Many of us discovered, perhaps for the first time, the joy of eating freshly picked, homegrown fruit and veg. But, to grow your own food, the first thing you need are seeds…
At the start of lockdown, as supermarket shelves were cleared of flour, people who might not otherwise have thought to seek out a local bakery – let alone a local mill – started to do just that. This sudden upsurge in demand presented a huge challenge for these small-scale bakers and millers – but it was a challenge they met with enthusiasm and ingenuity, as well as a deep sense of responsibility to their communities. These bakers and millers, many of whom have spent the last few years investigating the connections between the bread, the mills, the farms that produce the grain, and, crucially, the soil in which that grain grows, are engaged in building a better system – one that looks very different to the one that produces most of the bread we eat in the UK today.
How has the pandemic highlighted connections between the local and the global, the present and the past…and between food, health, community and identity – in the West Midlands? What can we learn from this time about the experiences, the resources and the needs of individuals and communities in the UK – and, in particular, communities of African descent? How can having access to land, to green space and growing space, “feed” us in multiple ways – physical, emotional and spiritual?
#6: Looking Back and Moving Forward
In this final episode, we revisit some of the people we’ve heard from throughout the series. We tease out some common threads that bind these apparently disparate voices together – threads such as reverence, gratitude, sovereignty, dignity and abundance. We hear more about what these people have learnt over the course of this year, their visions for resilient, localised food economies… and how they see the future of who feeds us.
Who Feeds Us? Articles
To go alongside each episode of Who Feeds Us?, we wrote several articles to be shared within and beyond the farming community, further increasing the reach and impact of the series. These have been published on our blog and on various other platforms.
- “From the Bees’ Point of View”: Finding Sweetness in the Midst of Lockdown
- The Food Pharmacy
- You Can’t Furlough a Cow
- Fishing for a Connection
- “Lucky to be in food”: The butchers going the extra mile in the Wirral
- “Without soil we have nothing”: Community resilience at No Diggity Gardens
- “A Community that Values People, Producers, Health and Wellbeing”: Setting Up a Greengrocer in the Middle of a Pandemic
- Cinnamon Buns, Curiosity and Conversations
- Flour Power: The Miller’s Tale
- “Food Injustice is Embedded”: Birmingham ‘Brums Together’ for Community Covid Support
- “They’re not just going to go and live on a farm in Devon”: Inner-City Youth Engaging with Nature at May Project Gardens
- A Space to Grow
- The Secret Garden
- “If you find yourself on the last day with a seed in your hand, you should sow it”: The Quiet Resilience of Willowbrook Farm
- Seeding Wisdom in East London
Launch Event: The Pandemic and the Call to Restore Dignity in our Food
In our one hour launch event, hosted live on Zoom, some of the voices from the series shared their experiences in feeding us and building a better food system for us all. Together with co-producers from Who Feeds Us? and highly acclaimed film, Kiss The Ground, we explored what it means to restore dignity to our food.
Who Feeds Us? has been well-received by the media, featuring across a media outlets from mainstream to alternative, local to national, including the Financial Times, Total TV Guide, the Guardian, the Independent, Forbes and Armagh I.
- “Who Feeds Us? It’s an important question more of us want answers to and @farmerama__ ‘s brilliantly timed and mindfully produced series, is really worth a listen to hear some answers. We’re listeners…” LEON Restaurants
- “I was so inspired by Muhsen’s words about slaughtering animals and the way he approaches it. As a livestock farmer, it really resonated with how we aspire to raise and harvest our animals” Farmer, Laughing Earth Farm, New York
- “This is absolutely *MUST HEAR* radio – another excellent series” Jennifer Moore, Beekeeper
- “As always, comprehensive and in-depth conversations, with charm” Small World Bakery, Australia
- “Editor’s Pick: Like everything @farmerama__ does, the new ‘Who Feeds Us?’ #podcast is ace & important. In this ep, @Vegan_Vybes @andrereid_ @portablelanduk explore how the #pandemic highlights connections between #local & global, #community & identity.” Atlas of the Future
- “@farmerama__ have knocked it out of the park yet again with this series. Can’t recommend listening highly enough.” Will Evans, farmer, NFU member and host of Rock and Roll Farming Podcast
- “Another amazing podcast series from @farmerama__ Who Feeds Us – creatively woven voices from food producers, growers, artisans, fishers and more, thought provoking and inspiring! Check it out if you eat food!” Sabine Hellman, Participatory film and digital storytelling facilitator and filmmaker
Who Feeds Us? was made possible by a team of 23 people across the British Isles, without whom this series would not have been possible.
Thank you to lead producers Suzie McCarthy, Philip Smith, Alice Armstrong, Dave Pickering, DeMarkay Williams and Lovejit Dhaliwal; executive producers Abby Rose, Jo Barratt and Katie Revell; community collaborators Dhelia Snoussi, Andre Reid, Zain Dada, Catherine St Germans, Col Gordon and Fern Towers; Visual Lead Hannah Grace; and project manager Olivia Oldham. The Who Feeds Us? articles were written by Olivia Oldham and Dora Taylor. Music for the show was written and created by Michael O’Neill.
The show featured the voices of Jane Scotter (farmer, Fern Verrow), Skye Gyngell (head chef, Spring London), Angus Buchanan-Smith (farmer, the Free Company Scotland), Salma & Khalil Attan (beekeepers, Bushwood Bees), Ursula Myrie (co-founder, Adira, and creator of the Food Pharmacy), Dean Wright (dairy farmer and cheese-maker at Ballylisk), Muhsen Hassanin (smallholder and halal slaughterman at Abrahams), John Martin Tulloch (fishmonger, Island Fish, Shetland), Neville Portas (landworker, founder of No Diggity Gardens), Dee Woods (food actionist, and co-founder of Granville Community Kitchen), Helene Schulze (seed saver), Abigail Holsborough (head miller, Brixton Windmill), Rosy Benson (founder & baker, Bread and Roses), Rosie Gray (founder & baker, Reviving Foods), Lynda Macfarlane (founder, Vegan Vybes), Andre Reid (designer and co-founder of Kiondo), and Dr Lisa Palmer (sociologist & archival researcher).
Who Feeds Us? is possible thanks to the Farming the Future COVID Response Fund. We’re very grateful to The A Team Foundation, the Roddick Foundation, Thirty Percy and the Samworth Foundation for providing the funds to make this project happen. Many thanks also to Farming the Future Advisor Dee Woods for her guidance in bringing the team together.