Improving access to land for food production in Oxfordshire, GB
Mark Stein, author of the very active twitter feed @MarkSteinLancs, made us aware of a recently published research report on the ‘huge potential to convert land to horticulture’ in the County of Oxfordshire. The research by local network Good Food Oxford focuses on ‘how land might be made more accessible to promote a diverse, resilient, local food system’. We consider this report as a milestone example for efforts to balance the complex requirements of multiple stakeholders when establishing productive (peri-)urban landscapes.
The report concentrates on the County Farm Estate, other land in the County and District Councils’ portfolios and privately-owned land so as to discuss alternative ways that land can be made accessible to provide opportunities to grow food for local communities.
Key findings of the report include:
- Oxfordshire’s County Farm Estate is comparatively small but has huge potential to be diversified by reallocating arable land to grow fruit and vegetables: repurposing only 8 per cent of the estate to polytunnel or glasshouse horticulture would provide 10 per cent of fruit and vegetables for the county – a significant contribution to the resilience of local supply.
- There are many ways of managing a County Farm Estate to provide a range of benefits, from a return on investment of 5 per cent, to attracting innovative, entrepreneurial farmers to contributing to multiple Council objectives from climate change to education and public health.
- County Farms provide opportunities to new entrants that are not available on the private market.
- There are holdings within the County and District Councils’ land portfolios with the potential to be repurposed for food production.
- There are alternative models to County Farms that could improve access to land for local food production, such as Community Land Trusts and FarmStarts.
- Just one Oxford college owns enough land in Oxfordshire to produce over 50 per cent of Oxford’s vegetable consumption, or over 10 per cent of the entire County’s.
- The Church Commissioners own enough land in Oxfordshire to produce more than twice Oxfordshire’s annual vegetable consumption.
- Just half a 5-a-side-football pitch per school in Oxfordshire could grow a portion of vegetables for every pupil each week.
The full report Improving access to land for food production in Oxfordshire: What are the possibilities and where do we go from here?, October 2020, by Bella Driessen for Good Food Oxford is available here.
For more information on Good Food Oxford see here.
Image: Sandy Lane Farm in Oxfordshire is one of the farms considered in the report. (source: Nina Osswald Veg Cities www 2021)