'What is the impact of how we consume food in Scotland?' 8th ART annual weekend


Ardtornish, Argyllshire, Scotland

Food consumption: the issues are central to the concerns for all of us - for nutritional security, environmental implications, health and society, in the world, and in the microcosm which is Scotland.

This annual weekend was planned and curated by two Andrew Raven Trust trustees: Maggie Gill and Sally Thomas. The weekend followed the broad template of previous ART annual weekends, adjusted as suitable for the theme and the ideas of the curators.

On the Friday evening, we had an intrroduction to the weekend  theme from Maggie Gill, an introduction to reflective Graces (relevant to our eating and sharing of food) by fellow trustee Priscilla Gordon-Duff, and an introduction to the ART weekend as an event, by Amanda Raven, Chair of the ART trustees. To these were added an introduction to the Ardtornish Estate and its contribution to the food of the local area, Scotland and beyond, by Angus Robertson, trustee and factor of the estate; and an introduction to the history and archaeology of Morvern by Jennie Robertson. These introductions were followed by small group discussions and then a presentation exploring the relationship between food and culture, by Chris Fynsk, from the Unversity of Aberdeen.

On the Saturday, Sally Thomas introduced the day's activities, leading into presentations by Maggie Gill on Diet and health: can policy influence what we eat?, Cesar Revoredo of SRUC, on Supply systems from supermarkets to allotments and the impact of large business on food supply systems in Scotland; Judy Wilkinson on the Glasgow Allotments Forum and the benefits of local people growing and consuming food locally; and then questions and a panel discussion.

Following a break, we focused on farming systems and the environment, chaired by Maggie. Presentations followed by Christine Watson of SRUC, on Food production systems in Scotland and some broad environmental considerations, and then on The impact of production systems on bioversity by Davy McCracken, also of SRUC, and further questions and panel discussion.

In the afternoon on Saturday, after an introduction to a group activity to be undertaken during the weekend, we divided into groups to undertake one or other of three visits: an archaeological visit, led by Jennie Robertson; a visit to the farming enterprises of Ardtornish Estate, led by Angus Robertson; or a foraging herbal and cooking walk, led by Clare Holohan and Clem Sandison.

We reconvened as a whole group, after tea, for presentations by Rachel Walker, of Deveron Arts, about promoting food in Huntly, Aberdeenshire ('The town is the menu') and by Clem Sandison of the Open Jar Collective, about various food-related artistic and community development initiatives in which the Collective has been engaged.

The Sunday included presentations by Christina Noble of  the organisation Here We Are, about her family business, Loch Fyne Oysters and its history from intial concept, through family ownership, to being franchised and bought out; and by David and Wilma Findlay, of Cream o'Galloway, on the philosophy and vision, and the practical struggles and economic, social and environmental aspects of running an organic herd of dairy cattle in Scotland. These were followed by the four groups meeting to prepare their presentations from an activity initiated the previous day, based, for each of the four groups, on preparing and performing a role play to argue successfully the case for, and to sell, an environmentally beneficial foodstuff which would likely lie outside what would be intuitively palatable to consumers.

At the start and at the end of the weekend, participants were asked to consider the relative importance, in their personal view, of four dimensions of the impact of food consumption in Scotland: its impact on culture, on the environment, on health and on production systems. Notes were taken on points arising under these four dimensions, for sharing at the closing plenary session of the weekend.

The weekend sessions closed with the groups' presentations of their 'selling' tasks, followed by everyone reviewing and, if they wished, commenting on the notes on flipchart sheets of the four dimensions and ideas which had come out over the weekend, and how these fitted into the four aspects identified.

With new friends' words in our ears and newly stimulated ideas knocking around in our heads, we went our various ways after lunch on the Sunday.