For many of us in the UK, August is a good time to pause, have a break and catch up. It’s also a great time for reflection, long-term planning and ‘imagining’. Imagining what the future might look like is time well spent – not least because it helps us to get inspired and to channel our energy to greater causes.
It’s a fool’s game to make predictions, but ‘imagining’ can be healthy for the soul – and for the long-term health of an organisation. I was interviewed this morning by an organisation doing horizon scanning looking out 20 years into the future (something all organisations should do!). It got me thinking about what I might imagine being feasible in our food and farming systems 20 years in the future.
Of course, it’s important to consider the short and medium term, including exploring how we can positively influence post-Brexit outcomes for food and farming. We did just that in a recent roundtable for progressive businesses we held jointly with Forum for the Future, Soil Association and Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. But it’s important to think beyond the current ‘Brexit fog’ too – and to paint scenarios of what the future might hold. We’ve done that in the past, not least with our ‘Future scenarios for the UK food system’ written in 2009 (!) – which we might revisit at some point.
So here are my thoughts, scribbled down ‘whilst sitting on a train’, rather than anything cohesive or necessarily coherent - written from a UK perspective, but don’t let that constrain you. Nevertheless, I thought I’d share them, in the hope they will inspire or provoke.
Play the game. By 2037, I can imagine…
I can imagine plant-centred eating being the norm – with people still eating meat, but with ‘less and better’ meat eating being the ‘norm’ (and ‘meat and two veg’ being regarded as ‘old-fashioned’).
I can imagine farmers being paid to (re-)connect people with food and farming, to be part of formal schooling programmes and more.
I can imagine farms of the future become community hubs that engage citizens in daily life, that house community renewable energy schemes and much more.
I can imagine a renaissance in UK horticulture – driven forward by important initiatives such as Peas Please.
I can imagine Food Citizenship being mainstreamed, with the language of ‘Consumers’ feeling like an archaic, limiting term (will we become ‘people formerly known as Consumers’?).
I can imagine radical transparency across food systems – meaning that farmers and food companies that want to prosper will need to be able to tell authentic stories and to differentiate themselves on provenance and quality (including high environmental, social and animal welfare standards).
I can imagine radical sharing of best practice amongst food producers (think Innovative Farmers Network in overdrive) having more impact than any of the high-tech options currently being mooted
I can imagine many of the 3 ‘D’ (dirty, dull and dangerous) jobs in food and farming having been eliminated, with future food and farming systems requiring different skillsets (not least data management, fostering community engagement, marketing and more).
I can imagine a future measure of corporate success being how many decent livelihoods businesses help sustain, rather than how many people they’ve managed to make redundant, in the name of ‘efficiency’.
I can imagine restorative farming – farming that gives back more than it takes out (and that works with nature, rather than against it).
This isn’t a vision or a manifesto! It’s just some musings on a rainy August day. So, what do you imagine food and farming might be like in 2037? Join in the discussion and #ImagineOurFoodFutures.