ByJay Bigford
2 min read

Can Bristol feed itself?

As we move towards a world of high food prices linked to rising oil demand and prices, food security and self sufficiency is a hot topic.

The benefits of local

There doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by where you don’t hear on the news that food prices have gone up again. Is this a short fad, a minor blip? Probably not, since food along with other consumable items, edible or not, is linked with oil prices. The problem of food miles is slowly creeping into our consciousness as we try and cut our reliance on food transport due to climate change concerns. This is an easy fix as we could grow a lot of our food locally, okay, maybe not bananas, but many of our basic food stuffs could be sourced locally. The desire to be self sufficient and provide our own food carries with it many benefits. For example a person growing their own will appreciate their food more and is less likely to waste it. Their food will probably have less pesticides on it. They will also get health benefits from tending to their crops and as many veg plotters will tell you fresh produce from the garden tastes so much better.

hand planting seedling in ground

Self sufficiency – dream or reality?

So can Bristol feed itself? A study by NHS Bristol and Bristol city council, suggests that this may be a possibility if the surrounding rural area directly around Bristol is utilised. They say that the city alone could provide 16% of their vegetable needs but that the surrounding area in the south west has approx 800,000 hectares of useable land and Bristol would only need 200,000 of this. Further support of the idea that Bristol could feed itself is a much wider report by Simon Fairlie called “Can Britain Feed Itself?“. This report concludes that Britain can feed itself if a transformation occurs in agricultural practices, land use and food supply systems.

The road to self sufficiency

The problem is that many of us would like to start growing our own but just don’t have the land to do it. This is where technologies like the internet come in. The internet and its ability to link people together with common interests has proved useful for people who want to share land and those of us who would like to grow their own but have no land. Landshare is a pioneering website that connects growers and land owners so that otherwise unused land can be used productively to grow crops. It is a win win situation. Landowners see their land used (and most likely get a free turnip out of it now and again) and the growers get to grow. Other similar schemes have seen local people club together as a co-operative to buy otherwise expensive land and to grow as a community.

As oil prices continue to rise, and long term that’s the only way they can go, we shall see more and more people growing locally and hopefully see a renaissance in small scale British farming.


seed tray with gaps where the seeds are missing