Thoughts about the future
Helen Browning - 23 August 2011
I have been in the hot seat at the Soil Association for a few months now, and my main task has been reviewing the work that we are doing, and establishing clear direction and priorities for the future. Our staff, Council, and the Farmer and Grower Board have all been very involved in helping with this, and I now feel that we can start to talk about this more widely. So while it will be a few weeks before we publish our refreshed strategy, I would like to share some of our thinking with you now, and would be very pleased to hear any comments or thoughts that you have.
There are four main things that I want to achieve through the strategy.
- First, to ensure that organic, great quality food is accessible to everyone, not just a privileged few. We want to build on the success of our Food for Life work in schools to find ways of getting a much wider audience engaged with a journey towards a healthier, sustainable diet, with organic as the destination, if not always as the starting point.
- Second, to present organic husbandry as an 'emerging technology' rather than as just harking back to days gone by, so that while we highly value traditional knowledge, we also embrace appropriate new science.
- Third, to build a constructive relationship with policy makers, and to show just how much the organic movement has to offer, whether we are 4% or 40% of food and farming, so that investment and support will continue to yield dividends for the whole of agriculture and land use policy.
- Finally, underpinning all of this, is the Soil Association's commitment to support the practitioners who actually make it all happen, pioneering change on the ground; our new strategy will reaffirm this commitment, and point the way to an ongoing strong relationship in which we can learn from each other, and ensure that our advocacy for the sector is based on an excellent understanding of practical realities.
The paper that we will publish in a few weeks time will be an outline only, to present our planned work themes for the next few years. We hope that this will help people understand our work better, and to set the framework for the much more detailed internal plans that we are now fleshing out. In today's climate, we need to make every penny count, and to be focused on the issues that are likely to yield most benefits. We will need to prioritise, and make sure that we have the right people and skills.
As I say there will be more detail to follow in the coming weeks, but in the meantime if anyone reading has any feedback I'd be grateful to hear your views.
Helen Browning is the Soil Association's Chief Executive, and also is an organic farmer - she runs a 1,350 acre organic livestock and arable farm in Wiltshire. Her sausages and bacon can be found in the supermarkets, and her versatile team also run the village pub! Previously Director of External Affairs at the National Trust, Helen is also chair of the Food Ethics Council and was awarded an OBE in 1998 for services to organic farming.
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