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Countryside Matters

20:20 Vision for Rural Britain


Migrant workers

Faith and food sharing

'20:20 Vision is the technical description of perfect vision

2020 is in the future but we need to look at least that for ahead.

in the light of the good news of the gospel, the conference will seek to help those with particular rural roles and responsibilities to enable the churches to understand, influence and critique trends and policies affecting rural Britain, and to engage more effectively with rural communities.' (From the preamble to the conference)

This conference looked at the issues of:-

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Where in the World are we Going?

Living in a 'global village' with environmental, economic and now electronic links, where the movement of money in excess results in the poorest getting hurt.

Topics covered included global vision, mission and discipleship, farmer loss, the WTO, Food Security, Land care, staple diets and sustainability. The real costs; phasing out of subsidies, fair prices, fuel taxes etc. The need to know what we believe 'Agritheology', and action eg FARMS groups, WTO.

Other points raised:

What are the rural opportunities?

Do we really know what we are eating?

Water (GATS). Bottled water travels 000s of miles.

Gas -(Ours comes from Russia)

Natural resources - dangerous when they are bought and sold.

Wheat prices are up - reality is that there are only 60 days of wheat stores left. We are one harvest from disaster. (But we'll be OK because we can buy in!!!!)

There are more votes in cheap food than in common sense.

Balance of payments 'no longer matter' because they do not affect currency exchange levels!

A full report will follow shortly

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Migrant workers

Migrant workers are involved in at least 25% of our veg and salad production (around 75,000 of them) 50% managed by gangmasters, who now prefer to be called 'labour providers'. Mostly good legal employers. ( NB. 'Listening to the voice of the Migrant workers' was realistically only hearing from those employed legally.)

We have had migrant workers for centuries but the current pricing structures now force farmers to employ migrant workers (where in the past some jobs were done by itinerants or locals).

Migrants have no rights of residency. Vulnerable section of society with little social protection.

Camps for legal workers have rules but costs of accommodation, hours worked, cost of living etc are rarely explained. They are on minimum wage working between 9-11 hour days. Around 3.6m of working age are foreign born, 10% of working population, many from Poland and Turkey. Illegal gangmasters are increasingly turning to Africa for workers.

It is estimated that 150million are working outside of their country of origin:-

nurses 13%; doctors 31%; plus universities, schools, agriculture etc. When work permits run out 10% disappear - where to? African workers are brining in health problems eg HIV

By 2005 over a third of EU regions will experience a diminishing work force for a variety of reasons, including further education and higher qualifications. There is a need for migrant workers, or there will be no food in our supermarkets. We therefore need to value them.

Workers themselves speak of guidelines for rent being broken, debts incurred to get here and lack of information to help them. (If the legal system has problems what happens to the illegal workers?) No opportunities to meet others, difficulties communicating with their families, no knowledge of our driving laws, health and safety rules etc. Where is the pastoral support for them? What about racist attitudes? health insurance? poor/overcrowded housing?

Some firms are taking responsibility for their workers, setting up agencies abroad, and providing approved accommodation.

What can churches do?

Charity work has discovered a Dickensian migrant workers subculture.

Church organisations can provide a safe meeting place, access to officials, access to computers (to aid communication home) etc.

Issues of:-

Border controls - more people are deported from Lincolnshire then London.

Pressures on employers leads/forces them to cut corners.

Concerns over rise of BNP

Dialogue with Supermarkets - with boycott the ultimate weapon?

Dept of Trade and Industry How to 'police' ethically and morally; tracking/certifying products.

The WTO ought to be checking such things but members have a different agenda - liberalisation, not fair trade.

Full report on Migrant workers

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Faith Sharing and Food Sharing

Peterborough Diocese has a directory of local food supplies, arising from discussion of the Wurtemburg Papers. They used diocesan mailing to seek and give information, as well as information from Farmers' Markets, and gave details of products and availability. There was no cost to the outlets who were included. The directory was arranged in geographical areas with directions and details re payment methods given. The group responsible had to hunt for funding and as none was forthcoming they sent a copy to each vicar using diocesan money. The directory has also been put on the web as Peterborough Diocesan Food Directory at and is easy to update.

(Note: this is similar to Exeter Diocese 'Farm Gate' which is also now being prepared for the web)

During British Food Fortnight the local offices canteen was used to promote local food, with food tasting and information on production and venues. It included ice-cream from local sheep and wine from the local vineyard. As part of the display there were also appropriate Bible quotes eg. 'I am the Bread of Life'.

The 'Food Directory' led to discussions on local food supplies issues, reconnecting people with local food.

Also during British Food Fortnight the local 6th form college held a 'Bishop's Banquet. There was local food and a talk by the Bishop.

In 1998 Leicestershire Food Links and the Soil Association recognised the need for farmers to sell locally. They appointed a Farmers' Market co-ordinator and then produced a Food Directory. They are now looking at creating a Leicestershire produce mark (where it is truly local). They sought lottery funding for 'Grow, Cook and Eat Leicestershire'. This is a one year project for 'county' schools. Ten schools are needed, having a weekly planting project with needy children. (Free meals used as a guide.) Planting takes place in the school grounds as 'Square foot' gardening. There are 12 squares of 12" each. The children, in pairs, plant crops in their square, all different, to see which grow best together. They plant potatoes in dustbin bags and keep adding compost as they grow. All the crops are those which can be harvested before the summer holidays or left until autumn. (No harvest in the school holidays). They then move on to the cookery. Raw and cooked vegetables (carrots), bread, (yeast makes it grow). The Friday of the EastMidlands Food Festival is 'Schools Day' and it is aimed to get 1,000 children there with activities and displays.

The schools are mostly in mining villages and run down industrial areas (some run down in areas of apparent affluence).

Other points made were:-

The need to push for supermarkets (particularly Sainsbury's) to sell joints of organic meat, not just steaks and mince with the rest sold as non-organic. The organic view is about the whole animal and the policy results in producers being unwilling to sell to the supermarkets although wanting more people to have access to organic.

The Ethical Investment Group is to look at organic British sales in supermarkets. Management is saying 'yes' to sourcing organic, but buyers are still paid by their ability to source 'cheapest'.

Cookery programmes are driving the cuts of meat available in supermarkets, which distorts trade. Consumers need to push again for a wider availability of cuts.

Peniston, S.Yorks is going to hold a 'Flour Festival', starting by looking at crops growing - a maize maze and moving through the various stages of production.

British Food Fortnight 2004 will be the 18th September to 5th October

Other sessions included:-

Tourism. Open churches, spiritual needs of tourists. Use of buildings/re-ordering.

State of the Countryside 2020 Rev Dr Michael Moynagh on the report of that name. Covering rural church, rural migration and the commuter countryside.

Social Capital and Mission (Workshop)

Eco-congregations (Workshop)

Give us this day our daily bread. Sir John Marsh on the decline of rural Britain and agriculture; the economy, land use, the agri-food sector, new directions for policy

Reports on these will follow shortly

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