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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In Britain we are told that we are a globalised economy, that we need the rest of the world for our food and energy needs.
Whilst it is indeed true that our nation has taken a large role in globalisation, the lie perpetuated that we need the rest of the world for food and energy needs isn't entirely true.



Britain produces most of it's food requirements, as in common with other temperate nations our main staples are cereals.
Britain is usually 100% self-sufficient in cereals owing to the vast arable lands of Eastern England, it is also self-sufficient in most produce which can be grown or raised here.

“Currently the UK is 60% self-sufficient in all foods and over 74% self-sufficient in foods that can be produced in this country”. (Para 4.12). This “self-sufficiency ranges from around 10% for fresh fruit to around 100% for cereals. (Para 4.15 of this DEFRA report).
The myth that Britain can't feed itself mainly comes from citing imports of food, but the majority of these food are produce which can't grow here and that we don't really need such as bananas, coffee, oranges, tea and rice.
Britain has a temperate climate which lends itself to a lot of different types of produce, a temperate climate is almost like a natural compromise between hot and cold climates and so this allows for a lot of cold and hot climate food alike to grow here.

Britain typically is between 70% and 80% self-sufficient in 'indigenous foods' most years, that is food that can be produced here. And this food isn't simply a few staples, it is wide and varied - we grow wheat, barley, oats and hops... apples, pears, plums, strawberries... potatoes, onions, cabbages, brassicas...
Basically most non-tropical food we produce here and there's even vineyards on a small scale in England and Wales and a tea plantation in Cornwall.

So why aren't we 100% self sufficient in these food? Well there's a number of reasons:

  1. Cereals grown for livestock feed - the UN and other organisations calculate that it takes roughly three times as much grain to feed animals than it does to directly process that grain into human foods!
  2. Improper use of land - Often I have seen fields perfectly suitable for arable put over to pasture, this is a waste of good land, livestock should be grazed on less suitable ground for arable such as hilly or poorer ground.
  3. Wasted land - Some small farmers often leave fields empty through much of the year. Councils are just as bad, taking up large fields which could be used for agriculture and using them as excessively spacious dog muck fields.
  4. Food waste - this is a very big problem in Western Society as a whole and needs tackling.
  5. Horse people - people who hog the land and push up land prices with their little fantasies about owning horses and riding them in the countryside. There's plenty of liveries but instead they have to aim to hog huge areas of good agricultural land.

Land use in the UK

England is largely devoted to arable and pastoral farming, with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland consisting more largely of rough grazing.
Although it is rarely mentioned, it is widely known that England, especially the East of the country is the "Breadbasket of the UK" and it's most important agricultural region by far. Farming characterises the English countryside.

Each type of land use has it's uses:

  • Arable (Tillage) - for cereals, the best type of agricultural land from an autarkal point-of-view since cereals can feed the most people.
  • Grassland - for grazing dairy herds and livestock for meat, also a very important land use but not as efficient as arable due to the feeding requirements of livestock as mentioned above.
  • Permanent crops - an area of crops such as vegetables which are able to supply a large part of the human diet, provide a large amount of food in relation to the size of the land and also help diversify the diet away from simply cereals and meat.
  • Rough grazing - mainly devoted to the raising of sheep in the UK. It makes good use out of otherwise unprofitable land, mainly consisting of moorland and rough grassland. Most farm animals would struggle apart from sheep, hence most rough grazing is pasture for them. Rough grazing predominates in most of the UK except England does occur in some sizeable areas of England such as the Pennines.



Global warming

Temperatures in the UK would probably rise less than elsewhere due to it's oceanic influence, but it could increase slightly which could lead to less rain in summer and more in winter. This would affect the crops grown, but a slight increase in temperature would perhaps be actually beneficial for UK agriculture, enabling new crops to grow and thrive here.



If the land was used properly we could almost certainly reach 100% self-sufficiency in our staple foods and cool climate produce. Protectionist measures would also help, France enjoys a lot of success with it's protectionist measures towards farming, Britain could too establish preference for it's own producers, especially if it left the EU.
If we set our mind to it we could easily become self-sufficient in foods we can produce here and our staples. We could export the surplus and import a few things we'd like but don't produce such as tropical fruits.
From 'Towards Autarky',
A site about working towards national self-sufficiency at a practical level.
 

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Well I think your post is mainly wrong in its message.

Currently we are net importers of food and this situation will get worse because:

a) the population is going up.
b) we rely on petrochemical based fertilisers to farm fields every year without leaving them fallow.
 

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Well I think your post is mainly wrong in its message.

Currently we are net importers of food and this situation will get worse because:

a) the population is going up.
b) we rely on petrochemical based fertilisers to farm fields every year without leaving them fallow.

There are loads of fields that are left fallow every year. Farmers are required to be in different kinds of schemes and it usually involves leaving land empty (not even grazing).

Around here there are loads of fields that have been left empty for years - these could be used (even in rotation it would increase production). I see empty fields every time I leave my town.

Rough grazing is being reduced by Defra up in the Lake district because of "environmental reasons." Farmers in the UK are being pressured to increase the amount of food they produce but are regularly having the amount of land they may use reduced by Defra.

Population? Not sure it will continue going up at the rate it has been, and it might even reduce if something big happens.
 

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If Britain is only 60% self sufficient in all foods, then I guess you can't get by without imports.
60% currently. That's not current potential, that's currently what is.

Farmers - as I said above - are hugely curtailed in the amount of land they can use. If farmers here could use all of their land, even in rotation, that figure would be hugely increased.

Plus there are vast amounts of land not owned by farms, but which could be used for food production. When I go out anywhere, I drive by many places that could be used for food production, without even touching road verges or tearing up hedgerows.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Well I think your post is mainly wrong in its message.

Currently we are net importers of food and this situation will get worse because:

a) the population is going up.
b) we rely on petrochemical based fertilisers to farm fields every year without leaving them fallow.
The population is going up currently but not by much and there is nothing to say it will continue to do so apart from crystal ball projections.
The immigration policy has also been tightened slightly too which will affect the population growth rate and there is a huge segment of the population which is ageing.

We do currently rely on chemicals but we produce most of them anyway. A lot of the resources for these chemicals are also found in Britain.
Also the use of chemicals isn't needed in all cases, a lot of pastoral farmers have large heaps of manure going to waste which could replace fertiliser on arable farms, but because the farmers don't co-operate in this area they don't share this resource.
Likewise the waste from arable farming, the stalks of the crops could be used as fodder and bedding straw for animals.
We are also surrounded by seas full of kelp and seaweed, these being perhaps the best fertilisers the world has to offer and they're natural and fast growing. Some Scottish islanders traditionally put it on their fields and often used the more productive land for crops whilst casting the sheep onto the beaches where they subsisted (and still do here) on seaweed alone.
In the future we might see areas of water devoted to the growing of seaweed , they can also convert it to biofuel and so we may see seaweed farms as we currently see salmon farms.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seaweed#Uses
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seaweed_farming
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seaweed_fertiliser

If Britain is only 60% self sufficient in all foods, then I guess you can't get by without imports.
But when we look at produce which can be grown here such as the British and western staple of cereals we see that the figure becomes 100% self sufficiency and between 70% and 80% self sufficiency in cool-climate produce as a whole. I don't think it'd be very hard to get this later figure to 100% or near.
Anyway, the site "Towards Autarky" is about aiming to be as self-sufficient as practically possible.
If we can't get their totally then we should try to get as close as possible to self-sufficiency to reduce our dependence on the rest of the world.

60% currently. That's not current potential, that's currently what is.
Yes, but most of the imported food consists of fruit and things we can't really grow here en-mass such as tea and coffee too.
Staple cereals we produce 100% enough of to feed ourselves and we produce around 70 to 80% of produce suitable to our climate.

We come back to the saying - apples and oranges - technically we don't need the oranges if we have the apple as the alternative. :rolleyes: However that would be true if we were self-sufficient in fruit but we're no where near on that scale, we'd still have to import fruit.

This has more to do with what your country needs to produce to survive more than what it wants.

Plus there are vast amounts of land not owned by farms, but which could be used for food production. When I go out anywhere, I drive by many places that could be used for food production, without even touching road verges or tearing up hedgerows.
Exactly, land waste holds us back.

I do not see the point of importing stuff we CAN grow here, we should only be importing what we CANT grow!
Exactly, that is my point. There's no point trying to be self-sufficient in oranges for example as they'd have to be grown in greenhouses and that would limit the scale, viability and profitability.

Re: population, it is currently 62.3 million.

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=6

During the WWII the UK population was 'only' around 47 million and they still had to
introduce rationing.
Because farming was nowhere near as efficient as it is now.
 

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Likewise the waste from arable farming, the stalks of the crops could be used as fodder and bedding straw for animals.


I'll ask my farmer friend about the muck. I'm pretty sure it doesn't go to waste but I will ask if I remember.

As to straw (the stalks from grains), it already is used for this púrpose every day. In fact straw is sold at a good price to livestock owners from arable farms, as grain-growers prefer to plow as much as possible of it back into the field to nourish the soil.


Exactly, land waste holds us back.

And there is so much of it!

By the way, this:
60% currently. That's not current potential, that's currently what is.
was my response to someone else, and was actually in support of your position.

I do agree that Britiain could be more self-sufficient than it is but we really need to pull out the stops now so that more people learn to garden, and do aquaponics, etc, and get more people learning so that there are more people who are at least familiar with agriculture so they can be ready to apply themselves if need be.


I do wish GENT would weigh in on this subject.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
By the way, this:
60% currently. That's not current potential, that's currently what is.
was my response to someone else, and was actually in support of your position.

I do agree that Britiain could be more self-sufficient than it is but we really need to pull out the stops now so that more people learn to garden, and do aquaponics, etc, and get more people learning so that there are more people who are at least familiar with agriculture so they can be ready to apply themselves if need be.


I do wish GENT would weigh in on this subject.
Indeed, "domestic agriculture" can play a good part too since so often gardens today are used solely for ornamental value.

People could grow at least a few hardy, fairly easy to grow and high-yielding staples in a part of their garden or all of it if they wanted. Things such as potatoes, turnips, carrots and leeks are fairly good things for starters I suppose.
Also people need to think about multiple uses of land, instead of just planting any old tree for ornamental value why not plant a fruit tree? Fruit trees usually look great with nice fruit on and the colours the leaves go in winter and are available in a range of sizes via grafted trees (which make up the majority of fruit trees anyway).

Also they can be grown into hedges too and so if space is lacking can be used as a hedge to separate areas of a garden or planted into an existing hedge.
 

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ok so we could be self sufficient.

However I prefer it when someone else is paid 20p a day to grow a crop that can't be grown in Britain and is imported and increases the variety of food I have to choose from.

If we grew everything here we would have far lower variety and very little space not used for crop production. Not to mention the cost of food would skyrocket .

All in all until we need to grow all our own food or use all available space I can't see the point in doing it.
 

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I wish the "game" would change from "how many people can we jam onto the planet" to "how happy/well off can we make our current world population without increasing it"

Sure, maybe you can fit 200,000,000 in the UK and be food self sufficient if you all live in little apartments in 1 city and stop eating meat and dont have pets and dont drive cars because you need the fuel (assuming you have to be self sufficient in fuel as well) to run the tractors etc but how fun would that be?

Quality over Quantity :)

Also, if you can find it, tell me:
A: How many calories of food does the UK produce each year (including any that are exported) and
B: How many calories of food does the UK eat each year (including of course that which is imported).
 

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I wish the "game" would change from "how many people can we jam onto the planet" to "how happy/well off can we make our current world population without increasing it"

Sure, maybe you can fit 200,000,000 in the UK and be food self sufficient if you all live in little apartments in 1 city and stop eating meat and dont have pets and dont drive cars because you need the fuel (assuming you have to be self sufficient in fuel as well) to run the tractors etc but how fun would that be?

Quality over Quantity :)

Also, if you can find it, tell me:
A: How many calories of food does the UK produce each year (including any that are exported) and
B: How many calories of food does the UK eat each year (including of course that which is imported).
Erm no.
The way of approaching self sufficiency is the population is low in number
and people live near their means of food production.
This would be a way of living without cities - which on the whole don't make
a lot of food.
So a low population spread evenly around the country with each family owning a small parcel of land that they use
to grow all the food they use without resorting to petrochemical fertilisers. Also, without wasting energy
transporting food from one place to somewhere far away.
 

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Much of the problems that lie within farming aren't due to the land - it's due to EU quotas / agreements and incentives to not grow produce and to import foreign goods. If we pulled out of the EU our economy, culture, and general society would improve due to all the beneficial spin-offs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I wish the "game" would change from "how many people can we jam onto the planet" to "how happy/well off can we make our current world population without increasing it"

Sure, maybe you can fit 200,000,000 in the UK and be food self sufficient if you all live in little apartments in 1 city and stop eating meat and dont have pets and dont drive cars because you need the fuel (assuming you have to be self sufficient in fuel as well) to run the tractors etc but how fun would that be?

Quality over Quantity :)

Also, if you can find it, tell me:
A: How many calories of food does the UK produce each year (including any that are exported) and
B: How many calories of food does the UK eat each year (including of course that which is imported).
Yeah, I wish the same. I'll try and find that information.

Much of the problems that lie within farming aren't due to the land - it's due to EU quotas / agreements and incentives to not grow produce and to import foreign goods. If we pulled out of the EU our economy, culture, and general society would improve due to all the beneficial spin-offs.
Yes, previously the EU agreements were too effective apparently and we were producing mountains of surplus foods.
Each nation needs to have full control over it's own agricultural policy, the EU's Common Agriculture is France's creation.
 

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ok so we could be self sufficient.

However I prefer it when someone else is paid 20p a day to grow a crop that can't be grown in Britain and is imported and increases the variety of food I have to choose from.

If we grew everything here we would have far lower variety and very little space not used for crop production. Not to mention the cost of food would skyrocket .

All in all until we need to grow all our own food or use all available space I can't see the point in doing it.
It's not so much an issue of doing it now - but of being ready should we need to. And that does mean learning what options are available, and of at least a good number of people learning how to do it, now, while lives aren't depending on it.

I too would not like to be without a lot of luxury or enjoyable items of food. But the time might come when we need to, and also need to drastically increase food production. The time to prepare - as always - is now.

Isn't that what preppers and survivalists do?
 

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Erm no.
The way of approaching self sufficiency is the population is low in number
and people live near their means of food production.
This would be a way of living without cities - which on the whole don't make
a lot of food.
So a low population spread evenly around the country with each family owning a small parcel of land that they use
to grow all the food they use without resorting to petrochemical fertilisers. Also, without wasting energy
transporting food from one place to somewhere far away.

It's entirely possible to grow food in cities, look at all the incident photons from the sun, falling on the buildings there now that go to waste, instead of being intercepted by strategically placed plants to use in photosynthetic food production. Fitting 'shelves'/bolt on wire cages outside access windows, onto all the south facing walls of every suitable building in town, to allow growbags to be slotted in there to cultivate spuds, beetroots, onions or even wheat is easily do-able (I know because I successfully grew spuds on a very small balcony), just requires the lazy thickos in the population to become motivated, which hunger is very good at doing.This is without mentioning all the roof space going to waste.

How do you achieve autarky without being able to make hydrocarbons? you can't have the current practice of large scale agriculture in fields without them. Use the FT catalyst I hear people cry, yes fine and dandy but that requires large amounts of coking coal and most of the guys who knew how to dig it up, were put out to grass back in the eighties and many of the mines are full of water now. Complete autarky is not a good state to be in, you need to trade with outsiders to generate income and to get new products and ideas and where will you get a nice bottle of red wine from? you can't grow grapes here........
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
It's not so much an issue of doing it now - but of being ready should we need to. And that does mean learning what options are available, and of at least a good number of people learning how to do it, now, while lives aren't depending on it.

I too would not like to be without a lot of luxury or enjoyable items of food. But the time might come when we need to, and also need to drastically increase food production. The time to prepare - as always - is now.

Isn't that what preppers and survivalists do?
Indeed, as survivalists it is our job to think about this sort of thing. :D:
 

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It's entirely possible to grow food in cities, look at all the incident photons from the sun, falling on the buildings there now that go to waste, instead of being intercepted by strategically placed plants to use in photosynthetic food production. Fitting 'shelves'/bolt on wire cages outside access windows, onto all the south facing walls of every suitable building in town, to allow growbags to be slotted in there to cultivate spuds, beetroots, onions or even wheat is easily do-able (I know because I successfully grew spuds on a very small balcony), just requires the lazy thickos in the population to become motivated, which hunger is very good at doing.This is without mentioning all the roof space going to waste.

How do you achieve autarky without being able to make hydrocarbons? you can't have the current practice of large scale agriculture in fields without them. Use the FT catalyst I hear people cry, yes fine and dandy but that requires large amounts of coking coal and most of the guys who knew how to dig it up, were put out to grass back in the eighties and many of the mines are full of water now. Complete autarky is not a good state to be in, you need to trade with outsiders to generate income and to get new products and ideas and where will you get a nice bottle of red wine from? you can't grow grapes here........
You can produce small amounts of food in cities however. If to survive
on a vegan diet you need quarter of an acre per person as a minimum -
then no you can't support cities on what they grow themselves.

Simply forget cities. Anyone who wants to eat in the future will have to grow
their own stables - like potatoes and they'll need a small piece of land.
The current model of large scale monoculture based on diesel and fertiliser is
simply not sustainable - look elsewhere for a model.
(hint, permaculture)
 

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It's not so much an issue of doing it now - but of being ready should we need to. And that does mean learning what options are available, and of at least a good number of people learning how to do it, now, while lives aren't depending on it.

I too would not like to be without a lot of luxury or enjoyable items of food. But the time might come when we need to, and also need to drastically increase food production. The time to prepare - as always - is now.

Isn't that what preppers and survivalists do?
True enough of course individuals should try and have the means to feed themselves however the idea of the gov't preparing a nation of 62million to be able to feed itself entirely within the space of say 5 years is just mad. The cost of the investment alone would be huge, and at what possible point in the future will the importation of food because impossible or too expensive?
 
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