High Weald

orchard_blossomProviding our own food from the land is a key element of a sustainable lifestyle.  This report looks at whether the High Weald landscape can grow enough food to support the population and what we will have to do to secure our future food supply.

Report title:
The potential of the High Weald to supply the food needs of its population under conventional and organic agriculture.


pdf Potential of the High Weald to meet its food needs (1.50 MB)

Status and date:
Complete, July 2009

Research purpose:
Evidence gathering to inform low carbon approaches to land management in order to meet objectives G3 and FH1 of the statutory AONB Management Plan.  To assess the extent of food provisioning services provided by the High Weald to its resident and wider population.

Research aim(s):
- To assess the extent to which the High Weald can provide for the food needs of its resident population under the current production methods;
 - To examine whether lower input farming practices, in particular conversion to organic agriculture, would impact upon the ability to meet food demand.

Research findings:
The High Weald currently does not come close to being self sufficient in local food supply.  Yet it has the potential to be, if land used to produce surplus was redirected to areas of shortage such as beef and potatoes. The High Weald produces surpluses in cereals, milk, top and soft fruit - most is exported. Using the land currently producing this surplus would allow considerable flexibility to meet local food needs under all scenarios examined.

AONB Unit comment:
Achieving local self sufficiency requires a move from sheep to cattle and pigs and increasing vegetable and salad growing. Whilst the latter may present a challenge to planning through a demand for polytunnels, there is no reason why this cannot be achieved without damage to this nationally important landscape.  The focus must be on small scale growing under glass or polythene (<3 small to medium polytunnels per average size holding) supplemented by support for allotments, forest gardens and horticultural small holdings.

Holdings and land ownership within the High Weald (small size and high proportions in part time or non farming ownership) would not be a barrier to change but would require investment in targeted communication and advice. to inform policy responses to biofuels, farm holding fragmentation and the loss of agricultural capacity in farmsteads.

Commissioned by:
High Weald Joint Advisory Committee (JAC)

Commissioned from:
Centre for Agricultural Strategy and the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading

Funded by:
Natural England
and the High Weald JAC