Thames_Barrier,_London,_England_-_Feb_2010I have spent the last three days in London at a succession of meetings, and am now stuck here for the next few hours because of flooding on the line (which is as nothing compared to farmers from Cumbria I’ve met this week still dealing with aftermath of really serious flooding).

The common theme?: Barriers. And not just my blocked route home.

Monday:  a routine meeting of Access to Farms, a group dedicated to keeping farms open for public and educational access and making sure visits are safe, healthy, educational and enjoyable. We’ve nearly completed a health and safety checklist for farmers that we hope will make it easier for them to welcome guests to the farm, thus removing barriers.

Tuesday: a meeting with the Secretary of State, Liz Truss, and such organisations as RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Geographical Association, Girlguiding UK and Netmums to work out how we reduce the barriers to children accessing the natural environment. Conclusion: no quick solutions, but a strong sense that we have already won the argument re the benefits (health, wellbeing, attainment, social mobility,…). However a culture change still needs to happen. A little like reducing smoking, it’s not enough to just know it’s bad for you. Teachers need motivation, confidence and expertise.  The assembled were committed to working on this together.

Wednesday: A food industry summit, hosted by NCUB. Delighted that Bright Crop got so many mentions by the various speakers, but the clear agreement was that a single voice is needed across the whole food industry. The barrier? Our own industry, which is fragmented and characterised by many small businesses and multiple representative bodies.  It’s the same scale of challenge to reach young people as with engineering, automotive, or the military, but without the single coordinating body that many other industries have. However, we’ve got a great story to tell and working with our friends at Tasty Careers, Grow Careers, Edge, Food and Drink Federation and many others, we can get there.

All solved? Not quite, the next three trains are still showing as cancelled.

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0


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