In recent days, jam has been on the menu with the third WI Real Jam Festival taking place at Denman. This year, the festival was exciting not only for jam buffs but for all the family as it included a Christmas market in the Georgian house where, once fortified with mulled wine, those must-have Christmas purchases could be made and children could listen, enraptured, to stories from the resident elves. Santa’s grotto, handbell ringing, a brass band, a barrel organ, and a pop group also featured, making sure that all tastes were catered for throughout the weekend.
The path to the craft demonstrations passed the miniature farm with sheep and donkeys, but a pat on their broad backs was simply irresistible. Once inside again, there were the four hundred odd entries of jam to be viewed, as well as a Christmas chutney and mincemeat too. If that were not enough, then there were the cookery demonstrations to watch from Pam Corbin of River Cottage, Kath Mepham of the WI, celebrity chefs Alex MacKay and Paul Hollywood, not to mention Denman's own Peter Lien. In true WI fashion, homemade lunches and cream teas were available, as well as 800 freshly baked mince pies – and hardly a crumb was left. And crumbs must not be left in the battle for food security!
Indeed, food security, and the question of how we ensure that people have a safe, sustainable and nutritious food supply is one of the biggest public policy challenges of the 21st Century. To raise awareness of this challenge and generate debate on the way forward, the WI launched ‘The WI Great Food Debate’ a few days ago at the Yorkshire Museum in York. With its commissioned report, Food for Thought, prepared by the IPPR, the NFWI hosted the event, attended by WI members, farmers, environmental activists, industry representatives and other interested parties, who were addressed by Secretary of State for the Environment, Rt Hon Owen Patterson, alongside NFU President Peter Kendall and Jennie Barron from the Stockholm Environment Institute. How the world shall be fed with an estimated population of 9 billion by 2050 was one issue at the centre of discussions. There is plenty of food to go round we are told, but distribution is inequitable and we are woefully wasteful. There can be many solutions and yet there are also tensions and difficult trade-offs that must be considered. Factory farming, GM crops, local produce, Meat Free Mondays and balancing our need for food and energy security all formed part of the conversation at the York launch event. The debate is on. In the New Year, individual debates will be springing up across England and Wales opened up by the WI. Do join in and be part of the conversation.