F4: Future Food Farming & Forestry - RSA

F4: Future Food Farming & Forestry

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  • Picture of Ann Packard FRSA
    Ann Packard FRSA
  • Sustainability
  • Fellowship
  • Fellowship in Action

Ann Packard FRSA reflects on the recent F4 event, looking at the Future of Food, Farming and Forestry.

Mangalitza, Elrickle Blue, Peelham Charcuterie and Standhill tomatoes, were all “mentioned in despatches” alongside Traquair’s long-established brewery and its brilliant annual “Beyond Borders”, Charlesfield’s recently planted 1,000 vines and Hawick’s Three Stills Distillery at “F4: Future Food Farming and Forestry.  

They emerged alongside the potential UK land use strategy (when Scotland already has one!), Vision for Agriculture, Scottish Land Reform, the SLC, Good Food Nation, timber extraction, animal health, abattoirs, integrated rural transport, housing, soil and water science and much else.   The well-known, delicious, local and fortifying “Dalgetty Selkirk Bannock” was served with coffee on arrival in the Marchmont Music Room, where a roaring log fire awaited.  LSD, for me never to be consumed, and, given currency decimalisation, no longer £sd, is my sound food mantra to share: Local, Seasonal and Direct.  It’s a good way to avoid the processed, the over-processed, as many additives as practical, and as many as possible of those food miles.

On a more serious note, one of the Event Introduction slides listed well in excess of three hundred and fifty issues or subjects, either mentioned at Scotland’s recent two-day Biennial Land Use Conference in Edinburgh, or which were relevant to the cross-border event at Marchmont.  The slide offered a stark A-Z list of many - but inevitably not all - the food, rural communities and land use or related challenges and policies under consideration at this singular period of constitutional change. Fellows are urged to follow closely the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission’s work, to read its Interim Report and swiftly to feed in views and evidence.

“F4” was the recent RSA cross-border sector-intensive invitee conference held at Marchmont, initiated by the Borders and MCICH Networks, with input also from Professor Lorna Dawson, an RSA Fellow at the James Hutton Institute, who is SEFARI Advisor and KE Leader on Environment. 

The context?

  • “Borderlands” [Cumbria, Northumberland, D&G and Borders],
  • The South of Scotland Economic Partnership,
  • The South of Scotland Alliance,
  • Tweed Forum which works both sides of the Tweed,
  • And the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission.

The aims?

  • To outline, define and promote certain “PolicyAsks” at UK level, given the importance attached to the needs of, and respect for, devolved nations;
  • To outline, define and promote specific “Asks” to each of the Scottish Government, SOSA and SoSEP;
  • To input suggestions (as solicited on the day) to “Borderlands” via the Scotland Office;
  • To ensure that voices and expertise from Scotland feed directly in to, and are debated with, the RSA’s FFC Commission secretariat, noting the Scotland references in its recent interim report “Our Common Ground”;
  • To further the vital, cogent and collaborative on-going dialogue between all with interest in the “Borderlands”, SOSA and SoSEP;
  • To ensure that, as relevant, issues relating to devolution are both recognised and respected as new policies within the UK emerge.


Thanks are extended to the sponsors who included Buccleuch, Scottish Land & Estates, RSA Scotland, RSA North England, Marchmont Farms Limited and others in cash or kind, all listed in the delegate pack.   The packed full day programme of formal presentations was leavened by a vibrant buzz of conversation, laughter and knowledge exchange and networking over a most delicious lunch. Those assembled adjourned to the Old Kitchen Gallery for this, en route realising why Hugo Burge’s presentation, with references to the 120+ rush seated chairs in the house, had been on “The Case for Differentiation”.  

For early confirmation are which of the presentations, grouped as shown below, will become available in part or whole. Speaker biographies are available on request. Sessions were chaired by Gareth Baird (RSA Fellow, farmer and inter alia Board Member of each of Moredun Foundation, Crown Estate and Scotland Food and Drink), Professor Lorna Dawson CBE FRSA, member of the FFCC Science Advisory Committee and myself and included:

Professor David Miller, James Hutton Institute and SEFARI: Perspectives on Land Use Strategies and Change

Professor Lorna Dawson CBE FRSA, James Hutton Institute, BSSS and SEFARI: Our Natural Soil Assets

Dr Jane Atterton, SRUC Rural Policy Centre & University of Newcastle: Rural Communities

Steven Thomson, SEFARI and SRUC: Brexit impacts

Louisa Macdonell, Borderlands Project Leader, Scotland Office: The Concept and the Partnership

Dr George Burgess, Scottish Government: Brexit, Food and Farming: Best Friends for ever?

PROVOCATIONS:  Future Challenges and Opportunities

James Hepburne Scott, Chairman Tweed Forum, President RSFS and Forest Carbon Ltd (Durham): Forestry

Professor Chris Spray MBE, Board Member, Tweed Forum: Water at the heart of the “perfect storm”

Adrian Dolby, Buccleuch: Future Agriculture for Future Generations

James Withers, Chief Executive, Scotland Food and Drink: Scotland A Land of Food and Drink

Hugo Burge, Marchmont Farms Ltd: The Case for Differentiation

Councillor Mark Rowley, SOSA and SBC: Economic development

Professor Russel Griggs OBE, Chairman, SoSEP: A SoSEP Update


Ms Sue Pritchard, Director: Progress Report and Next Steps

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  • I have much appreciated the invitation for the Future Food, Farming and Forestry conference through my tutor.

    The location and the building where the conference took place, as well as the hospitality of the host, made a very positive impression from the beginning.

    The topic is just on time as we are about to face major challenges such as the impact of climate change, Brexit, overpopulation and food production.

    All the aspects of the agenda were discussed and I agree with most of the conclusions. Personally, I would perhaps like to see more discussions on the current meat industry, in particular how it is related to food production, consumption and its impact on national health and environment. 

    Overall this conference was very educative. I strongly felt that the topics covered should be considered as subjects to be taught at school.

    Thank you again,

    Mateusz Harlos (Edinburgh College 3rd Year Professional Cookery Student)

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