Posted by: Mike Grenville | 23 July 2009

Can Totnes and District Feed Itself?

After many months of work a major piece of groundbreaking research has been published by Transition Totnes called Can Totnes and District Feed Itself: exploring the practicalities of food relocalisation.

Developed by Transition Town Totnes, Transition Network and Geofutures, with support from Landshare,, entitled ‘Can Totnes and District Feed Itself: exploring the practicalities of food relocalisation’.

The report is a key part of the Totnes EDAP, taking Simon Fairlie’s Can Britain Feed Itself paper and applying it to Totnes and District. Such studies are starting to emerge in different places, Stroud have done one, Sustainable Frome (a Transition initiative) have started using GoogleMaps for food mapping, and Transition Norwich have done a ‘Can Norwich Feed Itself?’ study using a different methodology. This Totnes study is the most comprehensive look at this question thus far, and is the first step in developing a national project and tool around the ‘Can Britain Feed Itself’ question.

The report recognises the inherent challenge in the question itself since beginning to ask the question of whether anywhere “can feed itself” is like opening a set of Russian dolls. At which scale does one start? Can a village feed itself? A town? A city? Can Europe feed itself? Indeed, can the world?

The other challenge of a more localised food system the report addresses is who will do the farming. One estimate of a post-oil agricultural community is that it will need to employ something like 20% of its population in food production. For the UK, this would translate into an increase from half a million to 10 million employed in agriculture in some way which would have implications for example on housing.

The conclusions identify the need for a rethink of how agriculture is practiced, as
well as the urgent need for research into new models of food production. Also identified is the need for
national version of this research, a larger project, but in the light of the fast moving issues of peak oil, climate change and the economic difficulties facing the UK, a profoundly urgent one.

You can download the paper here: Can Totnes and District Feed Itself: exploring the practicalities of food relocalisation


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