Food, Land and Sea

Need a holistic, whole catchment approach to land & marine management.

Learn from and share existing best practice in Devon and beyond.

Public and farmers require support to shift to a net-zero food and farming culture.

Regional farming needs greater support, including funding and removal of national policy barriers.

Need to better understand the opportunities and limits of marine sequestered carbon.

National policy will be highly influential in ability of Devon to achieve net-zero carbon food and farming



Laura Cardenas

Laura is an Atmospheric Chemist at Rothamsted Research in Devon. Laura has a PhD in Atmospheric Chemistry and is currently studying the link between grazing behaviour and nitrous oxide emissions from extensive upland and intensive lowland agricultural systems. She is a key contributor to the Defra inventory of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Gill Westcott

Gill is Co-Chair of Transition Exeter and a Director of New Prosperity Devon. She has a background in education for sustainability and health economics and has lived on a Devon smallholding since 1992. She is a former Chair of Cheriton Bishop Parish Council and helped found the Cheriton Bishop Community Land Trust to provide affordable homes for local people.

Suzanne Goodfellow

Sue is an ecologist and environmentalist who has worked in conservation for over 30 years, mostly with Dartmoor National Park Authority where she was Director and led on climate change. She then ran her own environmental consultancy and has worked on sustainable tourism and biodiversity projects. She was a Director of Europarc Atlantic Isles, and Chair of Natural Devon for 5 years, leading nationally on biodiversity. Currently, Sue is the Chair of Devon Wildlife Trust, a Moorland Guide and writes and lectures on wildlife and conservation.


Ian Smith

Ian served as Food Plymouth’s learning and skills theme from 2011, becoming a founder-director of Food Plymouth CIC, the social enterprise providing infrastructure to Food Plymouth’s cross-sector partnership and network, in 2014.  This work is part of Ian’s portfolio career encompassing community regeneration, education and learning and social enterprise.  Ian is a director of

Plymouth Social Enterprise Network and is also an RSA Fellow, actively engaging with the RSA’s Food Farming and Countryside Commission.

Established in 2010, Food Plymouth is Plymouth’s recognised local sustainable food partnership, a ‘central connecting hub’ for all food-related matters in the City.  Food Plymouth has a three-strand mission around environmental, social and economic sustainability.  Its express desire is to align with and deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals to best effect.  Plymouth became a Sustainable Food City through Food Plymouth’s work, achieving Sustainable Food City (SFC) Bronze Status in 2015 (the first UK City to do so) and retaining the Bronze award in 2019 while working towards the Silver standard.  Food Plymouth’s activities include: Promoting healthy and sustainable food; reducing the eco-footprint of the food system; strengthening the local food economy; and transforming catering and procurement.

Rebecca Sandover

Dr. Rebecca Sandover is a Research Fellow at The University of Exeter and is an engaged researcher with a focus on knowledge co-production working with partners on community food projects, social food networks and sustainable food policy change. She is currently investigating action toward the formation of sustainable food networks in the South West UK. In particular Rebecca is interested in building local food partnerships with local authorities, boosting access to sustainable local food, addressing food insecurity and issues of health and wellbeing. She is currently involved in research into The Cornwall Food Foundation’s ‘Food for Change’ programme that seeks to support people who are unemployed or economically inactive back into work, training or volunteering through supported food related activities. She is also leading a collaborative Wellcome centre funded project to explore and map sustainable food networks in the city regions of Exeter and Plymouth and rural South Hams.

In recent years Rebecca has taken a scholar-activist approach to work with Food Exeter for food change and is now a Trustee of Food Exeter.

Patrick Holden is the founding director of the Sustainable Food Trust, working internationally to accelerate the transition towards more sustainable food systems.

After studying biodynamic agriculture at Emerson College, he established a mixed community farm in Wales in 1973, producing at various times: wheat for flour production sold locally, carrots and milk from an 85 cow Ayrshire dairy herd, now made into a single farm cheddar style cheese by his son Sam. He was the founding chairman of British Organic Farmers in 1982, before joining the Soil Association, where he worked for nearly 20 years and during which time the organisation led the development of organic standards and the market for organic foods.

His advocacy for a major global transition to more sustainable food systems now entails regular broadcasts and talks at public events. He is Patron of the UK Biodynamic Association and was awarded the CBE for services to organic farming in 2005.

Isabel Carlisle

Isabel Carlisle leads the team for the Bioregional Learning Centre in South Devon. A learning region rooted in place and community, a joined-up resilience strategy for sustainable economic and environmental futures in the face of climate change, and a ‘backroom’ offering scientific and technical expertise to community groups are part of their current work. The emphasis is on engaging civil society to be an active player in 21st-century problem-solving. 

Following a long career in the London art world that began in 1980, Isabel set up and directed the Festival of Muslim Cultures that took place across Britain throughout 2006. She then became a Creative Consultant to the University of the Arts in London and developed education strategies for sustainability with schools in the east end of London. In 2013 she co-founded the Community Chartering Network that played a role in bringing about the Scottish government ban on fracking. She has been a part of the Transition movement since 2008, and worked in the Transition Network team as Education Coordinator from when she moved to Totnes in 2010 until 2016. She is trained in regenerative design and whole-systems working. 

Steve Widdicombe

Prof Steve Widdicombe is Director of Science at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. As a marine ecologist with nearly 30 years of experience, Steve is an expert in using field observations and large manipulative experiments to address issues relating to benthic ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem function. In particular he is interested in quantifying the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbance on the structure, diversity and function of marine benthic communities. He has played key roles in several national and European funded projects exploring the impact of environmental impact and change on marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycling. Steve started his research career looking at the impacts of natural disturbance (bioturbation) on marine biodiversity and community structure, and has continued this research theme ever since. In addition, much of his recent research has concentrated on the impacts of climate change on benthic organisms and ecosystems. He has been a principal investigator in a number of large NERC programmes including Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry, Arctic Change and Marine Ecosystems, and led a large consortium within the NERC UK Ocean Acidification Programme. Steve has an active interest in monitoring the marine environment and established the North East Atlantic regional hub of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON). In 2014 he was awarded a visiting Professorship in Marine Ecology by the University of Plymouth, in recognition of his contribution to Climate Change research as well as MSc and PhD student supervision. He has published 150+ peer reviewed papers and book chapters.

Andy has an MSc in Sustainable Development and bachelor degree and post grad diploma in temperate and tropical forestry. Andy established the first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the U.K. and is used by UNESCO to support and advise on the management of Biosphere Reserves in developing and developed countries. He has been the chairman of the U.K. national committee for the UN’s Man and the Biosphere Programme and the vice chairman for international programmes. He has been managing coastal and marine sites for over 25 years and researched and pioneered techniques for habitat creation in estuaries, new approaches to natural systems for climate adaptation along the coast, established Marine Protected Areas and their management and governance structures. Andy has skills in Geographic Information Systems and remote sensing and has published papers on Biosphere Reserves and their management.

Caroline Aitkin

Caroline Aitken is director of Whitefield Permaculture, a permaculture and agroecology consultancy and training provider based in Dartmoor. Caroline has a background in mixed farming, horticulture and design, and currently lives on a smallholding in Dartmoor with her family. As a permaculture designer she has worked on a diverse range of land projects from private smallholdings, to farms, eco villages and large estates. As an educator she has delivered adult learning courses in permaculture and sustainable food production since 2007 and is now working in higher education. Caroline’s key interest is agroecology – producing food in alignment with natural systems, and developing training for new entrants and existing farmers to transition to more sustainable systems.

Nigel Mortimer

Nigel has been the Estuaries Officer for the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Estuaries’ Partnership for the last 23 years. His role involves encouraging the respect and understanding, conservation and sustainable use, and enjoyment of our local estuaries and coast by their wider local communities. Present projects include the conservation of local seagrass meadows, the management of marine invasive non-native species and promoting a catchment based approach to the conservation management of our estuaries. An active interest in marine and freshwater science and conservation, a joint honours degree in marine biology and ecology, and professional member of the Marine Biological Association.

Harriet Bell

Harriet Bell is Community Resilience (Food & Farming) Manager, helping Dartington to explore new ways to feed themselves sustainably. Previously, Harriet worked at West Town Farm, an organic mixed farm enterprise on the outskirts of Exeter, and 10:10, an organisation that encourages schools and businesses to cut carbon emissions.

Dr Nicola Beaumont has more than 20 years’ experience working at the interface between natural sciences and socio-economics, including extensive project and people management experience. Nicola specialises in the quantification and valuation of marine and coastal ecosystem services, and translating complex natural science into terms which are meaningful in a social and economic context. She has experience across a variety of scales from local county councils to European and Global levels, and to a variety of marine management issues, including: renewable energy, ocean acidification, and marine planning and policy.

Ruth Hancock is a life-long environmentalist and agroecogical farmer from East Devon, producing mainly vegetables and eggs for the local veg box scheme that she has run for the last fifteen years.  She is also a Co-ordinating Group member of The Landworkers Alliance, which promotes the benefits of agroecological farming, fuel and fibre production. 

The LWA works on behalf of its members to create educational, and training opportunities, and to enable more people to enter and prosper in the field of agroecology, through lobbying, and grassroots action.

Alison Kohler

Alison joined the National Park Authority in 1988 as a Recreation Planner. Over the following years she performed a number of roles for the Authority including recreation management, access and tourism all of which required an understanding of the wider land management issues for the National Park. Alison took up a senior management role of Recreation, Rangers and Estates in 2007 and this was followed in 2009 by a new post as Head of Biodiversity, Farming and Tourism, her responsibilities have therefore encompassed most of the Authority’s interests over the years. In September 2010 Alison became the Director of Sustainable Communities and took up her most recent post as Director of Conservation and Communities in April 2012. Alison was the lead officer for co-ordinating the first round submission of Moor than Meets the Eye and continues to manage the Project Manager. In her spare time Alison enjoys walking and cycling and exploring other national parks both in this country and abroad.

Key Points Summary

Key Outcomes

  • We need to take a holistic, whole catchment approach to land and marine management.
  • Must learn from and share existing best practice in Devon and beyond – create mechanisms for this e.g farmer networks and demonstration farms.
  • Public and farmers need access and support to acquire the information and skills to shift to net-zero food and farming culture.
  • Public procurement is a key lever for supporting sustainable agriculture and food culture.
  • Regional farming, processing and distribution infrastructure needs greater support, including funding and removal of national policy barriers.
  • Need to better understand “blue carbon” opportunities and limits – marine sequestered carbon.
  • National policy and subsidy framework will be highly influential in ability of Devon to achieve net-zero carbon food and farming – including ways to internalize socio-ecological externalities.

Key Actions


  • Our agri-industrial food system which encourages cheap food and externalises costs such as poor diets and a crisis on the land
  • Mass retail
  • Procurement criteria in public bodies
  • Fishing bi-catch regulation

Overcoming the Barriers

  • More regulation on food supply chains
  • Taking a place-based, regional approach
  • Public procurement of local sustainable food – benefit of providing a stable market to farmers. Denmark have hit a 90% public procurement for organic at no extra cost! Copenhagen has transformed its public procurement with 72% of its food from organic producers.
  • Improve bi-catch regulation
  • Marine proteins will be needed
  • Tree-based foods including carbohydrates
  • Eating a wider variety of animals, e.g. some wild animals
  • Public understand the link between food choices and carbon emissions
  • Less meat eating but livestock still needed for land fertility – right type of agriculture in the right place
  • Food labelling to help consumers make the right carbon and ecological choices.


  • Public norms
  • Lack of time in peoples lives for food preparation, purchasing and growing – long working hours
  • Public skill base
  • Public knowledge base
  • Cooking classes resource intensive
  • Lack of collective will to decarbonize
  • Lack of access to sustainable food
  • Current treatment of trees in agriculture by subsidy regime
  • Cost – who to pay?
  • Sustainable food is more expensive so people don’t buy it as much and it’s not so accessible

Overcoming the Barriers

  • A programme of public education, awareness raising and upskilling
  • Cooking classes e.g. project Rebecca Sandover has worked on in Cornwall
  • Shorter working hours to give people more time for food preparation and growing
  • Plymouth Marine Park offers engagement and education opportunities
  • Support for local and sustainable food networks to distribute and retail food, e.g. veg boxes
  • Labelling helps to account for the externalities
  • A points-based system to reflect sustainability criteria met on farm was suggested. Perhaps something like the traffic light scheme for fats and sugars? A suggestion of nutrition produced per acre. Should organic food labelling be paid for by non-organic farmers? Suggested that organic farmers shouldn’t have to pay for the labelling as their food is sustainable. Could it be self-assessed?
  • Would benefit from being a national scheme


  • This could mask other ecological complexities

Overcoming the Barriers

  • How could this work and not have unintended negative consequences? E.g. increased burden to farmers already struggling.


  • Capital investment and existing levels of farmer debt
  • Devon needs a stronger, more effective regional food distribution network

Overcoming the Barriers

  • Mobile abattoirs e.g. like in Sweden
  • National changes in abattoir laws needed
  • Funding for infrastructure
  • Layering functions – making things multifunctional, e.g. van fleets not only deliver things but bring things back such as food waste – could farmers be renewable energy hubs? Would help make distribution networks more viable.
  • Support local shops
  • Food hubs – new models for getting sustainable food to market needed
  • How to engage local supermarkets to procure more local food
  • Protect blue carbon habitats
  • Plant more trees (the right tree species in the right place)
  • Restore peatlands
  • Green sea defences


  • Lack of data and research to make accurate decisions on e.g. carbon capture in woodlands vs permanent pasture
  • More data needed on blue carbon
  • Lack of practical and widespread metrics
  • Potential conflict or opportunity with offshore wind – not enough known about impact of large-scale off shore wind
  • Extreme weather impacts
  • Soil erosion
  • Commoners rights can be in tension with tree planting agendas

Overcoming the Barriers

  • Need to bring people on board
  • Might be synergies with wind farms, minimise disturbance in these areas
  • More research on large-scale offshore wind impacts
  • Tackle fishing related plastic pollution
  • Peer to peer farmer/ landowner networks spreading best practice & other support for farmers – help farmers see the business case
  • Support smaller fisheries e.g. Lundy
  • Do we need a new agri-marine environment scheme?
  • Improve farming contracts so that they reflect natural capital and enable sustainable farming. e.g. Dartington’s innovative farming contracts for encouraging agroforestry fields
  • Identify blue carbon we already have
  • Enhance mechanisms to take a catchment wide management approach which includes land and sea
  • Right incentive framework needed – shape of national subsidies will be key
  • Enforcement resource needed
  • Work collaboratively with commoners to achieve treeplanting
  • Establish common metrics which are easily measured “in field” to allow monitoring of carbon sinks and biodiversity

Download PDF summary of the key outcomes here.

Watch the Part 1 of the hearing on YouTube here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.