A photo-essay following local food in Boston, Lincolnshire, presented at the Harvest Supper hosted by the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire at Lincoln Cathedral, October 2021
How do we celebrate and give thanks for the harvest in Lincolnshire, the Breadbasket of Britain, where poverty this year has given rise to 49 (and still counting) foodbanks in the county?
What does it mean to share the harvest, in a nation of rising poverty and falling nourishment, despite an oversupply of cheap ultra-processed food?
Celebrating the Harvest in 2021
As tinned food destined for foodbanks are stacked in with decorative bouquets of wheat and the odd pumpkin not intended for eating, maybe you, too, sense a jarring disconnect between land, people and food.
And there’s a danger at harvest time of presenting a quaint, nostalgic and misleading picture of the food system.
We want to celebrate and share, but we also need to act on the dangerous flaws in our food system: that exacerbate climate change and environmental degradation; that make us ill through a vicious junk food cycle; and that systemically make it hardest for the poorest people to access decent food.
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”Attributed to Bishop Hélder Câmara
The High Sheriff’s Harvest Supper
Tradition has it that the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire hosts a harvest supper at Lincoln Cathedral, and this year our High Sheriff, Claire Birch, wanted to find ways of highlighting the food issues in the county.
I’d recently returned from a visit to Willoughby Road Allotments in Boston, and I knew Boston had a food story to tell. One that is healing, nourishing, delicious, and that is different and better than the ones we normally hear, about obesity levels and Brexit votes.
Bread & Roses – a photo-essay
Bread & Roses, a photo-essay by observational photographer Henry Kenyon, documents two brief days spent in Boston, foregrounding some of the connections of local residents with the source of their food, and with each other.
Bread & Roses, originally a poem written by James Oppenheim, and sung at the event by Naomi L’Estrange and choir – speaks of the human need and longing for beauty, goodness and flourishing as well as basic nourishment.
We named the photo-essay after the poem, and used photography to trace connections in an ecology of food that give us hope for a more humane, connected and generous future. A future where the dominant food system is not dictated by maximising productivity by cutting prices and corners, or simplistic calculations of energy and nutrient density; but one which values the earth, and recognises the beauty, care and dignity inherent in producing good food.
Boston’s small food producers
At Maud Foster windmill we witness the skilled, autonomous work of miller, Richard Waterfield, grinding Lincolnshire grain into flour using 200 year old wind power technology.
Sonya at Greenfield Bakers bakes Maud Foster flour into fresh bread (served at the Harvest Supper) at her oven in Friskney, fuelled by sustainably sourced wood, for local customers.
Willoughby Road allotments (where Sonya runs baking workshops in the allotment kitchen) runs between the Maud Foster Drain and the Pilgrim Hospital.
Neighbours from many backgrounds – doctors and patients, yellabellies and new-comers – come together over food-growing, and pass on their skills and enthusiasm to each other and the next generation.
The sharing of the harvest
Allotment holders, and passers-through on the footpath to the Pilgrim Hospital, raise funds and gift produce to local foodbanks, in solidarity with those in the community who struggle to put food on the table.
This includes regular donations of money and vegetables to Centrepoint Outreach, which offers support to people facing homelessness and who are vulnerably housed.
At their weekly cooking club, participants gather around the task of cooking a meal; shared food is reinstated at the heart of community. It is time wonderfully spent.
We whole-heartedly want to celebrate this work and express our gratitude to these people.
Be a food citizen
We hope that in sharing Bread & Roses – a brief foodie journey through Boston, through Henry’s photographs – we will inspire people in Lincolnshire to participate in a just and sustainable food system – whether that means being involved in a local foodbank or community food project, sharing a meal or your knowledge of food-growing with a child or after school club, growing herbs or fruit in your garden or neighbourhood, or supporting small food businesses and local farmers markets.
We are so much more than consumers at the end of a long and damaging industrial supply chain. We are food citizens, who share a responsibility in working out a better food system for everyone.
Bread & Roses: sharing the harvest in LincolnshireTweet
Photos by @Henry_MB_Kenyon
Harvest Supper hosted by @LincolnshireHS
Bread & Roses
As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts grey
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”
As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men—
For they are women’s children and we mother them again.
Our days shall not be sweated from birth until life closes—
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses.
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their trudging spirits knew—
Yes, it is Bread we fight for—but we fight for Roses, too.
As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days—
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler—ten that toil where one reposes
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.
James Oppenheim, 1911