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Re-localising the food system to support local communities

Re-localising the food system to support local communities

29 October 2021

Agriculture with a lower carbon footprint

The Covid 19 pandemic has made many of us aware of the fragility of globalised food chains, writes Matt Reed, associate professor at the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI).

Pictures of empty shelves and emphasis on our underlying health have made many people think about food in new ways. Added to that are the challenges of climate change, with the increasing disturbed weather it is already bringing, which is focusing many people on agriculture with a lower carbon footprint.

For some people, a more localised system is already part of their lives, and for others, it remains an aspiration. However, a network of farmers has already committed themselves and their businesses to sustainable agriculture and re-localising the food system to support local communities. I’m leading research to help them understand their networks and how to advance these very diversified rural businesses. 

Commissioned by NICRE

The CCRI successfully obtained funding from the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) to research the status of smaller, more localised farmers, growers and forester members of the Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA), a union representing land-based workers, with the aim of creating a better food system for everyone.

The first part of our research was an online survey of LWA members, where we have gathered over 130 responses. The questions were a mixture of those bespoke for the LWA, some taken from previous surveys focused on farmer sustainability, and a few from the broader NICRE survey of rural businesses, to make comparisons. The second step, which we are currently undertaking, is a series of online focus groups with farmers, growers and foresters to discuss the themes and topics which emerged during the online survey in greater detail. 

The results will help the LWA work with its members and inform future policy discussions about advancing localised and diversified farm businesses. We will be publishing a report of our findings at the end of this year. 

Our project is one of seven commissioned by NICRE to fill gaps in current knowledge of rural enterprise and innovation currently being carried out by academic institutions across England.

It’s part of NICRE’s ‘engaged rural’ research theme, which aims to bring the rural business community closer to government, research and innovation institutions.

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