There is little doubt that it is currently difficult to access organic, pasture-fed food from farms which use regenerative methods. Even in a place like Cornwall, popularly presumed to be a byword for local farming and produce, most local vegetable products have been treated with chemicals and many butchers cannot tell you the precise history and source of their meat! If you do have the time and inclination to seek out healthy and regeneratively produced food, you usually have to shop in a number of different places – not easy for those who are working all day and wasteful and costly in fuel usage.
This is not an acceptable state of affairs, given the urgency of the challenges to our planet and our health. Do we just accept this dismal situation, or do we try to do something about it? We firmly believe that we can and we should do something about it – NOW! We therefore wish to encourage and support the growth of local food hubs that sell food and goods with regeneration at their core.
Such food hubs will provide an incentive for farmers to get onto the regenerative path, before the rollout of ELMS. They will provide a recognised place to sell their food more locally, food perhaps they are experimenting with, new crops with new regenerative techniques. Research suggests that many farmers wish to sell locally, but just don’t have the mechanism to do so. Some are trapped in big contacts, but not all.
The food hubs will differ from town to town, depending upon what is needed. Each one should, however, sell a broad range of goods in a suitable location, have a slick online platform and offer home delivery at least once a week. They could be an extension of a farmer’s market, farm shop, community orchard etc. They could also incorporate a community kitchen and potentially provide education concerning wholesome and sustainable food, composting, waste management and more. They could link in with the local gleaning network and food bank schemes. They could offer a location – with website – for food and other ‘sustainable’ businesses to not only sell their produce, but to physically make their goods there too. They could incorporate a refill section, weekly repair café and even a low-cost hire facility for goods only rarely used. They could be places where the local climate action group meets and works from, offering resources and information to the local community. Opportunities abound from the fact that food gathers people together. In this way such hubs tick climate / environmental funding streams.
Food hubs, once established, can work together in regional groups and buy dried, tinned and other essentials from wholesalers in larger amounts, in order to bring down prices for consumers. There would also be the opportunity to sell non-food goods that are up-cycled or recycled, or are sustainable in some way, particularly those that are made locally. Many creative, kitchen table and small enterprises such as organic bread makers, micro dairies, pizzas, jams, curry making,.. could be supported, further boosting the local economy. In this way it ticks an LEP funding stream.
We need to expand the good and make it more convenient and accessible.
Funding for this may be available through the Town Funds, Business Angel Networks and / local council + community share offers. Local councils that have declared a climate emergency may be embracing a doughnut economic model. Private investment makes sense as, given the right location, they could well be central to the community in the long term. Town and city councils should though offer suitable premises for such hubs for free or reduced rates, so as to encourage the regeneration or our farm land and reduce travel costs. Obviously, such hubs need to work sympathetically within the neighbourhood and they will have to be sustainable’ in the long term. This is where real growth lies though.
The online sales portal could be through the Open Food Network – currently looking to improve their site – or perhaps Better Food Traders, or even BigBarn if they create a regenerative section based on a new Organic /Regenerative label. We don’t have time to get everything perfect before working on this locally! Regenerative farmers can be found through regenerativefoodandfarming.co.uk farmstofeedus.org, Facebook Page- ‘Regenerative Farming UK’, Nature Friendly Farming Network and though the Farming Forum’s ‘Conservation and Direct Drill Sections. Most of these farmers don’t have capasity to sell more but it’s a chicken and egg thing, once there is a route to a large enough market, they can make that jump. Slowly the shop will expand and improve.