Eating more locally produced food doesn’t mean shutting out the wider world – it’s about reducing transport costs and impacts in production and shopping, supporting local economies and jobs, keeping more of the profits in the hands of producers rather than multinationals, reducing packaging and preservative usage, avoiding exploitation, eating fresher food, eating seasonal food, and ultimately reconnecting with where our food comes from.
1 – CHECK THE LABEL
More and more retailers are appreciating people’s increasing desire to know the origin of their food, and to buy more locally. Many of the supermarkets now have a number of local suppliers and product lines in their stores, usually being clearly promoted as local produce. The golden rule is if it’s not labelled as being local, then it probably isn’t.
2 – SHOP AT FARM SHOPS
Farm run shops source their stock directly from local producers, usually including a number of attached farms. If you’re not sure where your nearest farm shop is, check out a number of directory websites, including Free Index, LocalFoods.org and Information Britain.
3 – SHOP AT FARMER’S MARKETS
Over 450 farmer’s markets now exist across the UK, meeting weekly, fortnightly or monthly, and providing an opportunity for local food producers to sell directly to the public. Bringing producers and consumers together, most sellers will be more than happy to answer questions about the food they produce. Most of the produce will have been produced within 30 miles of the market – significantly reducing transport impacts. Find your nearest farmer’s market on LocalFoods.org or via your local Council.
4 – SUPPORT COMMUNITY AGRICULTURE
A range of community supported food schemes exist across the UK – from meat and vegetable box deliveries, to wine, breweries, dairy products and bread. The Soil Association maintains a list of community supported agriculture schemes and delivery arrangements.
5 – SUPPORT COMMUNITY RUN FOOD OUTLETS
There are an increasing number of local artisan food producers interested in producing high quality local food, and better connecting local communities with the food they eat. Community bakeries, breweries and many other projects have been set-up in various parts of the UK, either selling directly to the public, or via a range of local outlets. The Transition Towns network provides a range of information aimed to support community food producers.
6 – EAT OUT AT RESTAURANTS OFFERING LOCAL PRODUCE
As with the supermarkets, many local cafes and restaurants have realised the increasing appetite for locally produced food, and source many of their ingredients locally. It might be worth making enquiries at your favourite local eatery to see where they source from, and if not already local, perhaps encourage them to consider if they could.
7 – SUPPORT LOCAL ALLOTMENT CO-OPERATIVES
In many areas allotment plotholders have come together to share and exchange their various crops between themselves, effectively creating micro community farms. Some have proved so successful they also sell surplus produce to the public, via local stores – which is perfectly legal so long as the allotment is not being run primarily as a business.
8 – CONSIDER SETTING-UP A COMMUNITY ORCHARD
Something perhaps a little more ambitious than the rest of this list – there is increasing interest in turning areas of otherwise underused and derelict land into community orchards. Done well, a community orchard provides not only a source of food for local people and wildlife, but also an attractive community outdoor space. Contact your local Council to enquire about any suitable sites you might be aware of and see what support they might be able to offer.
9 – FORAGE FOR WILD FOOD
At certain times of the year the UK’s hedgerows and woodlands are full of blackberries, wild strawberries, nuts, wild garlic, mushrooms, and a wide variety of nettles and leaves. Of course it’s important to know what you’re picking, but numerous books and guided courses are available for those with an interest in free food.
10 – GROW YOUR OWN
Of course you can’t get more local than your own back garden, greenhouse or window box. Try out your green fingers, and discover how satisfying connecting with nature and growing a proportion of your own food can be.
Photo from BazzaDaRambler via Flickr