One of the main issues held by the organic movement is that it is important to reconnect people to food grown and produced in their local area. This belief is held for several reasons; the first is that around 44% of all organic food in the UK is actually imported into the country. This creates food miles which both is bad for the environment with all the extra carbon created by the transportation needed, and can put up the cost of the food with all this travel from point of origin to point of sale.
The second is that importing food prohibits the growth of a local food industry: any industry can only grow and develop if the demand exists. By such high level of food importing, in both the organic and non-organic food sector, local farmers, meat producers and others can only grow and produce and sell a certain amount of food, and promote it to the local market. They need steady and rising sales in order to build their business and make a decent living, in order to keep the enterprise worthwhile.
The Food Demon: Packaging
Importing food also uses huge amounts of packaging. This is terrible for the environment, as it usually just gets thrown away, and is really just unnecessary. Buying food locally, direct from a shop or supplier, means that packaging cut usually be cut to a minimum – shoppers can take their own bag and put loose fruit and vegetables into it. Paper bags can be used, which can be put into the paper recycling collection box.
The Soil Association emphasises the importance of shopping locally. This supports local farmers, builds a strong local food economy, cuts down on food imports, and beneficially can start to reconnect local people to the process of food cultivation and land use locally.
This might involve buying at a weekly farmers market in the area, buying directly from the farmer at the farm gate or at a purpose built farm shop. Other options include having a regular vegetable box delivered from a local farm box scheme, finding local small shops that sell local produce, or seeing if the local supermarket sells any local produce.
Many supermarkets now do this, as it is clear consumers want to support their local farmers, and supermarkets do respond to purchaser’s pressure. If your local supermarket doesn’t yet stock produce from local growers and suppliers, talk or write to the manager and request this service. You will be doing farmers and food producers in your local area a great service by opening up a new market for them.
Finding Local Suppliers
If a consumer wanting to buy local food is having difficulty sourcing it, try approaching the local Council for information about any local farmers markets. If there isn’t one in the local area, see if a few friends or neighbours or work colleagues could join together for a shopping trip to the nearest one. There are over 300 farmer’s markets across the UK, and this number is growing rapidly, so if there isn’t one close to you, there soon will be.
Other ways to find local suppliers is by approaching the Soil Association, which is happy to help consumers access local suppliers.