Growing Our Local Food Economy

Last Monday saw an inspirational local food conference take place at the Friends Meeting House in Lancaster. Facilitated by LESS, the day brought together local food producers and retailers, along with representatives from local community food projects. The day aimed to identify ways of making local food more accessible in and around Lancaster.

During the conference a number of speakers from flagship projects around the UK shared their experiences and answered questions about how similar projects could work in the Lancaster area.

Kindling Trust from Manchester told us about Manchester Veg People and their Farmstart project. Kindling highlighted the need to redistribute power within the food supply chain rather than tackling one problem at a time. To create a fair food system all customers need to be made more aware about how their food is produced, and need to be able to make greater choices about how they buy their food.

Growing Communities  from London talked about their urban food growing and local supply networks in Hackney. Many years of hard work have created a sustainable enterprise that is guided by five important ‘Ps’: people, principles, pounds, planning and perseverance.

Stroudco came all the way from Stroud to explain how their ground-breaking food hub works. (The food co-operative strives to make sustainable food more easily available around Stroud, at affordable prices). The Open Food Network was also mentioned, as it offers free online platforms for online collaborative retailing- where different producers work together.

After a number of inspiring presentations and a delicious lunch from Soup Dragon, the afternoon was full of creative thinking!

Many exciting ideas were put forward for how to make local food more accessible in Lancaster. Ideas were grouped into common themes, with three themes being selected for further discussion. Collaboration between producers and the need to bring producers and consumers closer together was considered important.

The potential for an online local food hub was discussed further. The food hub would allow producers to contact each other more easily to share resources and skills, and could also act as a place for volunteers to go to find out about local volunteer opportunities. The hub may also become an online sales platform – for customers to place orders with a network of local producers.

Other ideas for making local food more accessible included:  encouraging convenience stores to stock more local produce and a shared local market stall. A local producer’s cooperative could make both of these possible.

Ideas will be developed further over the coming months so keep reading this column for updates!

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