About the Author
Tamzin Pinkerton has an academic background in Social Anthropology and Human Rights. Tamzin has been involved in various Transition Town Totnes projects, including coordinating the schools project Transition Tales, working with a local secondary school, and helping organize Transition Town Totnes. She now lives in Weybridge, Surrey with her daughter. Rob Hopkins, the co-founder of the Transition Network and founder of Transition Town Totnes, has been a teacher of permaculture and natural building for many years. He now lives in Totnes in Devon, the first Transition Town in the UK, from where he coordinates the Transition Network.
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How to Make it Happen in Your Community
By Tamzin Pinkerton, Rob Hopkins
Green Books LtdCopyright © 2009 Tamzin Pinkerton and Rob Hopkins
All rights reserved.
THE LOCAL FOOD MOVEMENT
If fresh food is necessary to health in man and beast, then that food must be provided not only from our own soil but as near as possible to the sources of consumption. If this involves fewer imports and consequent repercussions on exports then it is industry that must be readjusted to the needs of food. If such readjustment involves the decentralisation of industry and the re-opening of local mills and slaughter-houses, then the health of the nation is more important than any large combine.
Lady Eve Balfour, founder of the Soil Association, 1943
Given the degree to which the modern food system has become dependent on fossil fuels, many proposals for de-linking food and fossil fuels are likely to appear radical. However, efforts toward this end must be judged not by the degree to which they preserve the status quo, but by their likely ability to solve the fundamental challenge that will face us: the need to feed a global population of seven billion with a diminishing supply of fuels available to fertilise, plough, and irrigate fields and to harvest and transport crops.
Richard Heinberg and Michael Bomford, 2009
Food shapes and is shaped by many areas of our lives, from how we organise our days to the topography of our land, and much in between – our physical and emotional health; the climate; the quality of our air, water and soil; the diversity of the wildlife; the structure of our economies and the closeness of our communities. So it is perhaps not surprising that as change to the globalised, industrial food system is made inevitable by the limits of its own excesses (as discussed in the Introduction), one of the most popular focuses and starting points for many community-strengthening projects is the transformation and redefinition of the community's relationship to food – how it chooses to sow, grow, fertilise, harvest, sell, transport, source, buy, cook or eat it. In so doing, this process is helping to reinvigorate the local food networks, or 'foodsheds' that once provided all of our food – webs of small-scale, commercial, non-profit-making and home-based producers, growers, processors and consumers, who are linked by face-to-face relationships and who share a local economy, environment and community.
The shift towards local food is by no means happening only among the usual green suspects and the ranks of resource depletionists – it is also gathering momentum within the mainstream. This growing popularity has been reflected in recent research, with one UK study finding that 27 per cent of shoppers said they had bought local produce in the month prior to being surveyed, compared with 15 per cent three years ago. Over in the US a similar shift is happening, with one in six American consumers recently questioned saying that they now go out of their way to buy local food as much as possible. There does, however, seem to be a gap between this rise in demand for local food and what is currently being supplied. A further survey found that 70 per cent of UK consumers want to buy local and regional foods, but that 49 per cent would like to buy more than they do. This last figure indicates that perhaps the amount and range of local food desired by consumers isn't always readily available or easily accessible, and that there are many gaps that the local food networks can fill with the shopper's blessing – or indeed, many potential converts to the art of small-scale food growing among the consumer masses. It may also indicate that the majority of shoppers are no longer content with the haze of blissful ignorance that glossy marketing and elongated supply chains perpetuate – a haze that has allowed the consequences of our buying habits to go largely unchecked for decades.
All the above figures suggest that a global economic slowdown does not necessarily imply a neglect of consumer ethics. Instead, the financial slump – accompanied as it is by the looming consequences of peak oil and climate change – has given us the opportunity to question the status quo and to realign our values with our lifestyles. The health of people and the environment, bound together by our need for food, is once again making its way up the priority list.
The welcome revival of local food in the UK, as well as in other countries around the world, is growing on the strength of years of groundwork carried out by communities and organisations in the field. Food Links UK, for example, was set up in 2002 as a network of organisations within the local food sector (including the Soil Association, Sustain, F3 and Food Matters), and has more recently merged with Sustain's Local Action on Food network. The network has been instrumental in establishing regional Food Links projects, such as Devon Food Links, East Anglia Food Links, and so on. The focus of each project has varied, but on the whole they have all facilitated a growth in local food networks in their areas by advising, funding, supporting and/or initiating local food projects, businesses, courses and events. One of the many Food Links success stories has been on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, which now boasts a Food Links van that delivers local produce to local businesses, a farmers' market, a community interest company and farmers' group dedicated to promoting local food and local food programmes in the island's schools (see www.tastelocal.co.uk to see the full range of their work). More recently, the Plunkett Foundation, together with a number of other local food organisations, has been allocated £10 million to roll out the Making Local Food work programme across the UK (see page 165-9 for more on the mapping and community shop programmes it is engaged in, and www.makinglocalfoodwork.co.uk for full information).
But what exactly is local food? While we can define it in line with the principles laid out on page 15, it is up to the community projects working with local produce to determine the specifics of how far away their food is sourced, exactly what products are available within the established 'local' radius, how it is identified or verified, and how much or how little non-local produce it is acceptable to consume alongside it. Because the definition is dependent upon the context to which it applies, and because it is as locally specific as the produce it describes, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all set of defining criteria when it comes to local food. This is something that might frustrate any box-ticking or categorising efforts, but it is well suited to the creativity and community ingenuity typical of this food sector.
Throughout this book you will find groups coming up with their own definitions of local food that are tailored according to their visions of sustainable food production, the existence and range of specific projects and producers in the area, and the limits of resources and customer proclivity that determine the nature of each project's work. The food they call 'local' is sourced from anything between zero to over 150 miles away, and can be from within the same community, town, city, county or even region. Some food initiatives, such as Growing Communities in Hackney (page 159), or the Stroud Community Agriculture scheme (page 106) supplement their largely locally sourced produce with a small percentage of 'luxury' items from abroad, such as bananas and other shipped fruits (see the zones diagram on page 16 to find out what proportion of food Growing Communities sources from each zone). Others, like the Canalside Community Supported Agriculture scheme (CSA) (page 109) in Warwickshire, sell only their own-grown, seasonal produce to their members. But whatever their local food definitions currently are and whatever additional items they deal with alongside local produce, many of the projects we have looked at in the course of our research see themselves as being in the midst of a localising process, and hope to decrease the miles travelled by their produce as the local food movement grows and local food becomes easier to find.
From a consumer's point of view, it is important to point out that the local food movement isn't about denying British people the pleasures of sugar or coffee for ever more, nor about banning haggis for Londoners and Cornish pasties for the Welsh. Most local food supporters agree that a transition to greater food localisation doesn't mean imposing trade barriers and building walls of parochialism. Rather, it is about strengthening local food networks and shifting our focus back to home turf. That way, we can source most of our food from our immediate locality, while the food that is brought in beyond community, regional and national lines is done so as sustainably as the extended food miles will allow (i.e. with the same respect for producers, adherence to organic standards, and with as minimal a dependence on fossil fuels as possible). As the import-hungry developed world relocalises its tastes and purchases, this will also allow producers and farmers overseas to concentrate on feeding their own communities and nourishing their own soil, instead of working to satisfy the whims of fluctuating international food markets and the profit-chasing aims of multinational food businesses.
The enjoyment of long-distance-traded, nonnative foods is a luxury that future resource limitations may well halt, and British chocoholics will then have to be incredibly creative about how they satisfy their fix. But weaning ourselves off our favourite faraway foods is a process that won't happen in a day. Again, within the throngs of shoppers actively supporting local produce there is a spectrum of ideals being played out at the cash till, as the hard-line 'locavores' choose to eat within only a 30-mile radius of their home, while others permit themselves cups of tea, rice milk, bananas and Italian wines to accompany their garden-, orchard- and local-farm-sourced meals.
Beyond drawing the local food boundaries, projects featured in this book also have different standards when it comes to how the food they deal with is produced, focusing on what is organic and certified, organic and not certified, wild or biodynamic – or some combination of the above. There are also some projects that choose to prioritise local food over organics or vice versa. But, whatever side of the various food fences they fall on, they are all part of an evolving and highly varied movement around local food that no one can typify.
This book focuses predominantly on the fruit and vegetable sector of local food, which reflects the make-up of the local food movement in its current state. But as local food networks become more sophisticated – as diets shift and infrastructure for local food production is developed – the growing of grains, nut trees and/or the keeping of livestock will have to feature more widely across our localised foodsheds if we are to remain well fed beyond the oil peak. And, as our communities are reskilled, more of us will be able to participate in the growing and rearing of plants and animals that can provide us with the protein and carbohydrates that we need – not to say the wine, honey and sugar that we also enjoy. So, in perhaps twenty years' time, a new edition of this book might have chapters dedicated to community nut plantations, bee-keeping co-ops, community dairies and community grain stores, together with a particularly dense chapter on community vineyards and breweries. In the meantime, there are many people across the globe today who are experienced and engaged in small or poly cultural large-scale nut and grain growing or livestock keeping, and their knowledge can help to expand the focus of the local food movement in the years ahead.
As with the intertwined issues of climate change, peak oil and economic meltdown, it is unhelpful (and potentially dangerous) to dissect and isolate any of the motivations and principles that guide, or the links that comprise, local food networks. If we do, valuable and vital elements of these food systems could be lost along the way. Local food networks are not, for example, simply about reducing the amount of carbon in the food chain. A focus on CO2 emissions belies the fact that the majority of the UK's agricultural greenhouse gas emissions are from methane and nitrous oxide (the latter, mainly sourced from artificial fertilisers, being 310 times more damaging than CO2). A focus on carbon reduction as the solution to more sustainable food production also says very little about how a community might become empowered to determine its own food supply, to eat more nutritious foods, or to communicate with the people that grow it. At the same time, an economics-based assessment of local food (while research proves that a local food economy makes financial sense) ignores those elements of local food networks that cannot be counted, such as the strengthening of social relationships as food supply chains contract, or the deep appreciation of life in nature that comes with growing your own food. At the same time, a focus on organic produce can obfuscate the fact that while an organic mango may be a healthier fruit than a pesticide-sprayed apple, its transportation to the UK is polluting and its nutritional content compromised by the miles it covers.
The alternative model of food systems that the local food movement is building therefore needs to encompass every facet of a community's relationship to food, from establishing fair farmers' wages to ensuring that rivers run free of pollution; from limiting diet-related, life-threatening illnesses among humans to supporting local bird populations. If a transition in food is to be realised, it has to be thorough. Having said that, we are in the midst of a rapidly changing time and, as each community grapples with the transformations it wants to set in motion, priorities will vary, perspectives will clash, tastes will differ and balances will tip towards and away from sustainability as we try to find our fossil-fuel-free feet. But there is enough space within the principles of Transition and the local food movement generally to accommodate all of these shifts and fluctuations. As too is there space for a variety of food philosophies (including those held by vegans, vegetarians, raw-food enthusiasts, wild-food foragers and meat-eaters), as well as a range of food-growing approaches (including organic, biodynamic, forest-gardening and permaculture-inspired food production), with all the disagreements and creativity that may arise between them. The people best placed to respond to the food issues that face us are those who make up the colourful, growing-to-eating spectrum within each local community as it forges its own path to resilience.
Using this book
As mentioned in the Introduction, the purpose of this book is to celebrate existing local food projects, and to provide inspiration, generate ideas and encourage community action around local food issues. The projects featured in these pages have been chosen because they are innovative, interesting and/or examples that others can learn from. Between them they make up a vibrant cross-section (but by no means an exhaustive list) of local food work that is happening in various communities across the Transition Network and beyond. Transition initiatives are relatively young newcomers to the local food scene, and, as we shall see, much of the food-related work that has grown up within them has been and will continue to be informed, influenced and inspired by the work of other projects.
This book is predominantly UK-based, but it includes a few examples of projects located elsewhere in the world, to give a sense of the relevance that a transformation in food also has in other cultures, and to show how far and wide the local food movement is spreading. The variety is broad – from one-off projects that require relatively little planning and funding through to long-term, larger-scale initiatives that entail ongoing dedication, money and time. The point here is partly that people and communities are as diverse as the actions that change them, but also that effecting change is possible at many different levels, from the small to the large, the short- to the long-term, the easy to the complex. From establishing a community garden to simply giving a spinach seedling to a neighbour, every act in the direction of greater food resilience is a valid, valuable part of the process of relocalisation. As the American activist Rebecca Solnit points out," ... history is shaped by the groundswells and common dreams that single acts and moments only represent ... And though huge causes sometimes have little effect, tiny ones occasionally have huge consequences." As we all know, the tiniest of seeds can produce the most magnificent of trees.
Excerpted from Local Food by Tamzin Pinkerton, Rob Hopkins. Copyright © 2009 Tamzin Pinkerton and Rob Hopkins. Excerpted by permission of Green Books Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword by Rosie Boycott,
Introduction by Rob Hopkins,
Chapter 1 The local food movement,
Chapter 2 The Great Reskilling,
Chapter 3 Home garden growing in the community,
Chapter 4 Allotment provision and gardening for community groups,
Chapter 5 Garden shares,
Chapter 6 Community gardens,
Chapter 7 Community orchards,
Chapter 8 Community Supported Agriculture,
Chapter 9 Farmers' markets,
Chapter 10 Food cooperatives,
Chapter 11 Local food guides and directories,
Chapter 12 School projects on local food,
Chapter 13 Local food events,
Chapter 14 Expanding local food projects,
Chapter 15 Yet more inspired ideas,
Chapter 16 The local food project and beyond,