Community food enterprises are a success story of local collective action and have the potential to make significant contributions to local economic resilience. However despite its success, and the existence of some supportive policy drivers, the sector faces barriers to realising its full potential.
Despite a range of business development and support programmes, community food enterprises still face systemic problems that make it difficult for most projects to generate viable livelihoods for new entrants. Very low food prices make it difficult or impossible for community food enterprises to increase their income. In response many projects are focusing on reducing the costs associated with growing, such as accessing land and providing housing for growers. They also often find that local authority policies and practices fail to recognise their contribution to the development of resilient local economies.
Shared Assets is delighted to be working with three leading community food growing organisations to explore these issues. The Ecological Land Co-op, Kindling Trust, and Organic Lea are looking to create sustainable livelihoods for growers by reducing their costs for land, housing, distribution and marketing. We are taking an action research approach as they work to secure ownership or leases of new land, and to demonstrate to local authorities how their activities contribute to local economic resilience and meet multiple public policy objectives.
We are currently supporting and working alongside each organisation as they seek land at a price, and with conditions, that will enable them to provide low cost access to land for new entrants to food growing. We will capture and describe the innovations and practical models of enterprise being developed by each organisation, and how these contribute to the development of local economic resilience.
We will also work directly with each authority in order to understand their needs, expectations and ambitions with regard to local food production and its role in delivering resilient local economies. We will identify the opportunities and barriers they face in developing a more joined up and supportive environment for local food organisations, and any evidence and resources that would support them in doing so.
The project will contribute to an understanding of the the development of sustainable land-based livelihoods and the role of community food enterprises in delivering local economic resilience. It will present the models of enterprise being developed by Ecological Land Coop, Kindling Trust and Organic Lea in ways that will enable other communities to adapt, adopt and embed them within their practice. It will also enable local authorities to join up and adapt local policies across a range of departments and directorates in ways that support the development of local resilient, sustainable and low impact food production.