The importance of supporting local farms and local businesses in our food system is obvious. It brings money into the local area, develops quality relationships within the community – business and personal – and leads to a bounty of regional and seasonal food. Many people already support individual farmers and producers, by shopping at local farmer’s markets or at co-ops for local products.
We already know that personal choice is pivotal in moving society towards a more sustainable food future, and it could be argued that sustainable food producers are looking to give consumers opportunities to make a positive impact. However, producers and consumers are often unable to connect because of lack of reach, or exposure for initiatives on the farming side, and a lack of awareness or consideration of ‘non-supermarket’ options on the consumers side.
Developing relationships between producers and the organisations promoting sustainable food, can lead to a much greater awareness of, and access to, local food choices for people and communities as a whole.
Multi-national grocery and goods merchandising businesses, such as Tesco, Walmart and Carrefour, are currently throwing the food system for a loop. They control such a massive proportion of the market that they can control price, influence purchasing choices and generally hold suppliers to ransom. The power centralised within these food empires needs to be dispersed as a point of urgency; and in order to do so, we have to focus on reinforcing the central role that consumers can play in making positive choices for our food system. Choices that support the economic viability of local businesses and farmers, and food producers. People need to be reminded that they play a pivotal role in the transformation of our food system, and that voting with our forks, 3-times a day, could have a huge impact.
I’m currently touring Europe on my bicycle to raise awareness of the people and communities that are working towards a more sustainable food system. I’m writing and making videos of what I see. An even more important part of my project is connecting these people to others with similar goals, and helping to strengthen connections. Individual organisations are fortified, and their power to influence extended, by connecting with other partner organisations sharing the same ethos and aims. By working together, a greater unity is achieved and a wider network of support established towards the goal of sustainable food.
Making videos and writing about these organisations brings greater awareness to the public of the issues at stake and engages other people around the world working towards similar goals. Moving from farm to garden, to sustainable food organisation, I speak about my experiences and those I’ve met along the way, profiling projects and organisations that might not have a large internet presence yet. It helps to increase knowledge, spread ideas, and generally get the word out about what people are doing.
You may be thinking ‘how much reach could a dude on a bike really have?’ Well, 2500 km later, I’ve made my way from the Netherlands, all through the UK and I’m now in France. I’ve met many individuals that are making a concerted effort towards creating a new food system, and I will continue to work with sustainable food producers and organisations through Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and Denmark. My tour of Europe is a small contribution to the bigger project of developing a cohesive sustainable food movement. Connecting people and organisations helps to create a valuable network of individuals working together for change.
Some organisations are already working towards shared goals, combining their resources to accomplish what needs to be done, but we need more organisations working collaboratively.
Fledgling start-ups would benefit immensely from a ‘big brother‘ organisation to guide them in the process of establishment, lending helpful advice when needed, and sharing practical experience in ways similar to an apprenticeship on a farm.
There is a major role for individuals to play in the shaping of a new food system, but there are also issues that are too large to solve individually. The power of individual choice must continue to be exercised, while organisations and communities around the world band together to build a better food future for us all.
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