What are the advantages of local food?

Primary production—and especially food production—is the foundation of the exchange economy. An economy that provides locally-grown food will be more resilient in the face of global disruptions such as transportation breakdowns, price hikes, or financial crashes. Supporting local food producers means supporting local self-reliance.

Local food can also have health and ecological benefits. Local food means reduced food miles, and closer farmer-to-consumer relationships may also mean more accountability and quicker feedback about food quality and its links to soil health. Small farmers are often in the best position to work with nature, growing organically, building soil carbon, and otherwise caring for soils and watersheds. A niche market—such as a dedicated local market—is usually essential to help small farmers survive.

Community-supported agriculture

Community-supported agriculture (CSAs) offer one approach for supporting regenerative farming. A CSA farm usually has a dedicated customer base, such as seasonal subscribers who receive a weekly share of a farm's fresh, seasonal produce, straight from the farm.

Because CSA farmers have a dedicated income source, they are insulated from some of the risks of crop failures, giving them an opportunity to work for long-term gains rather than short-term survival. Their farms are biodiverse because they must provide subscribers with variety in their food boxes. Subscribers often have opportunities to visit 'their' farm, and even to help out, so that farmers and eaters are aware and invested in farm sustainability, soil enrichment, watershed protection, and the health of plants and animals.

Living Economies is aware of a few CSAs in New Zealand:

We welcome information about additional CSAs, and we're happy to recommend resources to help others adopt this model.

More market solutions

Pop-up farmers' markets are a cooperative approach to connecting customers and local, small, and niche farmers. Local markets have many models. Those who wish to develop a primary food economy might want to take a look at the model promoted by Farmers' Market New Zealand, a membership-based organisation that requires member markets to follow these rules:

  • Primarily food is sold (no arts, craft, bric-a-brac) with exceptions for plants and flowers
  • Food is produced within a defined local area
  • Vendors must be directly involved in the growing or production process of the food (no on-selling)

Another creative and cooperative approach is a straight-to-doorstep box delivery system, where regular customers (e.g. weekly subscribers) order food, especially fruit and veg, through an intermediary that provides a market for multiple local farms. Ooooby offers one such system within multiple New Zealand communities.

Check out our online news article for more about the above solutions and other types of 'food pools'.

Home-grown solutions

For those with a green thumb or the willingness to learn, local food can begin at home, or among neighbours in a community space:

  • Home gardening and community gardening
  • Seed saving, seed swaps, and seed libraries
  • Community gleaning and sharing tables

Living Economies Educational Trust (LE) promotes exchange systems and investment models that build community strength and well-being, offer interest-free alternatives to 'business as usual', and respect both people and our living planet. Our network of volunteers can recommend resources and provide educational support for community initiatives. LE (CC 38114) is a registered educational charity, and we do not provide financial or legal advice.

© 2018 Living Economies