Local Food & Drink Co-ordinator (LAG-led project) update - Ashley Robinson
Attended the Making a Living From Local Food event, hosted by Nourish Scotland, and held at the Falkland Centre for Stewardship. Running alongside Nourish's "Making a Living from Local Food", a peer-support and mentoring programme, the event invited those interested in local food - from bakers to farmers to green grocers to policy makers - to network, socialise, and learn.
I came along to the event in two capacities - first and foremost, to research the common challenges and potential solutions for those who want to make a living from local food, and also as an 'alumni' of Nourish's past programme, the 'Food Leadership Programme'.
Many of the challenges and barriers that were mentioned on the day have come up in our Local Food Business Network, or have arisen at the Stirling Food Summit as well. Some of the common issues that were mentioned are access to funding/knowledge/land, finding appropritate routes to market, keeping a sustainable rate of working (preventing burnout), lack of networks, ensuring economic viability, and working to ambitious goals/deadlines.
Many of the issues for new entrant, small-scale producers arise as they are trying to carve a living from an industry that is systemically geared towards larger production, processing, and export - favouring economies of scale. This means producers of this scale - the new entrant, smaller producers - need to work co-operatively, share resources, and generally think outside-the-box for new ways of sustainably producing food, while remaining economically viable.
Although this scale of production faces many challenges, there were no shortage of solutions also discussed throughout the day. Many of the solutions - appropriate and specialised advice, access to land and funding, training support, networking and peer-learning, sign-posting to resources - have been echoed in our region as well. For example, some of the folks already share best practice and ideas with eachother, and plan to start collective purchasing and equipment sharing.
As well as discussing the challenges and solutions, we heard from a variety of experts in their field - from the Soil Association talking about the benefits of organic certification, Business Gateway and their multitude of business-skills workshops and resources, to the Farm Advisory Service, which offers and advice help-line, and funding for things like an Integrated Land Management Plan.
We were also treated to a farm tour from Meadowsweet Organics, a small market garden operating in Falkland in Fife. Rosy showed us around their polytunnels and fields full of organic veggies and herbs. In operation since 2015, the farm is located on Falkland Estate, with their vision being:
"... to create a beautiful, diverse and fertile place producing vibrant and vital fresh produce and a healing space for people to re-connect to themselves and the land."
An inspiring and insightful day, rounded off with great company and delicious food served up by the cafe at Pillars of Hercules. A big thank you to Nourish Scotland for hosting!