10 May 2016: short film – why do we need to change our food system?

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Fondation Nicolas Hulot (FNH) and the International Urban Food Network (IUFN) have produced a short film that explains why there is an urgent need  for action towards more sustainable food systems. It was produced as part of the Climate Change Urban Food Initiative launched in late 2015 by UNEP, FNH, IUFN.

It’s worth a few minutes of your time – you can see it here


20 April 2016: Addressing Policy Challenges for more sustainable Local–Global Food Chains: Policy Frameworks and Possible Food “Futures”

We have published a  new open access article in the journal Sustainability http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/8/4/299 . In the article we  consider how policy can address the local–global within a wider commitment to food sustainability and draw on research conducted for the EU-funded GLAMUR project (http://glamur.eu/). We suggest the findings can help support policymakers as they consider the effects and value of using multi-criteria interventions.

You can read the full text and download the PDF here: Sustainability 2016, 8(4), 299; doi:10.3390/su8040299

10 July 2015 – European Food Vision photo competition

Supply Chainge – a campaign organised by  a group of civil society organizations from across Europe and the Global South that aims to make supermarket store brands (sometimes known as ‘own brands’ or ‘private labels’) fairer and more sustainable – is asking for entries to a photo competition from EU-residents.

While the  campaign is asking retailers to implement changes in their supply chains, the photo competition is asking consumers to share their vision of a better world and a more sustainable retailer industry. You can see examples of the types  of photographs they are looking for and how to enter (deadline 31 July)  here

Then get your friends to vote on the entries – including your own! First prize is a trip for two to the Milan EXPO in October – you can read the details here

I can already see some food market entries….

12 April 2015 –the future of US Community Supported Agriculture

Recent research conducted in the US on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Massachusetts by Mark Paul is reported on the Civil Eats website. As the article says:

CSA describes a long-term economic arrangement between farmers and eaters that cuts out the middlemen. How does it work? CSA members pay the farmer before the growing season begins, thus providing working capital for the farm. In turn, the farmer provides members with weekly produce representing a share of the harvest throughout the growing season.

With at least 6,200 known CSA farms reported in 2014 (with only 2 reported in1986), the article discusses why there has been this incredible growth – especially outside the mainstream commodity market for small and mid-scale farmers – and asks about the future.

A few notable points are:
– CSA farms struggle within the larger market and policy environment, and farmers struggle to pay farmworkers a living wage;
– CSA farms can spread risks associated with crop failure by growing a range of crops and varieties – thus providing crop rotation patterns with a guaranteed market from the members;
– CSA farm structures reduce farmers’ reliance on bank loans;
– CSA is encouraging young and new farmers, and especially women, interested in sustainability into the business.

One conclusion from the research is that:
The central challenges facing CSA moving forward are providing fair compensation to farmers and farm workers, while making shares available at prices that can attract more members of the community.

You can read the full article – and case study – here
You can read about CSA in the UK on the Soil Association website here

9 April 2015 – women, sustainability, farming and market trading

Women are the backbone of farming and market trading in the developing world – see for example, http://www.farmingfirst.org/portal/gender/ and this blog (7 April) – but I was interested to see that in 2012, there were reports of a rapid rise in women farmers in the UK – according to the BBC, ‘figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that there are 23,000 female farmers in the UK. There are 119,000 men, but nine or 10 years ago there were virtually no women farmers’.

The situation appears to be different in the US where the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition reports that USDA Census data for 2012 shows a 6% decrease in women farmers over the previous 5 years. However, women farmers seem to be raising their profile and getting organised. A couple of examples I have found that link this to the US sustainable food movement are: http://grist.org/people/meet-the-women-who-grow-your-food/ and http://www.farmerjane.org/book-women.html

I am wondering what research there is post 2012 on the number of women in farming and market trading in the UK and Europe more widely – for example, are more women running the 97% of European farms operating as family farms? And how does this impact on fresh food market trading and on sustainability?