Food Relocalization for Environmental Sustainability in Cumbria
In the past decade, many European farmers have adopted less-intensive production methods replacing external inputs with local resources and farmers’ skills. Some have developed closer relations with consumers, also known as short food-supply chains or agro-food relocalization. Through both these means, farmers can gain more of the value that they have added to food production, as well as greater incentives for more sustainable methods and/or quality products, thus linking environmental and economic sustainability. These systemic changes encounter difficulties indicating two generic needs—for state support measures, and for larger intermediaries to expand local markets. The UK rural county of Cumbria provides a case study for exploring those two needs. Cumbria farmers have developed greater proximity to consumers, as a means to gain their support for organic, territorially branded and/or simply ‘local’ food. This opportunity has been an incentive for practices which reduce transport distances, energy costs and other inputs. Regional authorities have provided various support measures for more closely linking producers with each other and with consumers, together developing a Cumbrian food culture. Going beyond the capacity of individual producers, farmer-led intermediaries have maintained distinctive product identities in larger markets including supermarket chains. Although Cumbria’s agro-food relocalization initiatives remain marginal, they counteract the 1990s trend towards delocalization, while also indicating potential for expansion elsewhere.
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