Consider the renewed interest in ‘local’ food we have experienced in recent years. This has not happened spontaneously. The re-connection of people, products and places was a key recommendation of the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food in 2002 (see Hein, Ilbery and Kneafsey, 2006).
Not every place is going to develop a vibrant local food economy. Hein et al. looked at various factors that might influence the strength of the local food market in any area, such as the number of food directories and the number of local food producers advertising in them. They also examined the number of licenced organic farmers and growers, number of farm shops and farmers’ markets.
They highlight the difference between having good local food products and access to markets. Is there a strong local market, or does it need to be exported? If the latter, is the ‘value’ of that product dependent on freshness which may not translate well to an export led approach, or is it unique to a particular locale and a ‘value’ that people outside the locale might want to buy into. For a discussion on this in relation to Wales, read the Guardian article
Wales, for example, has both a strong local food market, based on local raw ingredients, and a strong brand awareness through its erstwhile Taste of Wales, and its newer VisitWales brand. Essential to this is the trust that comes from the quality-assured branding of a product from a range of producers – from meat to cheese, and beers to whisky. Of course, this is dependent on having good quality ingredients, a level of existing brand awareness, and a set of images and values associated with that brand awareness that complements the products you wish to sell. Famous for its food festivals celebrating all that is good and local, none is better known as a brand than the annual Abergavenny food festival. Started in 1999 by two local farmers in the aftermath of the BSE crisis, it has now spread its reach, celebrating good produce from Wales, the Marches and further afield.