Community food enterprises are a success story of local collective action and have the potential to make significant contributions to local economic resilience. However despite its success, and the existence of some supportive policy drivers, the sector faces barriers to realising its full potential. Better Land-Based Economies explores these contributions, the issues they face, and space for solutions.

Better Land-Based Economies” is just one of a fantastic series of projects undertaken by Shared Assets. This first part of this post deals with the “Better Land-Based Economies” projects and was written by Mark Walton. The second part is an overview of the the local economy-based reports published by Shared Assets, all under the series titles “Local Land Economies

Mark Walton: Despite a range of business development and support programmes, community food enterprises still face systemic problems that make it difficult for most projects to generate viable livelihoods for new entrants. Very low food prices make it difficult or impossible for community food enterprises to increase their income. In response many projects are focusing on reducing the costs associated with growing, such as accessing land and providing housing for growers. They also often find that local authority policies and practices fail to recognise their contribution to the development of resilient local economies.

Shared Assets is delighted to be working with three leading community food growing organisations to explore these issues. The Ecological Land Co-op, Kindling Trust, and Organic Lea are looking to create sustainable livelihoods for growers by reducing their costs for land, housing, distribution and marketing.  We are taking an action research approach as they work to secure ownership or leases of new land, and to demonstrate to local authorities how their activities contribute to local economic resilience and meet multiple public policy objectives.

We are currently supporting and working alongside each organisation as they seek land at a price, and with conditions, that will enable them to provide low cost access to land for new entrants to food growing. We will capture and describe the innovations and practical models of enterprise being developed by each organisation, and how these contribute to the development of local economic resilience.

We will also work directly with each authority in order to understand their needs, expectations and ambitions with regard to local food production and its role in delivering resilient local economies. We will identify the opportunities and barriers they face in developing a more joined up and supportive environment for local food organisations, and any evidence and resources that would support them in doing so.

The project will contribute to an understanding of the the development of sustainable land-based livelihoods and the role of community food enterprises in delivering local economic resilience. It will present the models of enterprise being developed by Ecological Land Coop, Kindling Trust and Organic Lea in ways that will enable other communities to adapt, adopt and embed them within their practice. It will also enable local authorities to join up and adapt local policies across a range of departments and directorates in ways that support the development of local resilient, sustainable and low impact food production.

This project is being funded by Friends Provident Foundation as part of their ‘Building Resilient Economies’ programme.

Local Land Economies

Over the course of an 18 month action learning project we worked with three leading community food enterprises, Ecological Land Cooperative, Organiclea and Kindling Trust, to understand how food growing supports local economic development and the challenges they face creating sustainable businesses and livelihoods.

Through research, site visits, workshops, and interviews with local authorities and other landowners, we have produced a series of guides for community enterprises and for local authorities who work with them.

Guides for community food enterprises

These accessible, easy-to-read guides are packed full of information and include exercises you can undertake with your group to help you strengthen and evidence your contribution to the development of strong and resilient organisations, livelihoods, networks and local economies.

Local economic resilience. This guide sets out how community food enterprises contribute to local economic resilience and suggests ways in which you might provide evidence of your impact. This can help strengthen the case you can make to local authorities, funders and others when looking for support or access to land.

Access to land: working with local authorities. This guide provides advice and guidance to help you work with local authorities to secure access to land to establish and develop your businesses

Better food systems. This guide helps you identify what elements you need to be place to create a resilient local food system. What roles do you play, who do you need to work with, and what’s missing in your area?

Understanding the planning system. This guide sets out all you need to know about applying for planning permission for structures and dwellings for small scale agriculture and community enterprises.

Guides for local authorities

Community food enterprises do more than just grow food. They also offer employment, training, education and an array of opportunities for community participation. What’s more, they care for the environment and help build cultures of fair, cooperative trade whilst creating new economic opportunities, contributing to more vibrant local markets and high streets, and shortening supply chains in the local food system.

In order to deliver these benefits they often need a supportive local authority to provide access to land and growing spaces, make connections to §others within the public and private sectors and wider civil society, who can help them thrive, and enable them to develop their growing sites sustainably.

Local economic resilience: the role of community food enterprises. This guide uses case studies, and draws on interviews with local authority officers and elected members, to set out the benefits that community food growers can deliver to local economic resilience and how local authorities can best support them.

Essential rural workers’ accommodation for local authorities. This guide sets out the primary considerations for decision makers when determining applications for low impact agricultural dwellings in England, and helps identify applications that should be granted consent.

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