Locavore is a social enterprise operating in and around Glasgow, Scotland’s largest City. The Company exists to help build a more sustainable local food system which is better adapted for the local economy, the environment and for communities. Locavore believes that money spent on food should also do much more for the benefit of wider society and the environment.
To this end, Locavore have been working since 2011 to develop ideas and practical solutions which can be used to deliver a better food network. Since becoming established, the Company have opened 3 shops (situation in June 2021), developed a market garden, established a veg box scheme and helped many people become more engaged in thinking about issues around food, where it comes from and the fairness and sustainability of mainstream supply chains.
Locavore believe that the food people choose to eat can have far reaching impacts which shape the world we live in; including landscapes, streetscapes and local economic situations. The food that people consume, not only impacts upon their health, but also upon global issues, as diverse as deforestation, climate change, animal welfare, public health and exploitation of the poor and workers’ rights. Locavore consider that the basic economic model of the big corporations who run the food system is at the root of such overwhelming global and local problems. In the UK for example, supermarket chains hold 97% the grocery market.
Key principles of Locavore are:
- Fairness: a fair price for the shopper as well as fair pay for employees, producers and farmers; producing things in a way which is fair for society and the environment.
- A healthy environment: a low-carbon food system which reduces food miles, industrialised processing and artificial inputs; looking after the soil, water and air.
- Using money to do good: by taking shareholders out the picture to build a sustainable local food economy which keeps money fairly distributed.
- Honesty: frank discussions about the future of food and admitting when things aren’t perfect and trying to improve them; this involves selling things as they are and avoiding misleading claims.
- Great food: Locavore believe in great tasting food and the importance it has on health and well-being in all cultures and communities.
Locavore operates an urban model of ecological agriculture which utilises a number of spaces around the City of Glasgow to provide vegetables and fruit for their shops, for the veg-box scheme and also for limited wholesale. Although the sites are small, Locavore operate an intensive production model which includes covered spaces, resulting in high productivity. The sites are rented from local farmers or from the local authority on short-term leases. In addition, they have a long-term plan to buy a farm near Glasgow once they have reached capacity on their current sites. In the meantime, Locavore have found the short-term rental model suitable for their operation and have had no problem finding land available to rent.
Bigger Plans for the Future:
In addition to production, Locavore is involved in the sale and distribution of food which supports ecological agriculture through developing a secure market. In 2018, Locavore launched a large social enterprise grocery store, on a scale which aims to challenge the domination of supermarkets. The organisation is currently promoting its ‘Bigger Plan’ which is to operate 10 shops by 2023. The intention is to increase their market share and use it to shape a food system which is better for society and the environment. This will divert money from multinational corporations to be spent on employing local growers and for the development of educational and social justice initiatives.
One particular initiative, for example, is the ‘Good Food Fund’, an alternative model to traditional food banks to help people in the community who find themselves in the desperate situation of needing emergency food aid. The Locavore model also uses cash donations to provide fresh food to those in need.
Although Locavore has access to a very small area of land, it has an extensive reach in terms of education which focuses upon food production and the food network. The Company has promoted ecological agriculture through creating a market for their produce, via their shop and the veg box scheme and through also establishing a sustainable business model which leases farmland in urban locations. Locavore has aspirations to buy larger areas of land in close proximity to Glasgow.
The Company has operated at a growing profit, which it has invested back into the enterprise. It currently employs a team of around 100 (in June 2021). Locavore has also assisted new entrants into agriculture through providing training and through the provision of growing opportunities. In addition, the Company has created a vibrant market for produce whilst maintaining a strong social focus. Locavore are already directly challenging the dominance of supermarkets over the food chain and are emphasising how reform needs to take place at all levels within the food production and distribution system.
Photo credit: Locavore