Fringe Farming

Market gardeners

Out in the countryside, most food crops – grains, beans, oils, etc, for human and animal consumption – are grown on a field scale. They take little attention relative to the land area: one farmer with big machines can produce huge amounts of food, over a massive area, more or less single handed. These bulk crops also get processed – cleaned, dried, milled, etc – on a large scale.

Short supply chains for fresh food

For fruit and vegetable crops – I’m talking the 7-a-day stuff that most of us need way more of in our diets – it’s a completely different story. 

Glebelands Organic Producers, Manchester

Just a few acres, with polytunnels or glasshouses require constant tending, and can employ numerous people doing skilled, interesting, rewarding, socially useful jobs. 

Fruit and vegetables don’t necessarily need much processing before they reach our plates. We want to eat them fresh – the fresher the better! 

It would make sense, then, that the most labour intensive, perishable, unprocessed foods are grown in close proximity to urban areas.

Unicorn Grocery Co-op, Manchester

They can be traded directly or via very short supply chains into urban communities, with minimal transportation and refrigeration – both expensive and energy intensive.

Employment, training and educational opportunities on small farms and market gardens can be accessed easily by the urban community. 

A Circular System

Agroecological farming practices take a regenerative and holistic approach, underpinned by social and ecological principles.

They are well placed to make use of green- and food waste generated in urban areas to sequester carbon and replenish soils to produce sustainable food. It ceases to be waste, and becomes part of a healthy, circular, regenerative system!

Some cities across the UK are establishing peri urban farming, and putting these principles of circularity, diversity and interconnectivity into practice, such as Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow and Cambridge. 

Fringe Farming in Manchester

Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester serves food produced in the peri-urban area

We recently visited Manchester’s peri-urban network, which includes multiple, mutually supportive and interconnected producers and food businesses, including the Art Gallery cafe.

Unicorn Grocery Workers Co-operative is a cornerstone of local food, where prices are competitive to supermarkets.

Unicorn Grocery Co-op, Manchester

The co-op works closely with local growers to supply city dwellers with an impressive range of seasonal and super-local, fresh, organic produce, alongside a full range of groceries and provisions.

Organic is not presented as a “premium product” – because everyone needs good food that is not destroying the planet!

Unicorn Grocery Co-op, Manchester

Making it happen in Lincoln

When I look at the shape of Lincoln – it looks like an octopus on a map! – there is huge potential to build a local food network, with all the health, employment, social and environmental benefits above.

A sustainable, healthy food-growing network needs to include restaurants, retailers and other food enterprises that are committed to using local produce and trading ethically, which in turn need a community that understands the value of seasonal, sustainable food.

This is why we are inviting Duncan Catchpole, the author of Local Food Ecosystems and the founder of Cambridge Food Hub, to Lincoln this summer, to run workshops with local food enterprises. 

Food businesses in and around Lincoln are enthusiastic about a sustainable, vibrant local food economy, and we want to get together to explore how we can generate positive networks and develop our local food ecosystem together.

Be the change

Join us for the workshop BOOK HERE or get in touch to find out more.

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