CPRE has campaigned on local food since 1998 when it published Food Webs, a pioneering report on the local food network in Suffolk. Since 2011 they have published research into 19 local food webs across England, engaged national politicians in the issues and helped local food to be seen as a key part of a more sustainable food and farming system. Although dated now, the 2012 CPRE Local Food Guide contains helpful background on why supporting local food growers and vendors is so important.
Eating local means choosing food that is grown, harvested and transported close to where you live. CPRE defines ‘local’ as within 30 miles of your home. This definition is also used by Asda, Booths, East of England Co-op, the National Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association (FARMA), and Waitrose, but there is no standard definition and of course it depends on where you live. In the Fens, it is very easy to find wonderful quality local food.
There are many reasons for eating local produce, including:
Taste & Nutrition
Food tastes better if it is fresh. Older food has lost moisture and nutrients. At farmers’ markets, the food is probably no more than 24 hours out of the fields. In comparison, supermarket produce will have spent time in transport and storage. Local farmers grow crops according to the seasons, and that means we can eat more like our ancestors did in the days before it was possible to store food for long periods. That is a healthier way to eat.
Local communities benefit
Buying locally supports growers, who provide jobs. That means our food security is more robust and we can build stronger rural communities with less reliance on commuting to employment in cities.
Lower carbon footprint
Fewer miles from field to plate gives our food a much lower carbon footprint. We all need to contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and wiser food-buying choices can make a big difference when agriculture is responsible for 9% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK.
More natural land management
Not all local farmers can afford to become certified organic, but many come close to being organic and are committed to using lower levels of pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilisers - all part of more environmentally sustainable land management.
Lizzie Bannister, a trustee and volunteer of CPRE Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has been investigating our region’s food economy. Here is what she discovered.
Once I started looking at our region’s food economy, I realised the subject was so huge that only a book would do it justice. Not having any time to write one, I decided to focus on local food, as in food grown and sold in our region.
I have provided lots of links to reputable sources about our region’s agriculture and agri-tech sectors if you want to look deeper into what I found to be a fascinating subject. I will also update the lists of local food suppliers as I find more.
Food is vital to our “powerhouse” local economy
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough region is home to world-leading farmers, scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs working in three sub-economies:
A recent report by the National Farmers Union (NFU), ‘Delivering for Britain: Food and Farming in the Fens’, shows what a huge contribution this rich agricultural and natural landscape makes to food production in the UK and to mitigating the impact of climate change. The foreword to the report has been written by TV presenter and farmer Jimmy Doherty who says:
“The Fens is the engine room of British agriculture and horticulture, and a unique farming hub… Blessed with superb, nutrient-rich soil, which helps us grow and sustain an abundance of high quality produce that is the envy of the world, the Fens provides everyone from top restaurants and supermarkets to home cooks with the best possible raw ingredients for their dishes.”
This diagram, packed with surprising statistics about the Fens, is from the NFU report mentioned above:
We hope you will enjoy browsing our sections on outlets for local foods. In all cases, it is best to call ahead before a visit to check opening times and COVID-related restrictions.