Exploring collaboration for a resilient local food system in Cornwall

Cornwall has a wealth of innovative small scale agroecological producers but the remote landscape can make transport and logistics difficult. Katie Bliss writes. Gatherings of growers in mid/west Cornwall as part of the Organic at the Heart (OATH) project highlighted the challenges of driving long distances to collect produce and buying in to compliment their offering to their customers. This is costly, time consuming and adds to the carbon footprint.  

As part of OATH, this has developed into a grower-led initiative to explore possibilities to collaborate on those journeys and buying in produce (ideally from agroecological producers within Cornwall); to help catalyse a local food ecosystem.  

The first step was to map the growing projects – which provides a great visual tool to start to imagine the possibilities of joining up the dots to create a resilient food ecosystem. You can find the interactive map on the Sustainable Food Cornwall website here.  This map is very much a work in progress and we are mindful there are many more initiatives in Cornwall not included please contact Katie Bliss if you have suggestions for initiatives to add.

We then talked to a selection of growers, food hubs and distributors as well other initiatives across the country to explore what could be possible.  As part of this we identified 3 potential scenarios;   

  • Optimising sharing of journeys for collection and delivery of produce (either a whats app group or a ‘Pasty Connection’ for growers)  
  • Working with third party couriers / wholesalers (such as DPD / Cornish Food Box and West Country)  
  • A collaborative / grower owned distribution network linking up local hubs (inspired by the Good Food Loop – see below for more details)  

Get involved! Participate in the grower survey and workshop 

Together with Sally and Rob at Goonown Growers we have developed a grower survey to help identify needs and opportunities, looking at buying in, selling and collaboration and explore these options in more detail.  

We invite all growers in Cornwall to participate, it should take approximately 10-15 minutes, but the benefits of enhancing collaboration should make that most worthwhile!  The intention is that the results of this study can help the community identify opportunities for collaboration, to connect directly and find mutually beneficial solutions as well as highlighting specific needs for support and funding.    

We will hold a workshop in October to gather growers and other potential collaborators including the Falmouth Food Coop, The Hive Cornwall, the Good Food Loop, Gleaning Network, Sustainable Food Cornwall and possibly local wholesalers / distributors, to discuss the results and explore potential scenarios for the future. Make sure to add your availability in the last section of the survey! 

****You can access the survey here. Final date to submit is 18th September 😊 ***** 

For some food for thought take a look at the Good Food Loop a not-for-profit wholesale distribution network that connects agroecological producers with food hubs and wholesale customers in Cornwall and Devon. The Good Food Loop aims to support agroecological producers by helping them access new markets, either through local food hubs or direct sales to wholesale customers. 

An electric vehicle owned by Tamar Grow Local makes the round trip between hubs once a week picking up and dropping off produce.  They joined us at the Cornwall Food Summit in May where there was a lot of interest to learn from them or even work together. 

Together with the launch of the Cornwall Food Partnership this could present some exciting opportunities to create an alternative food distribution system in Cornwall. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and exploring these ideas together with you! 

This work is led by growers as part of the Organic at the Heart project in collaboration with Sustainable Food Cornwall. Organic at the Heart (OATH) aims to strengthen existing or create new communities around environmentally, economically and socially sustainable farming. The project has developed a network of local hubs that embody the Organic Principles of Health, Ecology, Fairness and Care across 5 regions of England.  If you have any questions please contact katie.b@organicresearchcentre.com 

Sign up to our e-Bulletin

Sign up to ORC’s e-bulletin and be the first to receive updates from our in-the-field research and the latest organic and agroecological news and events. Delivered to your inbox monthly.

Newsletter signup

By submitting this form, you are agreeing for us to contact you by email about our research, knowledge exchange, policy support and fundraising. Your details will only be used by the Organic Research Centre (ORC) in adherence with our Privacy Policy.

If you would like to change how you receive communications from the ORC or update your contact details, please click the appropriate link at the footer of any email you receive from us, or contact: supporters@organicresearchcentre.com