Topic: Challenges and Opportunities for Mixed Horticulturists and Small-Food Businesses in Scotland
Keywords: FNS, mixed horticulturists, small-food businesses, Scotland, niche, local food system
SALSA (Small farms, small food businesses and sustainable food and nutrition security) an H2020 project, seeks to examine food and nutrition security (FNS) from the scale of small farms and small food businesses across selected European and African regions. Using a food systems approach, it allows for an appreciation of small farms and businesses as actors other than simply food producers. In Scotland, the picture of farms and small food businesses (<10ha and less than 5 employees) is not well developed, and the project aims to address this by exploring the local food systems in selected areas, namely Perth and Kinross and Stirlingshire.
This paper will set out the challenges and opportunities facing small farms (SFs) and small food businesses (SFBs) in their local food system. Small farms and SFBs utilised in this study represent a diverse range of products and services and this paper specifically focuses upon mixed horticulturists including market gardeners and small food businesses using vegetables and soft fruit produce.
A significant portion of SFs and SFBs attribute only 40% of their overall household income to be derived from these enterprises and many acknowledge the necessity of another income stream to support the farm and/or business. Yet, the desire to produce food at the small scale is a source of pride for many, citing perceived environmental benefits from their growing practices (organic), sustainable and nutritious food products, a high degree of traceability and transparency and an increased level of customer engagement in local foods. In order to be able to make a living or grow the business, participants feel they are encouraged to produce and sell niche items or services in order to find a foothold in a market dominated by larger retailers and supermarkets. The perishable nature of produce from mixed horticulturists and the degree of uncertainty around quantities and availability of certain produce add another layer of complexity to the future potential to FNS from these enterprises.
Qualitative interviews as well as focus groups with both farmers and businesses allowed the opportunity to explore challenges and opportunities, they currently face in their local food system, notably the specific market constraints, social and cultural norms surrounding local produce and the governing infrastructure and policies within which they operate. The findings from this study will firstly provide a more detailed picture of the current markets and social norms affecting mixed horticulturists and small food businesses in Scotland in the context of a local food system. Secondly, by assessing the governing structures SFs and SFBs operate under, the implications these hold for future policy changes can be identified.