Milk is cheaper than water. Unbelievable, but true.
Once upon a time the price tag on our food spoke of its provenance and the grafting that went into producing it. That was back when price corresponded to value and helped us understand and assess quality and workmanship. The more work involved, the more you paid. Yet this concept of ethical trading seems over time to have been reduced to the bargain-basement.
Why is our nation obsessed with cheap food? How can we be so far removed from the process of where it comes from? How is it that we’ve slid so far down the convenience slide that we unquestioningly devalue the food and the producers that make it? With supermarkets offering cut price this and cut price that, is it even possible to return to putting fair food back on our plates for us and our communities?
These are just some of the questions that Glasgow based Community Interest Company, Locavore are trying to answer; and not just with words or pie-in-sky ideas either, but in actual on the ground action.
Nestled just off the high street in the middle of a row of busy shops and cafes on the south-side of Glasgow, is Locavore’s food shop. Charmingly dishevelled in a way that only a community store with next to no budget but shed loads of spirit could be; this is reality retail at its best. It stubbornly sticks two fingers up at any hint of the gentrification that might be happening around it. You get the distinct impression that service over profit is the order of the day.
The word ‘locavore’ literally means – a person interested in eating food that is locally produced – not moved long distances to market. According to their website, Locavore is a social enterprise that exists solely to push forward local projects and community activities that contribute directly to a sustainable local food economy.
“We believe we need to revolutionise the food system and reap the benefits of a more localised food supply chain. This is a system that empowers growers and communities by keeping money local, reducing food miles and climate change emissions, and nourishing us with fresher produce and a healthy food culture.”
And so that is what they do. Not only are they running a not-for-profit local food shop and community hub, but they provide local organic veg bags to over 100 households per week on subscription basis. Then there’s the catering service, the community gardening sessions, delivering cookery workshops and (currently) working to develop a 2.5 acre market garden within the urban fringes of Glasgow. It’s pretty safe to say, Locavore is busy.
I paid them a visit unannounced, while visiting Scotland’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair, the irony not for once lost on me. I’d heard of Locavore from a friend, so I was surprised when I stumbled across them unexpectedly – I hadn’t realised they had an actual ‘bricks and mortar’ retail shop.
Everything about the Locavore Food store speaks of community. Nothing looks new, everything looks hand-made, hand painted, hand-picked. From handwritten blackboard signs to rustic wooden display shelving, this was set up by someone who’s main objective was to involve others in ‘the process’ even if it didn’t ‘look’ perfect (in a sort of sanitised glossy way) at the end of it. A little bit like when you don’t mind your child colouring outside the lines so long as they feels valued; it’s about the journey as much as the end result.
On entering the store and doing a quick scout round, I overhear a local producer selling her homemade breads to the shop keeper at the till.
She makes it at home, she says!
Can she make soda bread? asks the man behind the till.
Yes she can! she says, looking ever so proud of herself.
Well bring it in then! says the man behind the till.
And the deal is done.
When Locavore started rearing a few pigs a while back, the sty backed onto a major thoroughfare and local residents gave the pigs names, taking turns to feed and clean them. I’ve been told that the locals became so invested in the project that when the time finally came to slaughter the beasts, many were none too pleased with the idea and made it publicly known.
Sure, some people used to the convenience of a major supermarket may struggle to do a full weekly shop at Locavore. Certainly it demands a willingness to dispense with your usual big name brands, loss leaders and cut-prices. But it works. In fact it offers a real quantifiable service to the local residents, where community can get involved in the whole food process and invest in a new way of doing business. And that matters.
Tim Lang, professor of food policy at London’s City University, said in Newsweek
“There’s a really important movement building up around demanding decent food for people on low incomes and high-quality food for all. It won’t be quick: we’re in the middle of a long-term recalibration [of the food system]. I’m very optimistic, because without it, public health and the environment are in deep trouble.”
If you feel inspired by the work of Locavore or would like to support them in any way – drop them a line. Also check out their recent crowd funder program that’s raising funds for essential repairs needed to expand their market garden. Or better yet, drop by on your next trip to Glasgow – contact details below.