Some of the main methods you can use to find local producers include:
- Searching on the Internet
- Local food directories
- Looking in the phone book or Yellow Pages
- Contacting Local Food Link organisations
- Visiting local farmers' markets
- Going into farm shops or other local food outlets
- Visiting farms directly
There are several websites you can use to search for local food by putting in your postcode or searching via your region. These include:
These can be useful, although they tend to be consumer focused and so usually list more farm shops, box schemes and markets, and don't always say whether farmers supply wholesale. Also be aware that not all web listings are kept up-to-date.
You can also just do a general search on the Internet via Google - including searching using Google Maps which will bring up results on a map. Try putting in the search terms 'local food' or 'fruit and vegetable growers' and then your county, region or town. This may also take you to other websites that list local producers or other on-line directories like the Yellow Pages.
Whilst searching on-line you may also come across local food directories that have been produced specifically for your town, county or region. These usually list local producers selling direct to the public through farm shops, farm gate sales, or pick-your-own, as well as having details of farmers' markets, food businesses, restaurants providing locally produced food, box schemes and home delivery services. Local food directories have been produced by number of different organisations including councils, local food groups and environmental organisations because of the many benefits of local food. If you don't have access to the Internet you should be able to get printed copies of local food directories if they've been produced for your area by contacting your local council or asking in the library or tourism information centre.
Using your computer to search for local food via the Internet can use up a lot of electricity and time, so it might be easier to search in a printed copy of your local Yellow Pages or phone book. Such directories will list farms in specific categories such as farm shops, pick-your-own produce or box schemes, so you may have to look in several different sections.
Local Food organisations have been set up in many locations around the UK to support the development of the local food sector. Some of these are government-funded bodies whereas others are smaller community-run networks and so they all focus on different activities. For example, some have helped develop farmers' markets, whereas others focus on trying to get more local food into publicly funded organisations such as schools and hospitals. However they all work with local producers to a greater or lesser extent and so should be able be able to help point you in the direction of suitable farmers or give you more information about what products are grown in your region.
Visiting a farmers' markets is a good opportunity to talk to local growers in person and see the range and quality of produce they sell. Visiting the nearest market will help you find producers who may be able to deliver to your area. If you do have a farmers' market in your town then stallholders may be willing to drop off to you on the same day as the market. You can find details of farmers' markets on the following websites and also by looking in local food directories or doing an Internet search.
- National Association of Farmers Markets website: http://www.farmersmarkets.net/
- Farmers' markets in London: http://www.lfm.org.uk/
- Farmers' markets in Scotland: http://www.scottishfarmersmarkets.co.uk/
- Farmers' markets in Wales: http://www.fmiw.co.uk/
Many farm shops supply some of their own produce, as well as buying from other local farmers and they may also provide a wholesale service or be willing to provide a discount if you order in bulk. The Farm Retail Association website: http://www.farma.org.uk/ has a list of farm shops.
Another (slightly cheeky) thing to do when visiting any other local food outlets including wholesalers, greengrocers or farm shops is to look on the sides of produce boxes, as these often have the contact details of farms on them.
Not all food producers are listed online or in published food directories, so it may be a good idea just to drive or cycle around the countryside speaking to people in village shops, stopping at farms or wherever you see produce growing or ask who grows fruit and vegetables in the area. The farming world is tight knit and generally helpful and so they will probably know of other farms nearby. You should also ask your existing networks about any farms they know and you could also contact local agricultural colleges or places with land-based studies courses. You could do this at the same time as you are carrying out any food mapping or needs assessment. You may come across small-scale growers who may not be commercial farmers but will still have signs out saying they've got produce for sale.
It is a good idea to phone or email in advance of visiting, but if you don't have a farm's contact details there is no harm in dropping in quickly and seeing if anyone is available or arranging a meeting for another time. However, you should also consider that some times of the year are very busy for farmers. Try to be aware of the farming calendar, and avoid cold-calling during busy periods such as sowing, harvesting or lambing time. Always be prepared to drive away if you arrive when things are fraught or busy. Some farmers, particularly large organisations or Farm Managers, expect to be contacted for an appointment. Wet days usually mean less outside activity and probably more time to talk.
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