Food

Let's localize our food economies so that they offer healthy food, provide equitable livelihoods for farmers and farmworkers, and support agricultural, biological and cultural diversity.

Highlighted Food Actions
Set up a farmers market.
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Set up a farmers market.

Farmers markets that sell local and sustainably-produced food play a key role in maintaining and rebuilding healthy, diverse and resilient local food systems. These markets allow producers to receive a dignified income, give consumers high-quality food at a reasonable price, create local spaces for sharing and celebration, and bridge gaps between urban and rural dwellers, while benefiting the wider local economy.

Take action

Get inspired

  • The Stoke Newington Farmers' Market in London, UK, is a year-round weekly farmers market selling food purely from local small-scale sustainable producers. The market was started in 2003 and is run by Community Growers – a local NGO that also runs a local box scheme. 
  • Feria Verde in San José, Costa Rica comprises two markets that provide organic food to over 3000 customers on a weekly basis year-round. The market provides the main income for many farming families and has its own organic participatory certification scheme. The Feria Verde has been instrumental in broadening the understanding of, and support for, organic food and farming in Costa Rica. It is also a vibrant community space that brings people together from across the political spectrum.

Set up a farmers market.

Farmers markets that sell local and sustainably-produced food play a key role in maintaining and rebuilding healthy, diverse and resilient local food systems. These markets allow producers to receive a dignified income, give consumers high-quality food at a reasonable price, create local spaces for sharing and celebration, and bridge gaps between urban and rural dwellers, while benefiting the wider local economy.

Take action

Get inspired

  • The Stoke Newington Farmers' Market in London, UK, is a year-round weekly farmers market selling food purely from local small-scale sustainable producers. The market was started in 2003 and is run by Community Growers – a local NGO that also runs a local box scheme. 
  • Feria Verde in San José, Costa Rica comprises two markets that provide organic food to over 3000 customers on a weekly basis year-round. The market provides the main income for many farming families and has its own organic participatory certification scheme. The Feria Verde has been instrumental in broadening the understanding of, and support for, organic food and farming in Costa Rica. It is also a vibrant community space that brings people together from across the political spectrum.
Harvest wild foods.
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Harvest wild foods.

A rich diversity of wild or uncultivated foods can be found in our local environments, from urban areas to the backcountry. With sustainable harvesting practices and ethics, these foods can provide a dependable, perennial source of exceptional nutrition. Learning to identify, harvest and prepare wild foods provides not only nutritious sustenance, but opportunities for intergenerational and intercultural learning, preserving biological and cultural diversity, and deepening an ecological ethic of care and respect for the land.

Take action

Get inspired

  • The Deccan Development Society in Hyderabad, India helps introduce the public to neglected, highly nutritious and abundant wild foods through its Festival of Uncultivated Foods.
  • Fox Haven Farm in Maryland, US runs 9-month foraging education programs with a focus on ecosystem stewardship, within and alongside an herbal farm, ecological retreat, learning center, and wildlife sanctuary.
  • Linking Wild Foods, Biodiversity, and Forest-Based Livelihoods, an online conference held in 2021, offers stories and conference presentations from across South and Southeast Asia.
  • Forgotten Greens, based in India, connects people with wild plants growing near them through 11-day virtual group programs, as well as place-based plant walks, festivals, and workshops celebrating the plants that form the often invisible backdrop of our everyday lives.

Harvest wild foods.

A rich diversity of wild or uncultivated foods can be found in our local environments, from urban areas to the backcountry. With sustainable harvesting practices and ethics, these foods can provide a dependable, perennial source of exceptional nutrition. Learning to identify, harvest and prepare wild foods provides not only nutritious sustenance, but opportunities for intergenerational and intercultural learning, preserving biological and cultural diversity, and deepening an ecological ethic of care and respect for the land.

Take action

Get inspired

  • The Deccan Development Society in Hyderabad, India helps introduce the public to neglected, highly nutritious and abundant wild foods through its Festival of Uncultivated Foods.
  • Fox Haven Farm in Maryland, US runs 9-month foraging education programs with a focus on ecosystem stewardship, within and alongside an herbal farm, ecological retreat, learning center, and wildlife sanctuary.
  • Linking Wild Foods, Biodiversity, and Forest-Based Livelihoods, an online conference held in 2021, offers stories and conference presentations from across South and Southeast Asia.
  • Forgotten Greens, based in India, connects people with wild plants growing near them through 11-day virtual group programs, as well as place-based plant walks, festivals, and workshops celebrating the plants that form the often invisible backdrop of our everyday lives.
Create community orchards and food forests.
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Create community orchards and food forests.

A community orchard is a collection of food-bearing fruit and nut trees collectively shared and managed by and for local communities, located on publicly accessible lands and managed as a commons for the public good rather than as a private enterprise. Food forests expand this concept by creating multi-layered edible landscapes with perennial vegetables integrated with and around the trees. Even small lots with existing trees can become incredibly productive garden spaces.

Take action

Get inspired

  • Four friends started the Beacon Food Forest in Seattle, US, by presenting to the city council their vision for transforming a plot of grass into a food resource for all. Nine years later, Seattle had a 3-acre food forest that everyone can freely harvest from.
  • The staff at the Food Forest Project in the UK works with communities to rehabilitate land and create food forests, and is building a food forest demonstration site, the Education and Wellbeing Centre.
  • The Belipola Arboretum in Mirahawatte, Sri Lanka, is a thriving 30-year-old "analog forest": a food-producing landscape designed to mimic all the functions of a natural forest ecosystem.
  • Lyneham Commons is a community-run public food forest in Canberra, Australia, that is working to "regenerate public land, improve food security, provide education, reduce agricultural impact and grow food for the benefit of all."
  • The Calgary Public Orchards, maintained by the government of Calgary in Canada, contain edible fruit and nut trees stewarded by community members and open to all. 
  • Cottingly Hall in Leeds, UK, is home to the country's largest community orchard, and shows that even unorthodox spaces can become a great community resource: 120 fruit trees are planted along a half-mile stretch of open space along a railway.
  • The story of the Rosewood Public Orchard in Columbia, South Carolina, US, shows that the community-building element of a community orchard is as important and valuable as the fruit trees.
  • In Community Orchards Bear More Than Fruit, Marina Kelava shares about Croatia's first community orchard based on permaculture principles in the town of Varaždin, which is helping to rebuild both soil and community.

Create community orchards and food forests.

A community orchard is a collection of food-bearing fruit and nut trees collectively shared and managed by and for local communities, located on publicly accessible lands and managed as a commons for the public good rather than as a private enterprise. Food forests expand this concept by creating multi-layered edible landscapes with perennial vegetables integrated with and around the trees. Even small lots with existing trees can become incredibly productive garden spaces.

Take action

Get inspired

  • Four friends started the Beacon Food Forest in Seattle, US, by presenting to the city council their vision for transforming a plot of grass into a food resource for all. Nine years later, Seattle had a 3-acre food forest that everyone can freely harvest from.
  • The staff at the Food Forest Project in the UK works with communities to rehabilitate land and create food forests, and is building a food forest demonstration site, the Education and Wellbeing Centre.
  • The Belipola Arboretum in Mirahawatte, Sri Lanka, is a thriving 30-year-old "analog forest": a food-producing landscape designed to mimic all the functions of a natural forest ecosystem.
  • Lyneham Commons is a community-run public food forest in Canberra, Australia, that is working to "regenerate public land, improve food security, provide education, reduce agricultural impact and grow food for the benefit of all."
  • The Calgary Public Orchards, maintained by the government of Calgary in Canada, contain edible fruit and nut trees stewarded by community members and open to all. 
  • Cottingly Hall in Leeds, UK, is home to the country's largest community orchard, and shows that even unorthodox spaces can become a great community resource: 120 fruit trees are planted along a half-mile stretch of open space along a railway.
  • The story of the Rosewood Public Orchard in Columbia, South Carolina, US, shows that the community-building element of a community orchard is as important and valuable as the fruit trees.
  • In Community Orchards Bear More Than Fruit, Marina Kelava shares about Croatia's first community orchard based on permaculture principles in the town of Varaždin, which is helping to rebuild both soil and community.
Policy action: Ban industrial farms.
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Policy action: Ban industrial farms.

Big, corporate industrial farms cause ecological destruction, and are often guilty of egregious abuses of both animals and workers. Because these costs are paid by others – and because these corporate farms are so heavily subsidized by governments – they produce food at costs that are driving small-scale, agroecological farms out of business. To achieve a sustainable, just and fair future, industrial farms must be banned.

Take action

  • The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) shows you how to ban factory farms in your town through Democracy School, a free online course for building a legal case against industrial agriculture, fossil fuel extraction, and other corporate industry on the basis of the rights of nature.
  • Reach out to CELDF for free and low-cost legal and campaign support services.
  • Animals Australia describes the steps needed to end factory farming of livestock in Australia.
  • Sign this petition to ban factory farming in the UK.
  • In the US, send this message from Food & Water Watch, or this letter from the Center for Food Safety, to your member of Congress to support the Farm System Reform Act, which would ban factory farms and help them transition to smaller, environmentally sustainable operations.

Get inspired

  • The citizens of Todd Township in Pennsylvania, US, banned industrial farms from their town with help from CELDF. Read more in this article from Organic Consumers Association.
  • The government of Ecuador has included a Rights of Nature clause in its national constitution, providing a legal basis for challenging factory farms and other destructive industries on the basis of rights violations.

Policy action: Ban industrial farms.

Big, corporate industrial farms cause ecological destruction, and are often guilty of egregious abuses of both animals and workers. Because these costs are paid by others – and because these corporate farms are so heavily subsidized by governments – they produce food at costs that are driving small-scale, agroecological farms out of business. To achieve a sustainable, just and fair future, industrial farms must be banned.

Take action

  • The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) shows you how to ban factory farms in your town through Democracy School, a free online course for building a legal case against industrial agriculture, fossil fuel extraction, and other corporate industry on the basis of the rights of nature.
  • Reach out to CELDF for free and low-cost legal and campaign support services.
  • Animals Australia describes the steps needed to end factory farming of livestock in Australia.
  • Sign this petition to ban factory farming in the UK.
  • In the US, send this message from Food & Water Watch, or this letter from the Center for Food Safety, to your member of Congress to support the Farm System Reform Act, which would ban factory farms and help them transition to smaller, environmentally sustainable operations.

Get inspired

  • The citizens of Todd Township in Pennsylvania, US, banned industrial farms from their town with help from CELDF. Read more in this article from Organic Consumers Association.
  • The government of Ecuador has included a Rights of Nature clause in its national constitution, providing a legal basis for challenging factory farms and other destructive industries on the basis of rights violations.
The Big Picture

Of all the localization steps communities can take, rebuilding the local food system is perhaps the most important. That’s because food is something everyone, everywhere, needs every day, which means that even small shifts in our food systems can have far-reaching benefits – environmentally, economically and socially.

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Today, most people in the industrialized world depend on food that has been transported thousands of miles – even when much of it could have been produced on nearby farms. In those parts of the global South where people still live in small towns and villages, a greater proportion of the food consumed is local or regional. But even in the South today, the food supply is becoming increasingly globalized and industrialized.   

The reason? Because governments almost everywhere use subsidies and regulations to support monocultural production and mass marketing. The huge competitive advantage given to the largest producers and processors can make industrially-produced food that has been shipped from the other side of the world cheaper than food from the farm next door. 

The policies supporting global food mean that even well-designed and implemented local initiatives will face strong headwinds. For that reason, grassroots local food initiatives will be more effective – and multiply more widely – if they are accompanied by shifts in local, regional and national policy.  

The benefits of local food 


Communities have good reason to support their local food systems. For one, localizing systematically alleviates a number of environmental problems inherent in the global food system: 

  • The distance that food travels is greatly reduced, thereby lessening the energy needed for transport, as well as the attendant greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • The need for packaging, processing, and refrigeration decreases – and all but disappears when producers sell direct to consumers – thus reducing waste and energy use. 
  • Farms producing for local or regional markets have an incentive to diversify their production, rather than planting single-crop monocultures. Crop diversification makes organic production more feasible, which in turn reduces the toxic load on surrounding ecosystems.   
  • Diversified organic farms provide more niches for wildlife to occupy. 
  • In local food systems, production methods are tailored to particular climates, soils and resources – which means that local food inherently supports the principle of diversity on which ecological farming – and life itself – is based.


    Local food provides many other benefits: 
     
  • Because the smaller-scale farms are more labor-intensive than giant monocultures, they provide more employment opportunities. In the global South in particular, a commitment to local food would stem the pressures that are driving millions of farmers off the land. 
  • Local food is good for rural and small-town economies, providing not only more on-farm employment, but supporting the many local businesses that farmers depend upon. 
  • Food security is also strengthened, because varieties are chosen based on their suitability to diverse locales, not the demands of supermarket chains or the requirements of long-distance transport. This would strengthen agricultural biodiversity. 
  • Local food is healthier: since it doesn’t need to travel so far, local food is far fresher than global food; and since it doesn’t rely on monocultural production, it can be produced without toxic chemicals that can contaminate food.   


    This Guide describes many of the steps communities can take to support their local food economy – steps that have been tried and tested in diverse parts of the world. It also describes some of the policy shifts that would help local food producers and marketers thrive.