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Market Gardens Could Boost UK Food Security, Report Says

Agroecological market gardens could boost UK food security and cut the need for imports, according to a report by the Landworkers’ Alliance.

To meet the need for UK vegetables, the group's new report, released at the Oxford Real Farming Conference, says the government should upscale the number of market gardens.


Such gardens also have the potential to contribute to rural regeneration, local economies and community resilience, the alliance says.


Not only would re-orienting the UK's vegetable supply away from import, but it would also generate benefits in terms of public health, environment, and social benefits.


Furthermore, the research suggests that for every £1 spent locally, £3.70’s worth of benefits are generated locally.


Although active and ambitious, the market garden and agroecological horticulture sector is small and 'woefully lacking' in adequate support.


The Landworkers’ Alliance says its vision of expanding the sector is limited by lack of access to land, investment capital for equipment and infrastructure, inadequate training opportunities and planning constraints.


Rebecca Laughton, horticulture campaign coordinator at the LWA, and author of the report, says: “The time has come for bold and decisive action from all four devolved Governments, to help our horticulture sector thrive.


"The environment, public health, local economies and communities all stand to win if policy makers work with us to achieve this vision”.


The report showcases inspiring examples that already exist throughout the UK of productive market gardens, some of which are collaborating to supply urban or rural populations.


For example, Growing Communities has evolved over 25 years to supply Hackney households with fresh produce, which is sourced mainly from their own peri-urban farm and a mixture of farms within a 50 mile radius of London.


Jane Sweetman, a grower at Plotgate Community Farm says: “We’ve seen that choosing seasonal organic produce direct from local growers is key to health in so many contexts - individual wellbeing, community vibrancy, flourishing biodiversity and resilient economic enterprise.


"Support for the policy recommendations in this report will go a long way towards ensuring this option is accessible, meaning real progress towards a truly sustainable food system across the four nations.”


Knockfarrel Produce, a croft in the Scottish Highlands, is generating over £18,000 per hectare as a market garden as opposed to the £320 per hectare it was previously generating as low quality sheep grazing pasture, while supplying 250 households.


Jo Hunt, owner of Knockfarrel Produce, says: "We need to rethink how government supports healthy food producers and reallocate funds to the key tasks of training more growers, giving them a living wage, and offering access to good food at fair prices in every community.


"This report sets out the policy levers that need pulled to make it happen”


In 2022, the Cardiff Courgette Pilot supplied 29 primary schools in Cardiff with locally grown, agroecological courgettes for a three week “Food and Fun” summer holiday activity camp.


The initiative now supplies 10 tonnes of a variety of different vegetables into school meals across three counties in South Wales.


D. Amber Wheeler, whose PhD looked at what needs to happen for the UK to meet five a day, says: “Market gardens supplying into primary schools is something that is entirely possible.


"There are examples of where it is working well such as the Welsh Veg into Schools pilot."


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