Pocket Market Toolkit

Section 1: Why Pocket Markets Section 2: About Pocket Markets Planning a Pocket Market Setting up a Pocket Market Information for farmers Links to resources

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Section 1: Why Pocket Markets?

As part of a movement to live more sustainably and achieve a higher quality of health and life, many people are looking at the many benefits of creating more localized food systems. A local food system supports local growers, ecological farming methods, maintains our food production land base, and relies less on long-distance transportation, storage and packaging needs.

Pocket Markets play a role in supporting local growers and bringing fresh healthy foods right into our neighborhoods, places we gather, work, and live. The following section provides a backdrop to understanding why creating a strong network of Pocket Markets is beneficial for our region.

Why should you eat local?

Click below to view a video on eating local food. If the video isn't showing up properly, click here.

Currently, much of the food consumed in North America originates and travels within a food system that spans the globe. This means that an average food item found on your grocery store shelf can travel approximately 1700 km or more. In addition to this, currently, most of the grocery store items are produced within an “industrial” agriculture and food system.

Since the 1950’s we have seen a radical shift in the ways we produce and distribute food. Prior to this time, most communities produced and distributed food regionally on smaller mixed farms. Post 1950’s we began to see the emergence of larger plantations and feedlots which concentrated on one or two products. This resulted in many changes in the way farming was carried out. Increased trade activity and the ability to store and transport food long distances moved us towards an increasingly global food network. In addition to this, many foods became commodities, which affected the ownership, distribution and price. Today a few transnational companies own and distribute the majority of our food.

While this shift in the food system has had many advantages for people in urban centers and in developed countries, it has also had many costs. The swing to a global food system has resulted in the loss of traditional growing and eating practices and altered the social fabric or rural communities. Unable to compete with cheaper imported food products, we have seen a widespread loss of farms and farmers not only in Canada and the United States, but also around the world. The environmental cost of long distance hauling, refrigeration, packaging, as well as the heavy toll on soil health and biodiverisity are also fallouts from post 1950’s “modern” industrial agriculture.

There is increasing concern about access to oil for shipping, and climate change impacts of long distance hauling. In addition people are concerned about their health and its relationship to the food they are eating. People are concerned about the nutritional content, additives and preservatives as well there is growing debate on the safety of Genetically Modified and Irradiated foods. Rates of obesity and diet related chronic health and disease are at the highest ever.

While efforts of the global food system have been focused on producing more food to feed the world, we are falling short of the mark. In 1974, one in three people were hungry; today it’s one in five (from Are We On Track To End Hunger? 14th annual report on the state of world hunger, Bread For the World Institute, 2004).

One of the greatest challenges of the global food system is for those who actually produce our food. Today for every dollar spent on food, less than 20 cents on average goes back to the farmer. The rest of the money pays for packaging, transportation, wholesale, retail, and other costs associated with food production and distribution. The companies and their shareholders that own the means of processing, distribution and retail of food are the ones making the majority of the profits.

Communities, both in the north and south, are looking critically at these challenges and their current "food systems" and there has been a movement afoot to "relocalize" our food economies.

Buying locally grown food from regional farmers has many advantages:

  1. Buying locally is good for the economy: Dollars spent on locally grown food are reinvested back into the community, which contributes to the growth of small businesses, generates local jobs, raises property values and leads to a tax base that increases potential for stronger health care, education, and recreation sectors.
  2. Buying locally is good for the environment: Food produced and consumed locally uses less fossil fuel for transportation and requires less material for packaging compared to food that is produced and transported over long distances. In addition, small farmers rotate a diverse set of crops, which replenishes the soil.
  3. Buying locally is good for your health: Fresh foods are higher in nutritional content.
  4. Buying locally supports local farmers: It is difficult for small farmers to compete with often cheaper imports and with the volumes and consistency required by larger grocery chains. The cost of imported goods is often due to low wages and poor working conditions in other countries. By paying a fair price for the products produced we support a vibrant farm economy.
  5. Buying locally is good for our community: having access to locally produced food makes our communities more resilient and able to with stand disruptions in food supply. Having local agriculture also provides pastoral views, recreation, cultural experiences and educational benefits.

One of the great challenges of buying local healthy food is finding it! Most of our local grocery stores offer imports from around the world. Smaller local farmers who can not compete with imports, or provide the quantities required by large supermarkets, have looked to farm gate sales, farmers markets, selling to local restaurants and farm box programs. For the average busy individual or family it is difficult to access fresh local foods on a consistent convenient basis.

Across Victoria, Pocket Markets are held every day of the week. Having a weekly market to buy from that is just down the street, at your recreation or community center, or where you work, makes it much easier to eat healthier and support local food enterprise.

On the other side, Pocket Markets let local farmers spend more time growing. The markets guarantee to sell what the farmers grow, which encourages them to grow more. The Markets also endeavor to sell genetically diverse varieties to help promote and maintain seed diversity. The Pocket Markets try to keep the link to the farm by providing info on the farmer and inviting them to attend a market occasionally.

Pocket Markets make sense in so many ways!

What benefits do Pocket Markets bring to communities?

We are very proud of the produce we’ve grown this year for FoodRoots Pocket Markets. I look forward to sitting down with you this fall/winter to plan and talk about the future. The relationship with FoodRoots has given me a much needed shot of optimism about the future of my farm operations.

Graham Myers, Maple Groove Farm, North Cowichan

Pocket Markets can play an important role in creating a more localized food system. They create a distribution system that brings local healthy food directly to residents, at the same time as building our local production capacity by creating a fair, flexible marketing option for local farmers and food processors.

Next - Section 2: About Pocket Markets

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