The charity behind Stirling’s popular click and collect farmers’ market has been awarded over £208,000 from the EU to roll out the model across rural Scotland.
The funding comes from a joint collaboration between four Scottish Rural Network LEADER programmes, Forth Valley & Lomond, Perth & Kinross, Fife and Scottish Borders, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
Forth Environment Link, which runs Stirling NeighbourFood, will use the six-figure grant to establish eight new weekly markets across Perth and Kinross, Forth Valley and Loch Lomond, Fife and the Scottish Borders by 2020.
The eco-friendly project aims to increase rural access to Scotland’s larder by creating rural employment, offering small scale producers a safe route to market and connecting shoppers with the people who make or grow food locally.
After registering for free, shoppers can place an order online using the NeighbourFood platform and pick it up from a central venue – in Stirling’s case, a local High School.
Regional Food Project Coordinator, Stuart Guzinski from Forth Environment Link said: “We’re offering a sustainable way to food shop, that supports local producers and cuts down food miles and food waste. All our farmers and producers deliver their orders in person, so locals can chat to the people behind their food and pick up recipe ideas and cooking tips. Pre-ordering also means nothing’s wasted. Customers can plan their meals around what seasonal produce is available and producers only harvest or prepare as much as they need.”
Since launching in Stirling in 2016, the market has boosted the local economy by £135,000, with producers keeping the lion’s share of the profits (£108,000).
Jack Crotty, Director of NeighbourFood, explained how the model differs from large retailers: “We work with Forth Environment Link to ensure food producers get a fair price for every product sold. Our producers set their own prices and get to keep 80% of sales for every product, compared to 15-25% through supermarkets. The remaining 20% is split equally between the market host and NeighbourFood.”
Douglas Johnston, Chair of the local Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER group, said: “This is a perfect example of collaboration and cooperation across rural Scotland, involving two sectors that are the lifeblood of the economy of rural Scotland – food production and tourism. So, we were delighted to come together with Perth & Kinross, Fife and Scottish Borders LEADER groups to make this project happen.”
The project is set to receive an additional £30,000 from Transport Scotland over the next two years to encourage shoppers to use active means of transport to collect their food shop.
Forth Environment Link’s Active Travel Hub Coordinator Philippa Cochrane said: “In Stirling we’ve developed a range of active travel incentives, from free e-bike hire to free access to shopping aids such as bike panniers to encourage shoppers to leave the car at home.”
The project’s expansion into four rural regions has been welcomed by Scotland’s local food and drink marketing advisory service, Connect Local. Ceri Ritchie, project manager, said:
“Our congratulations to Forth Environment Link for securing funding to take this hugely successful initiative across rural Scotland. Connect Local is fully behind the team’s efforts to increase access to food and drink at a regional level, benefiting both the small producers and the communities in which they are based. This will help not just the local economy but raise the profile and reputation of each area’s food and drink identity.”
The hunt is now on for eight new market hosts, who will be given funding, training and promotional support to set up the NeighbourFood scheme in their own area.
Community organisations and existing producer networks are asked to register their interest by completing a short questionnaire online.