Exploring the socio-economic dynamics and innovation capacities of rural food and farming microbusinesses

Chivers, Charlotte-Anne ORCID: 0000-0003-3267-5558, Hafferty, Caitlin ORCID: 0000-0002-4512-1338, Reed, Matt ORCID: 0000-0003-1105-9625 and Raseta, Sofia (2022) Exploring the socio-economic dynamics and innovation capacities of rural food and farming microbusinesses. Technical Report. National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE).

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Non-technical summary: This report provides a range of data-informed insights significant to developing rural food systems, agricultural sustainability and rural innovation. We have found that the participants from the Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA) tend to be younger than their farming peers and run smaller enterprises. They are more likely to be new entrants and do not necessarily identify as 'farmers' having started to produce sustainable, healthy, local food. Most operate a portfolio of enterprises diversified mainly into the food system, processing and retailing food rather than selling along the food chain or servicing the agricultural sector. To that extent, they constitute the local food sector, with 90% selling their products within 25 miles of their business and 40% within five miles. Although many are owner-operators, a sizeable minority employ others. Given the scope and demands of these portfolios of enterprises, diverse skills and a highly entrepreneurial outlook are standard requirements. These businesses' social and environmental engagements are the primary motivation for the business operators, with profit as means to these ends. Volunteering opportunities are a crucial offer from these businesses, which brings a cascade of benefits to all those involved. Improving and regenerating the farmed environment is an equal priority, with aspirations to protect the soil, deepen the resilience of the farm biodiversity and minimise pollution. In these ways, these diverse, complex and sophisticated clusters of enterprises are making a distinctive contribution to the rural economy. The challenges reported are accessing appropriate finance, under-developed markets, insufficient targeted business support, inflexible planning arrangements, and agri-environmental schemes that do not embrace this group. This group falls between many policy stools, not traditional farmers, but not food or catering businesses. Yet, they are focused on delivering many of the ’public goods’ to which government policy is committed. The resilience and innovation they bring to rural areas are essential to the diversity of businesses that help rural areas thrive. We make 10 suggestions as to how rural actors – state, private and civil society – could provide support to these microbusinesses.

Item Type: Monograph (Technical Report)
Additional Information: This paper is published by the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) which is funded by Research England to collaborate, research and co-design ideas and solutions to foster rural enterprise and unlock the potential of rural economies.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Rural food; Farming microbusinesses; Sustainable agriculture; LWA; Environmental resilience; Rural innovation
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General) > S560 Farm Economics
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General) > S589.75 Agriculture and the environment
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > Countryside and Community Research Institute
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Anna Kerr
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2022 11:14
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2022 12:27
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/11449

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