Project to gauge demand for local food

An innovative project is under way to quantify demand for ways of buying local meat in Dunedin and Wanaka.

It is being driven by Wanaka farmer John McRae, from Glendhu Station, and consultant Rhys Millar from Forest Environments Ltd.

Mr McRae, who farms organically, has been seeking a transparent food system to supply his local community.

The idea of the project was to gauge interest in producing local meat for the local trade. At this stage, the focus was on sheep and beef, but other food, including fruit, vegetables and chicken, could be included later.

The project had drawn "heaps of commitment" and goodwill, Mr Millar said, while Mr McRae described the support as "awesome".

Already many people wanted to see it happen and it was about working together to get the best result for both customers and producers. It was disappointing that many Wanaka residents could not afford to buy red meat, Mr McRae said.

The concept "local food economy" refers to the emergence and growth of community-based agriculture and food production that meet consumer demands for fresh, safe, locally produced foods, job creation, innovative entrepreneurship, enhanced environmental assurance and a strengthening of community identity.

In a successful application to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's sustainable farming fund, Mr Millar said the international "local food" movement had emerged in recent years. It sought to reconnect consumers with food they ate, to restore economic vitality to farms and to encourage environmentally sound and socially responsible methods of agriculture.

In New Zealand, the proliferation of successful farmers markets bore testament to the growing consumer demand for fresh, local food.

There was also an increasing number of large-scale producers enthusiastic about exploring the feasibility of direct-to-consumer food production.

The project will determine the market demand for local meat products and understand the attributes most important to consumers.



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