Too much food is anonymous. We are unable to tell where it has come from and how it was produced. We are losing a connection with the people who grow it, the places where it grows and the kinds of landscape and environment it produces. Without this information, we can't make choices about the type of farming we wish to support.

Our alienation from food production hasn't been helped by the big supermarket chains. Supermarkets tend to stock food that has no season, no local identity and no connection with the landscape. Much of their produce is grown abroad; most supermarkets sell very little locally produced food, with only 1-2% of their turnover coming from local foods, so, when local shops close, the outlet for local produce disappears with them. 

Supermarkets' sourcing policies don't just affect the food they sell. When a new out-of-town supermarket is built, independent shops in the area and their suppliers suffer as well. Increasingly, supermarket chains are taking over convenience stores in town centres, too. Although smaller, they are serviced by the same large scale supply chains. The result is a loss to us all...

Loss of choice as it becomes harder to buy local foods. 64% of the local shops in Fakenham, Norfolk, and 75% of those in Warminster, Wiltshire, closed when new superstores were built in those towns.

Loss of jobs as local businesses close. Supermarket domination of the retail trade puts the local food infrastructure at risk threatening the viability of local abattoirs, wholesalers and small farms and the associated jobs. A study by the National Retail Planning Forum in 1998 of 93 new superstores found that each one resulted in a net loss of 270 jobs

Loss of character, as once distinctive lively town centres become 'clone towns'. Local shops and services depend on each other for survival. As independent shops close, once vibrant market towns can become retail deserts (or ghost towns). Where shops are taken over by national chains, creeping homogenisation creates clone towns. For example, 51% of all retailing in Inverness is now controlled by Tesco

Loss of landscape when traditional farming practices are discontinued. River valley meadows, marshes, heaths and pastures need to be grazed by livestock to maintain their appearance and wildlife, but the supply of meat from such animals, often traditional breeds, is too small and intermittent to suit supermarket specifications.

What can I do?

Read the labels and buy local products from your local farm shop and farmers' market and encourage your friends and family to do the same!