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THYME: A focus on the East Riding bioeconomy through farmers’ markets

The
Challenge

The activity of small producers, though visibly important to the economy, are not usually appraised by policy-making procedures and research in connection to the local economic needs. There is a lack of knowledge about the bioeconomic processes already in existence in East Yorkshire at a grass roots level and how people use local resources in order to make an income as well as cover local consumption needs. 

Field workers
"In 2018, there were around 650 farmers’ markets in the UK, where small farmers & artisan producers sell directly to customers" Farmers Weekly

The research team felt it was important to investigate these issues further, to provide a balance to the work of the THYME bioeconomy project which has a focus on industrial processes and large-scale farming.

The
Approach

Lead researchers

Pauline Deutz Dr Irene Sotiropoulou

Project funded by

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Making farmers’ markets and the small open-air markets of East Yorkshire the focus of our case study, we investigated what forms of the bioeconomy are already integrated into the local economy and their multiple affinities to the environment, both natural and human, of the region.

The project adopted an approach of grassroots economics where the researcher does not make assumptions about the local economy but observes and participates in order to understand how the economy really functions. Moreover, interviews were held with key informants in order to document how people see their involvement with the markets and what challenges they face. Consequently, the people who participate in the markets have been the teachers in this project.

We used grounded theory and critical realism in order to epistemologically assess our findings. We did not start the research with a pre-established theoretical framework or research hypothesis but we chose instead to approach reality through multiple ways (regular visits to the markets, observation by participation, informal discussions, interviews, study of leaflets and online material that the markets and the traders share with the public).

The Impact

The research project coincided with the Covid19 pandemic and has captured the activity of the markets before and after the pandemic erupted.

The project showed the importance of the markets for the local economy of East Yorkshire. The markets seem to be a lifeline for small farmers and artisans of the region but also for consumers. Many local food producers use the markets not only for selling directly to customers but also to showcase their products for customers who order online afterwards.

Our research showed that the markets would vastly benefit by a policy that perceives small production and small distribution networks as vital for local economies and provides them with public infrastructure (like adequate spaces for the markets, regular and good-value public transport, online presence for small producers). More support to local producers to acquire appropriate equipment and delivery-distribution capacity would benefit not only the producers and traders but also the local consumers.

The project culminated with an online workshop in which producers, market managers, sustainable food practitioners and NGOs came together with academics to discuss their experiences, network and exchange ideas about improving the small markets and supporting small producers. The meeting was an opportunity for the project team to share their latest research findings about farmers markets, small production and local economies, and explore the challenges presented by COVID 19, as well as hearing about research in other parts of the country.

Results

The research team have developed various outputs that will be listed here as they become available to the public.

Small Markets Podcasts, originally broadcast by the Bite the Biscuit Boulevard Radio in Hull city.

 

A documentary film exploring concepts around the bioeconomy, including why small markets and small-scale producers are important to the economy and wider society.

  

The project culminated with an online workshop in which producers, market managers, sustainable food practitioners and NGOs came together with academics to discuss their experiences, network and exchange ideas about improving the small markets and supporting small producers. The meeting was an opportunity for the project team to share their latest research findings about farmers markets, small production and local economies, and explore the challenges presented by COVID 19, as well as hearing about research in other parts of the country.

A further meeting will take place in November 2021 to follow-up the online workshop discussions and plan ahead for further collaboration between practitioners and academics. If you would like to participate, please, contact Prof Pauline Deutz

 

Research Team:

Prof. Pauline Deutz

Pauline works as researcher and lecturer within the Department of Geography, Geology and Environment at the University of Hull, where she specialises in the Circular / Green Economy and Sustainable Futures. She is a board member of the International Sustainable Development Research Society, having been president 2019-20 and vice president 2012-2018.

Dr Irene Sotiropoulou

Irene is a heterodox economist, who specialises in ecological, feminist, solidarity and grassroots economics. For her work in grassroots economics she has been a awarded a Newton Mobility Grant (in collaboration with Dr Ferda Donmez-Atbasi, University of Ankara) by the British Academy. Irene's writings are announced and uploaded on the Academia website and her personal blog site

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