Food trading networks between bioregions

Resources are a key aspect of bioregions. Bioregioning involves looking carefully at our local resources and using them to feed, clothe and shelter ourselves.

If we take agriculture as an example, the answer seems simple: in all bioregions we get back to mixed farming  so that farms produce a far greater diversity of crops than at present. This will result in each bioregion being self-sufficient in food.

All well and good. But there is another point to consider. Bioregions arise from geographically distinct areas and this means that farming – even in pre-industrial times – tended to adapt to local conditions and specialisation crept in. This is especially true in more marginal parts of the world where climate imposes strict limits on what can and can’t be grown.

Take where I live: Scotland. Our climate is challenging; being above 55 degrees latitude imposes limits even with the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. However, whilst there are limits there are also opportunities presented by the east-west split in our country. Rainfall is higher in the west, along with windspeeds; in the east there is more sunshine, colder winters (including much more frost) and better land. All these factors have led to the tendency for western farms to rear livestock (for meat and – in more favoured areas – dairy) and eastern farms to grow grain, vegetables and fruit. Livestock depend on grass, and grass grows well all year in places where there is a lot of rainfall and very little frost. Being short and pliable, it is not harmed by strong winds – as long as the winds are not cold. Our coldest winds come from the east and the north, so the west side is relatively protected.

West side farm: Highland cows on pasture, Argyll

West side farm: Highland cows on pasture, Argyll

I  propose that in Scotland we should develop east-west food trading networks between bioregions. Where I live in south-west Scotland we can trade with regions to the east of us  such as East Lothian and Fife, exchanging our meat (including wild venison) and shellfish for vegetables, grains and fruit. Regarding dairy, we have our lush pastures of Kintyre which I have written about elsewhere, but Lothian and Fife have them too, so we should be self-sufficient.

I recall the Fife dieters mentioning this very kind of trade a few years back.  I am happy to open discussions here. I like the idea of bioregional trade, especially here in Scotland where eastern/western bioregions sit side-by-side and trade does not involve too much travelling.

In the old days the drovers brought their cattle south through the Highlands into the Lowlands for sale at the droving towns such as Falkirk, where they would be moved further south to fatten up. Instead of a north –south trade based solely on livestock I propose an east-west exchange to enable all Scottish bioregions to meet their food needs – indeed, meet them with great diversity, enjoying lots of fresh fruit and vegetables along with wild and farmed meat, fish and shellfish, plus potatoes and grains.  Not bad for a nation who currently has such a poor dietary reputation.


East side farm – Bridge of Earn, Perthshire. Image by Brian Forbes

About edwardtyler

I live in Kintyre, the long peninsula acting as a natural breakwater for the Firth of Clyde, west of Glasgow. A Permaculture and Transition practitioner, I am working with fellow community activists to co-create a resilient and vibrant local bioregion.

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