Critical theme

Critical theme: Small-scale farming and the future of the European food system

A woman farmer looks at her flock of sheep

Shirley Clarke and her husband farm sheep in Scotland. Seventy per cent of Scotland’s land is devoted to farming. The Clarkes have diversified by offering farm tours and have received awards for nature conservation (Sarah Wood via Flickr, Crown Copyright)

Globally, small-scale farming is crucial for producing food and for sustaining the livelihoods of millions of people. In European food systems, the important but under-appreciated role of small-scale farmers is under threat from external drivers. On Wednesday, 22 January 2020, IIED hosted a critical theme event to discuss how small farms fit in the future context of the UK and European food system.

It’s not just Brexit. The future of European food systems is being shaped by many different – sometimes contradictory – drivers. The large-scale agro-food processing and retailing industries are increasingly churning out processed foods and degrading the environment. At the same time, more people are concerned about the climate impacts of agriculture and demanding better, rather than more, food.