THE ROLE OF LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS IN RURAL COMMUNITIES
Keywords:artisan food, rural community, local food systems, rural development
The aim of the research is to study the role of local food in local economy of rural communities particularly emphasizing support measures for local food producers. The research is based on the literature review and empirical data from three online focus group discussions with representatives of local municipalities, local food producers and their organizations, tourism information centres and researchers. Local food networks diversify rural economy, promote greater economic independence and local potential, improve the area’s image, reduce impact on local environment. Also, consumers become more aware of origin and quality of the products they consume, therefore often choose local products. Local food system involves a number of mutually interacting human and non-human actors. The most important human actors in the local food system are producers, local governments (policy level of the county), state institutions (responsible for normative regulations, control and support schemes at national level), and associations formed by the food producers themselves, which mainly unite producers of specific products or territorial producers close to the territory. Support schemes, legislation, and technological solutions such as websites and cooperation platforms can be considered as non-human actors. Analysis of the focus group results revealed that in part of rural municipalities (rural communities) there are strong support measures and schemes for local food producers whereas in a number of counties cooperation with policy makers and actors from local food systems should be improved. One of the most important missing element in the food system is cooperation and exchange of information.