Peter Couchman is the Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation.

The Plunkett Foundation is the organisation which promotes and supports co-operative and social enterprises in rural communities both in the UK and internationally. It provides support, networks and knowledge which offers practical solutions for rural communities that helps to create thriving places where people live and work now and in the future.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Extending our impact

Congratulations to Kirdford Village Stores  in Sussex for winning the Daily Telegraph's 'Best Village Shop in Britain' award. It is always a pleasure to see community-owned shops beating all-comers to take such a title.

By coincidence, I had the pleasure of visiting there a week before. All I can say is that Sue and her team richly deserved the award. There was no doubt that they were doing a great job delivering a fantastic service to their community. But there was something else that struck me there, and in visiting the neighbouring stores. The passion that community-owned stores have for sourcing local food is now at a stage where it isn't just the store they save, but a whole variety of local businesses.

That was visible in Kirdford. It was also clear nearby in Lodsworth. I'd been there when the store opened, restoring a service to a village which had been without a village store for 23 years. This time, it was just the store that was thriving. THREE food businesses had opened up in the village and were supplying the store. In one case, the store was delivering the goods to other local stores. I saw the same thing in Strood Green and Hambledon; communities taking control not only of their store, but of their local food system.

We've been supporting local food in village stores through the Making Local Food Work programme for some time thanks to the BIG Lottery, but it was great to see a real sea change at a local level, not just for the store, but for the local economy.

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