Exploring the Ecological Dimensions of Producer Strategies in Alternative Food Networks in the UK



Drawing on data from a research project that focused on the relationship between the biodiversity of grazing and food quality, this article explores the ecological dimensions of alternative food networks in the UK through the concept of ‘styles of ecological engagement’. Context is provided by briefly reviewing two contrasting ways of envisaging the relationship between ecology, food and rural development in policy debates. A qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews with actors at the centre of 38 alternative food networks and of associated promotional materials enables the identification of five styles of ecological engagement: ecological conserving, ecological harmonising, ecological breed enthusing, ecological localising and ecological re-cognising. The article argues that identification and discussion of these styles of ecological engagement is not only helpful in understanding the ecological heterogeneity of alternative food networks but also signals the ways in which their ecological benefits and contribution to rural development might be sustained and enhanced.