COULD now be the perfect time to explore a food system where people can buy local produce directly, asks Richard Park of Low Sizergh Farm, near Kendal.

By doing so, he says, would they be building a stronger local economy? "If there are fewer steps between field and fork, can we bypass supermarkets completely, and what would they look like in practice?" he asks.

"I’ve been interested to read and hear from Professor Tim Lang as the global health crisis has unfolded. He’s the founder and patron of Sustain, the food and farming network campaigning for a sustainable food system, and the man who coined the phrase “food miles”.What's most interesting from my organic farming perspective is Lang’s view that supermarkets hold far too much power within our food system – too great a market share (70 percent between the big four) and far too much money. Supermarkets also stand between farmers and their consumers, dictating what comes to market and at what price. Our cross-bred dairy cows here at Low Sizergh Farm are milked twice daily. Every morning, we fill up the tank in our organic raw milk vending machine. Customers can then fill their bottles with a natural, unprocessed product. It’s a direct transaction that is measured in farm yards rather than food miles.Some of the herd’s milk is also collected each week by mini tanker and taken to nearby Windermere, where it’s made into many delicious flavours of ice cream by the Windermere Ice Cream Company. They bring some of the ice cream back for us to sell in tubs and cones to customers of our farm shop diversification, Low Sizergh Barn. We have a similar working partnership just over the border in Lancashire with JJ Sandham, independent cheesemakers. They use our milk to create four cheeses, which return to take pride of place in our farm shop cheese counter. On the farm, social enterprise Growing Well uses six acres to grow 15 tonnes of organic fruit and vegetables annually while supporting people recovering from mental health problems. Their crop share with local families is an example of community supported agriculture, with seasonal produce being collected by those who are going to cook and eat it. We also sell Growing Well crops in the farm shop and take up some of their seasonal gluts to produce dishes for our customers to enjoy. In recent years, we’ve also taken gluts from home and allotment growers through a Crop for the Shop scheme. It reduces food wastage as we can use the produce in our kitchens and we don’t turn misshapen fruit and veg away. The benefit for our customers is that hand-grown crops are often more exciting than commercial crops and we can offer local, seasonal and unusual varieties."