Allotments “selling” produce to local shops

It’s called Crop for the Shop, and has been started by Anthony Davison of BigBarn.  Its aim: to get more people growing their own produce and selling surplus to local food retailers, mostly in return for vouchers.  Great for both local shops, which are often too small to have a good, fresh supply of fruit and veg and for the growers!

To date 800 people have signed up to the scheme, including over 500 retailers.

But it’s also been introduced into a couple of schools — integrating well into the curriculum.

Food distribution and retail for small farms and local food: US leads the way

Matthew Yeomans (Guardian October 8 2012) describes two initiatives that have just combined to serve the retail and distribution needs of small farms:

FoodHub an online dating site whose “goal is to provide the framework for sustainable regional food networks . . .Take the growing trend of schools that have a mandate to buy direct from area farms but don’t know how to make that mandate a reality, for example. . . . .[I]ts tech platform is open for anyone to use with the big idea that Foodhub’s model will spread across the US and, conceivably to other parts of the world too.


FoodEx,”a fulfilment hub for locally sourced suppliers . . .”

FoodEx and Foodhub have got together and last week “announced a new joint venture where FoodEx will develop the distribution backbone for Foodhub’s online marketplace. . . . FoodEx has its own trucking fleet, warehouse capacity and an online transaction platform that allows wholesale food buyers to order from a number of different regional producers and then have product delivered through one fulfilment and invoicing system.

In doing so FoodEx provides a transparent distribution service for small food producers and buyers that challenges the economic perils of being reliant on third party brokers. In real terms that means a local farmer who normally would have to sell apples to the main wholesale market for as little as $8 (£5) for 50lbs (even though those apples may later be sold to retailers for five times that amount) will now be able to negotiate the price directly with the retailer. And the FoodEx system isn’t just wishful thinking. In September it moved $80,000 (£50,000) worth of produce on behalf of farming clients.

Introducing hiSbe: “Bring on the Shopper Power!”

by Ruth Anslow

hiSbe stands for how it Should be and our purpose is to help build a fairer and more sustainable food system through Shopper Power! We’re a Community Interest Company — a CIC. This year we plan to open our pilot store; a 21st Century ethical SUPERmarket that puts all the good stuff in one place, explains the story of ethical food and shows people where their money goes.

Today, most people do not habitually look at their dinner and think about the story behind the food, or the wider consequences of the buying choices they made. However, as big food retailers, businesses and governments continue to promote an unhealthy, inefficient and wasteful global food system, the impacts on our lives are becoming increasingly obvious to more people. A food system that produces up to 50% obesity in some countries and leaves 1 billion people elsewhere without enough to eat is clearly broken. A food system dominated by companies that put profit before people inevitably seeks to commoditise and standardise food, plan quality out and force prices down.

All around us there are examples of how the activities of big food business are damaging our communities, our wellbeing, workers here and abroad, animals and the planet. It seems that every week brings a new story about unethical supermarket practices, or the exploitation of workers, the abuse of animals, the marketing of food to make it seem healthy or nutritious when it’s not, and the ludicrous waste in the food supply chain.

At hiSbe we use our blog to shine a light on the food industry and share these stories of profit before people. We talk honestly about food and how the way that it’s produced and traded impacts on people, animals and the planet.

hiSbe has a vision of a 21st Century food system that puts people before profit, so that everyone can afford healthy, sustainable, good food… and we think that starts with shoppers making informed and conscious choices. Every time we buy food we are voting with our wallets for what we want to see more of on the shelves. That’s Shopper Power! We just need to use that power carefully.

It’s about making small, easy changes and it all starts with knowing what’s in the food we eat, how it’s been made and what the true costs of producing it are. To help, we created hiSbe’s 8 Everyday Choices as a simple guide to a fairer and more sustainable food system. We present clear information in bite-sized actionable chunks and the core message is that of choice: hiSbe’s slogan is “You can change what’s wrong with the food system by supporting what’s right”.

Here’s a look at our 8 Everyday Choices:-

GO LOCAL: Food that’s farmed or produced in your area is freshest and has probably taken less energy to get to you, so look for it in independent shops & markets near you.

CHOOSE SEASONAL: Making the most of the fruit and vegetables that are in season here means we rely less on flying stuff in from abroad.

PROTECT NATURE: Food is more naturally nutritious and healthy when it’s made using soil-friendly farming methods that protect and help the Earth, instead of harming it.

SUPPORT ETHICAL: When we buy food from farmers and producers here and abroad they need to get a fair deal and a dignified living out of it. Think of the people behind the products.

THINK WELFARE: Intensive factory farming produces cheap meat & dairy products with big knock-on costs to the environment, animal welfare and our own health. It’s about quality not quantity.

SAVE FISH: To stop some types of fish becoming extinct and other types just being thrown back in the sea dead choose fish from well-managed sustainable stocks and farms.

END WASTE: In the UK we throw away 1/3rd of the food we buy and so much packaging that we’re running out of landfill sites. A bit more planning saves money and helps our environment.

AVOID PROCESSED: It’s cheaper and healthier to buy fresh food instead of mass produced products with ingredients lists that look like a chemistry lesson and that take loads of energy to produce.

You’ll find more information on our website about each of these choices, we’ve also made a series of 90 second videos to explain why each one is so pertinent.

How to Reclaim the Foodchain from the Supermarkets and Benefit both Farmers and Consumers

In July 2000 Anthony Davison started BigBarn at Alconbury Weston
in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire. Now the enterprise is thriving – and showing how farmers and consumers together can start to reclaim the £120 billion that Britons now spend each year in supermarkets

BigBarn is a Social Enterprise with a mission to reconnect consumers with producers of food and drink, and encourage trade and communication — essentially to get people out of the supermarket and shopping locally.  I started it more than eleven years ago when I realised that the onions we grew on the family farm and sold to a packer for £130 per tonne were on the Tesco shelf two days later for the equivalent of £850 per tonne.  I realised that the retailers and the supply chain were, and still are, taking the bulk of the retail price, giving neither the producers, nor the consumers, a fair deal.  I wanted to help my fellow farmers get a better deal at a time when consumers said they wanted local food, perceived to be ‘safe’ after the BSE, Foot-and-Mouth, and Salmonella food scares.  Safe, because ‘local’ means ‘accountable’. A local farmer will not poison his local customers.

I thought, perhaps naively, that setting up a business to connect consumers with producers would be a great success. I realised that supermarkets were brilliant at supplying a huge range of goods under one roof, but I didn’t realise how good they were at retaining customer loyalty.  What looked like a simple task of displaying the facts about local food and watching people change to buying local has felt more like fighting a never-decreasing troop of killer zombies.  And I often get the impression that many supermarket customers have fallen into a zombie like mind set, buying salty ready meals and enticed by offers, to buy things they don’t need, nor can afford. Many consumers seem to be almost addicted to the supermarket — their offers and their loyalty schemes.

Likewise, I thought, farmers should go for the best price.  But selling locally means low volume, changing from growing crops in bulk, as cheaply as possible, to gearing up for retailing, with a shop, fittings and staff.  I myself come from a fifth generation farming family – my brother and cousins now farm 3,500 acres on three sites, and we have another 2,000 farmed under contract, with wheat, rape, peas, and 100 acres of onions. But the family farm won’t find many local customers wanting 20 tonnes of onions every delivery.

I branched out from the family farm to study accountancy but I didn’t take to it and so had a variety of other jobs (including underwear salesman). But at the age of 39 I decided to study for an MBA and as part of the course I looked at the feasibility of setting up a farm shop. The Cambridgeshire Council would not let me set up the shop but the research showed that there was a need for an organisation to connect consumers with their local producers. I began to feel I had a successful business when I won a DEFRA grant.

When I started BigBarn the Local Food industry was growing, with Farmers’ Markets popping up everywhere and many farm shops attracting large numbers of customers. It seemed that consumers enjoyed getting the story of the food and supporting their local farmers and community. So BigBarn was set up to help catalyse the growth of an alternative, LOCAL food industry, centred around producers, farmers’ markets, farm shops and small retailers.  Our strategy has been to provide the definitive database of local producers and retailers, and then promote them via This has now grown so that we also provide the data to as many other websites as possible.

Since then, BigBarn has been my obsession. We now have 7,000 local food businesses on our map, of which 418 have also set up online shops in an Amazon-type MarketPlace. Despite its name, BigBarn is a small operation — run by just 2.5 people working on the office computer and from home; yet 4,000-plus people visit the site every day and 23,000 have registered to receive our emailed post code specific newsletter.   Each local food business is displayed as an icon on a map.  Consumers just have to type in their post code and click on each icon to find out more. Different icons denote the type of shop, coloured green or red — meaning whether you have to visit, or can buy online for a delivery. A ‘£’ flag means cheaper than the supermarket. A ‘rosette’ flag means you can Grow your own produce and the shop will sell it for you – which we call ‘Crop for the Shop’.  Some shops also have a film icon meaning they have a video to tell their ‘story’.

The BigBarn data and MarketPlace is also on 88 other, partner websites, driving more ‘hits’ to each business and giving them an incentive to use their password to add to, and update their details on a regular basis.  To win greater Buy-in of our producer customers we need more big websites to take our content and to make sure that they are aware of what we offer. To win consumers away from the supermarket we need to raise awareness of price, quality and convenience. We also need to help spread the word – on some of the fantastic initiatives that are now starting up or already well in train throughout the country.  These include Incredible Edible Todmorden where the whole town has become one big veg patch and food is free! They also include our Crop for the Shop scheme where consumers can join the food industry and become producers, selling their crop to local shops.

We have just raised capital through Crowd Funding and improvements will be made to the site in early 2012. We have recently converted to a Community Interest Company, and so we are sending a clear statement to both our groups of customers – producers and consumers — that everything we do is for them, and that profits will be reinvested for their interest.  We want the enterprise to grow as a CIC and hence to catalyse the growth of the local food industry in general – diverting a large proportion of the £120 billion spent in supermarkets to farmers and local communities.

We are very positive about the growth of a LOCAL food industry. Eighty per cent of people still say they want to buy local food – which now is cheaper and better. Now we need to capitalise on this success and get greater ‘Buy in’ from both our sets of customers – both the producers and the consumers. We want to achieve some of the ‘customer loyalty’ supermarkets have attracted, but without the zombiefication.  We could potentially see a large slice of the £120 billion spent with UK supermarkets every year redirected to farmers and communities, with massive social benefits for all.

So please spread the word! To be kept up to date on BigBarn click or register for our newsletter Or once you have looked at your local food map email us with any errors or omissions

Anthony Davison
BigBarn CIC (Social Enterprise)
01480 890 970
07831 77 77 66