Here’s a snapshot of what our community of creative, dedicated, hard-working Better Food Traders has been up to in 2023.
“I want to see an abundance of small-scale local food enterprises… one on every high street.” – Duncan Catchpole, Cambridge Organics, Oxford Real Farming Conference
Better Food Trader members come together at Oxford Real Farming Conference in January, where a packed room hears Duncan Catchpole (Cambridge Organics), Dawn Dublin (Joyful Roots, Hastings) and Phil Haughton (Better Food, Bristol) speak about the significant role that Radical Retailers have to play if we are to transform our food system into one that is good for people and planet.
Business Support Week
Our first ever Better Food Traders Business Support Week goes down a storm: over 45+ bespoke advice sessions and three days of workshops delivered. 97% of people receiving expert advice found their session ‘Useful’ or ‘Very useful’.
“It’s been great – thank you so much for the initiative! Excellent opportunity for all members, hopefully it means we can up our game and have a better chance of surviving the upcoming year…”
All hail the wassail!
…at Camel CSA new community orchard in Trevan farm; Sutton Community Farm winter warmer and Regather’s first ever Wassail. The Community Farm’s wassail in Somerset turns into a ‘raucous apple tree blessing’ (I’m booking my ticket for 2024 now…). Falmouth Food Coop not only sings to the trees but welcomes over a 100 visitors to help plant them too.
Trading milestone – In My Backyard (Devon) process their 10,000th order!
Getting zippy with it – Zipvan features Local Greens in an advert about a small business using their vehicles
The Sustainable Cooperative (Jersey) take their fermenting to a whole new level by joining The Fermenters Guild, helping customers plot a path through the hungry gap in rude health.
Traders across the network face challenging weather conditions, including Norwich Farmshare who experience one of the wettest and windiest days on the farm. Farmers and growers, supported by a green army of volunteers up and down the country, fight the elements to keep the food coming #everydayheroes.
Camel CSA sum up the importance of solidarity as a balm in tough times:
‘The unusually cold temperatures in Cornwall this winter have taken their toll…this year’s hungry gap is going to be the most challenging we’ve faced in 15 years of veg growing. We know we are not alone and we’re incredibly grateful for the expanding communities of #agroecological producers across the UK who provide so much support.’
But the weather doesn’t stop Trenow Fields (Cornwall) building an ‘epic nutrient-popping biodiversity-banging Hugulkultur bed!’ (surely the quote of the year).
Local communities rally round their Better Food Traders with funding too. Barra Organics (Sheffield) kicks off 2023 with the first of many successful crowdfunding campaigns, when their local community helps them buy a large new fridge. On 2nd February, Locavore smash their fundraising target by raising £73,726 with 785 supporters in 71 days – a testament to the strength of their impact and community support in Scotland. Sutton Community Farm (London) launch their highly successful fundraiser with a brilliant film. Grown Green (Wiltshire) raise money for a much-needed tractor, followed by successful fundraisers by The Goodery in Norwich and Manchester Urban Diggers later in the year.
Evidence to the Climate Change Committee
March sees Better Food Traders contribute to the Climate Change Committee’s investigation of the opportunities and barriers for using the planning system in England to achieve net zero and climate resilience.
“I take my hat off to the number of people that buy good food… [the people that say] fairness, planet, humanity is more important to me and I’m going to do it.”
Phil Haughton, Better Food (Bristol) on Radio 4’s Today programme, March 2023
Esmee Fairbairn to the rescue
Funder Esmee Fairbairn, recognising the economic impact on Better Food Traders of the cost of living crisis, provides a much needed financial top up and we launch the Marketing Support Scheme. We distribute more than £10,000 to Better Food Trader organisations for marketing initiatives, accompanied by 18 hours of mentoring, and external support from a design agency and a digital agency. 100% of organisations who took part said the BFT Marketing Support Scheme was useful for helping to try something new.
Calls for a Food Hub Fund Pilot
Better Food Traders co-signs a letter, spearheaded by Sustain, asking Defra to earmark money for a Food Hub Fund Pilot. This is delivered on the eve of the 16th May Food Security Summit in Downing Street.
Community connectors and trend setters
Better Food Trader members continue their work connecting communities with nature. Soul farm (Cornwall) host a no-dig gardening workshop with Charles Dowding and Windmill Community Gardens (Margate) welcome primary school children for a ‘fun afternoon of drawing, exploring, nature hunting and of course having a go at our fun smoothie bike.’
Those trendsetters at Shillingford Organics (Devon) rename the ‘Hungry Gap’ the ‘Humble Gap’.
The only all-organic market in the UK, run by Growing Communities in NE London, celebrates its 20th anniversary.
The Kindling Trust realise a long-held dream and buy Barn Hey Farm to continue their mission of transforming the food system in the North West.
The extended cold snap deepens the challenges of the hungry gap for farmers, growers and retailers in early June. Plowright Organics in Somerset are philosophical:
‘In my 23 years of veg growing we’ve had many crop failures through pests or bad weather. I’ve learned not to dwell on it. Close the gate and move on. There’s always next year.’
Several traders such as Goonown Growers (Cornwall) and Windmill Community (Margate) celebrate #volunteersweek by saying a big THANK YOU. Tuppeny Barn worked out that last year their volunteers gave them 6,357 hours of their time. Amazing.
Happy Birthday – The inimitable Unicorn Grocery in Manchester celebrates its 27th birthday with cake, free food and music
As the weather warms, the number of events heats up too. Kindling Trust and Norwich Farmshare put on farm tours, Harvest Workers Coop (Oakhampton, Devon) enjoy a guided ecology walk, and the Apricot Centre (Totnes, Devon) hosts #bioblitz2023.
On the Telly
The powerhouse that is Bowhouse in Fife, welcomes the @bbc with @dougievipond and @chefnicknairn creating delicious dishes using produce from their market.
Plowright Organics take mushroom appreciation to new levels! The mushrooms in their veg boxes are celebrated by some fabulous costumes at the Taunton Eat Festival.
‘We’ve just had an inspiring day at the @betterfoodtraders Annual Gathering. What an amazing network of organisations working towards a better food system.’
Better Food Traders meet at the Kindling Trust’s Bridge 5 Mill in Manchester for our Annual Gathering. Lots of new faces and some old friends too sharing ideas, laughter and great food.
A chance conversation between the marvelous Mick from Gibside CSA and Moya at Barra Organics kickstarts a quiet transport revolution in Sheffield, culminating in the rebirth of Moya’s van as the electric Evangenline. There are the conversations we plan for, and there is the serendipity of what you might discover by sitting next to someone at a BFT network event…
Award Season Part 1…
Low Sizergh Barn (Cumbria) win – for the second year in a row – the Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Business of the Year Category at the @cumbrialifemag Awards!
(Un)Fairness in the Supply Chain
BFT submits written evidence to the Government Inquiry into Fairness in the Food Supply Chain, calling for tougher regulation of the supermarkets and a supply chain code of practice; more transparency within the food chain e.g through mandatory reporting on GHG emissions and food waste; and new and better routes to market (such as Better Food Traders!).
Hello Northern Ireland – Microgreenway becomes the first of three members from Northern Ireland to join in 2023
Raise a glass to Joyful Roots – our friends in Hastings make their first foray into juice and winemaking
Thousands of people are driven to our Better Food Traders Map thanks to the Map Campaign and the reels created by Plentiful Foods, LESS, Soul Farm, Vale Grocer and Growing Communities.
New Members, New Horizons
Better Food Shed, Organic Pantry and Organic North join, bringing important wholesale perspectives to the network. Cardiff Farmers Markets also join, adding to out cohort of members running Farmers Markets that includes Bowhouse in Fife, GC in London, Florence Road Market in Brighton and the Food Barn in Cornwall.
Award Season Part 2…
Regather is a finalist at the BBC’s prestigious Food and Farming awards.
Manchester Urban Diggers are celebrated by Manchester’s Mayor (left).
Sutton Community Farm wins an Environmental Champion Award.
Wood Anniversary – The Vale Grocer celebrates 5 years of trading
Julia from BFT takes part in a workshop along with Vera Zakharov from Sustain on food and sustainability at The Ethical Consumer Show, and speaks at the Bristol Festival of Economics, along with Phil Haughton from Better Food.
BFT Member Chris Kameen (The Vale Grocery) speaks at the Wales Real Food and Farming Conference in Ruthin.
Hello Birmingham – Our first member joins from the fair Midlands city: welcome Tom and the Vegetropolis team!
Joining the Dots in Cornwall
It’s the completion of the first phase of a potentially game-changing logistics project for independent food retailers in Cornwall. Led by Katie Bliss at the Organic Research Centre and Sustainable Food Cornwall (plus BFT members Tamar Grow Local, Goonown Growers, Community Roots, Bosavern Community Farm, Herland Roots, The Food Barn, Camel CSA, Falmouth Food Co-op, Grown@Newquay Community Orchard, Loveland and Growing Links), the project aims to reduce carbon and costs by coordinating collective ordering and deliveries within Cornwall and beyond the county.
Universal Basic Income for Farmers
BFT endorses a national campaign calling for Universal Basic Income for Farmers, which will be launched in 2024 by Autonomy.works and UBI4Farmers.
Doing their bit
Plentiful Whole Foods (Bury) do their part in tackling #FoodPoverty by making it easy for their customers to donate food. Here is what they have to say:
‘Food poverty is FAR more common than we realise…. Anyone can lose their job, fall ill, or simply struggle in the system. There’s no ‘one type’ of person and if there’s just one person or family we can brighten their day with some delightful produce – we’re super chuffed.’
They join Better Food Traders up and down the UK doing their bit to ease food poverty by donating thousands of pounds of money, food and time to food banks and charities.
…goes to those eloquent people at Sitopia Farm:
‘The work of a farmer is of course never done. And the work of anyone seeking to change the food system, to advocate for the necessary policy and other changes we so desperately need for our health and our planet’s health, is very far from done…[but] it feels like we’re part of a growing movement. A surge of people motivated to change and act. That makes me happy.’