Food and wellbeing are linked in many ways; from the simple nutritious pleasure of eating a fresh apple to the vital income which that apple represents to the farmer who grew it. In recent years too many people have become disconnected from local food and farming, attracted to the low (and hidden) costs and easy availability of globalised supermarket offerings. In Totnes, we are fortunate to be surrounded by small scale growers, but these producers don’t always have the resources or time to find new customers.
The soon to be launched Totnes Food Hub aims to solve these problems by bringing together local producers and consumers in a cooperative process which will broaden the buying choices of local people and give a reliable and supportive market to producers.
The Food Hub has already undergone a successful trial. The buying process is simple; every week the customers place their order online and then collect a few days later. The weekly collection, which during the trial took place on a Saturday morning, also served as a mini farmers market with different producers present each week to meet their customers and give out samples. This opportunity to meet the farmers is one of the great strengths of the Food Hub, building up trust and a greater understanding of how our food is produced.
The weekly collection is hosted by a primary school in Bridgetown, placing the Food Hub at the heart of the local community. Bridgetown and Totnes more widely is home to people with a broad range of incomes, and the Food Hub is aiming to make local food affordable to as many people as possible. Balancing the needs of the community with the livelihoods of farmers is not easy, but using a cooperative community-led approach aims to bridge this gap by offering a wide variety of buying options to suit different people. The Food Hub will support producers by buying in bulk and guaranteeing long-term income, whilst passing on the savings of bulk buying to local shoppers. The Food Hub is not-for-profit, only taking a minimal percentage of sales to cover operating costs.
The online ordering system is currently being updated to make it simple to use and flexible, opening up the customer base for even the smallest growers. For example, allotment gardeners will be able to advertise their extra vegetables. By creating a simple and immediate marketplace for small scale producers the Food Hub will be able to offer a wide variety of local food at affordable prices.