Grown in Totnes Toolkit

What's it all about?

This Toolkit is for you if you are interested in the small-scale grain and pulse movement; whether you are a grower, miller, baker, food processor, retailer, a researcher, or a seeker of nutritional food. Read on to get an overview of how the Toolkit came to be and how it might assist you.

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The Unfolding of Grown in Totnes

This is the story of Grown in Totnes and the legacy that it left with this toolkit to be used by growers and producers wherever you are in the world. When the project started, it was on the cusp of a new wave. The project team learnt a lot, had some wonderful successes and inevitably made mistakes. By telling their story, we envisage that wave will gather momentum and the small-scale crop movement will grow and spread.  

Dartington Mill, the successor to Grown in Totnes, has been included as a case study, it completes the Grown in Totnes story and demonstrates the differences in business model.

We hope that this Toolkit will continue to grow and inspire more people to become a part of the small scale crop movement, but in order to stay current and relevant it needs your input too.

Grown in Totnes sprung out of previous work undertaken by Transition Town Totnes. Below is a summary of the key activities and research that influenced and led to the vision for Grown in Totnes.

1.    Can Totnes and District Feed Itself? Exploring the practicalities of food relocalisation and the ability of a geographic area of land to provide sufficient food for a community.

2.     Transition in Action - Totnes and District 2030: An Energy Descent Action Plan. A report published in 2009 investigating how we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and  decrease our carbon footprint as a town.

3.   From Field to Fork: Totnes - Mapping the Local Food Web. A project TTT undertook with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to understand the benefits of our local food network to the local economy, community and environment and identify the local challenges to growing the sector.  This work set the definition that TTT continued to use; that local food be sourced within a 30 mile radius of Totnes.

4.   The Local Economic Blueprint for Totnes and District, Local Economic Blueprint. was undertaken in 2013.  The report estimated the potential value of four key sectors of our localised economy, including food.  The research found that £30 million was spent annually on food and drink, of which just one third was spent in the 60+ vibrant independent food shops in and around Totnes.  Encouraging people to shift just 10% of their weekly food spend to independent food shops would result in an extra £2 million to our local economy.

5.     The Food-Link project  sought to strengthen the links between local producers, and retailers and restaurants within the town by building confidence and loyalty between parties.  Together the network explored the key challenges to the development of a re-localised food economy within the local food sector, these included:

  • Time spent by producers growing and producing food competes with valuable time needed to distribute and market produce.
  • Retailers and restaurateurs interested in purchasing local food have limited time and resources to spend finding multiple small suppliers and dealing with the resulting increase in the number of invoices.
  • Likewise the paperwork that producers have to deal with from having multiple, generally small-scale customers, is inefficient for them, though arguably more rewarding.
  • The inability of small-scale producers to be able to respond to last-minute orders from restaurateurs.
  • Limitations of the English climate to provide fresh and varied produce all year round.
  • The lack of easy identification of local food reduces customers ability to make informed choices around sourcing local.

6.    In 2013 Food-Link teamed up with Exeter University to undertake a piece of research to explore how agricultural practices of the past could assist the re-localising of the Totnes food system for the future.  These findings formed the Crop Gaps report. Crop Gaps Report. Local elderly farmers were interviewed about the historic use of their land.  We received 36 responses to our postal questionnaires and from these undertook 12 face-to-face interviews.  From the information gathered we examined the applicability of these past practices to future farming methods in the absence of cheap fossil fuels. We focused on the range of crops grown, labour practices, routes to local markets, processing and supply chain infrastructure. In particular we aimed to identify the perceived opportunities and constraints to local crop production and supply in order to gauge the feasibility of creating local crop markets today. The findings of this research formed the backbone of our proposal for Grown in Totnes.

7.    In tandem with undertaking this work, Food-Link Project Officer, Holly Tiffen had her own realisation.  Running a monthly community cafe; The Brunch Cafe, she tried to source all of the ingredients locally, as a vegetarian though this proved difficult.  It became clear that local protein was readily available in the form of meat and dairy products but none existed from plant sources.  This insight galvanised her to try to rectify this by filling the “local food  gap”.  

8.    A team of volunteers formed the Crop Gaps working group and undertook further research.  Watch this video to see the team fact gathering at the working water flour mill at Otterton.

The relationships with farmers, built through the process of producing the Crop Gaps report, brought confidence to the growing aspects of providing local crops.  All that was left to do was rustle together some processing equipment.  “Surely that was the easy part” says Holly.  “As every entrepreneur I have ever spoken to says, ‘If I knew then, what I know now I would never have started’, however with the benefit of hindsight I feel that a level of ignorance is a vital ingredient to creating change.  My wish is that this Toolkit enables others to start from a better place than we did.  There will always be more to learn and it is important that as a movement we cooperate with one another and share our learnings if we are to create a better food system that is respectful of this land, life and planet”.