Connecting Farmers and Customers

Farmer Mark Lea Carlin Peas

I mentioned in the online Christmas brochure that one of the big challenges facing the alternative (for lack of a better word) food sector is connecting the world’s small scale, regenerative type, farmers with like-minded customers. In all too many cases, produce is being sold into the conventional system for all too conventional prices and beyond a few sectors where provenance heralds outlandishly high prices (single estate this and that), it’s just not happening. In this world of digital communication, joining the dots without adding too many zeros, should be achievable but, unless I’m missing something, it rarely is.

One notable exception is the ground-breaking East Anglian company, Hodmedod’s. I’m sure they’d adhere to the no/low-till farming philosophy, so ground-breaking isn’t the right description, but from the humble fava bean, giant beanstalks are growing. But the real golden egg will come when what they’re doing becomes the norm.
Radio 4’s Farming Today last week featured our (the UK’s) rather lame attempts at growing nuts and seeds and, unsurprisingly, Hodmedod co-founder, Josiah Meldrum had his say. He tells the story far better than I can (so have a listen) and emphasises the point that producer and processor can only do so much without what he termed, ‘regenerative retailers’ and more importantly, customers who want to think out of the, perfectly square, box and buy British grown beans, seeds, grains etc.
Josiah and partners Nick Saltmarsh and William Hudson set up Hodmedod’s in 2012,  after extensive work with East Anglia Food Link  (‘an NGO working to create a post-oil, low-carbon food system in the East of England and beyond’) and the legendary, and sadly late, Doctor Martin Wolfe at the Wakelyn’s Agroforestry project in Suffolk. So, they’d done their time ‘on the boards’. It all started with the idea of marketing East Anglian grown fava beans as an alternative to dried butter beans and chickpeas etc. We’ve been dealing with them for about five years – since they won Best Food Producer in the 2017 BBC Food & Farming Awards.
Selling beans, grown for animal feed, as the next big thing needs considerable determination and imagination and they have both in bucket loads. Since buying, packing and selling their first tonne of split fava beans, the Hodmedod’s portfolio has grown to include an impressive range of UK grown pulses, grains, flours, seeds and products thereof (including a couple of interesting ferments). They also offer an ever-changing list of fare from like-minded producers, often using their raw ingredients as a starting point.  
We think Hodmedod’s are the future. After the 2022 summer, with aquifers unlikely to be fully replenished for years to come, pulses and grains are far less thirsty than what has become East Anglian farmers ‘cash cow’; sugar beet. As with grapes, global warming is making growing a wider variety of pulses, including lentils and chickpeas, possible and if we start eating them ourselves, rather than giving them to animals, we’ll be well on the way to a healthier diet, food security and limiting global warming. 
So we’ve gone large on Hodmedod’s for November with more of their range, in one display, with a 10% discount for BFS cardholders on many of their products (starting on 7th November). If you need a bit of inspiration they’ve posted a diverse selection of recipes on their website.

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