Here we are at the end of week five and while the peak might be in sight but, definitely not the finishing line. There have been a few blips but generally, the collection service seems to be working well and, judging from feedback (gratefully received), hitting the spot.
Looking into my extremely distorted crystal ball, I’ve been wondering what we should be doing next. It feels as though it has to be some sort of home delivery. Judging from the amount of shop/drop (both supermarket and independent) vans on the road, it does feel as though we might have reached a turning point where home food delivery becomes a permanent and indelible part of the way we live our lives. The last thing we want is to stop seeing, meeting and talking with you in the shops and finding out what you’re cooking etc. Maybe we could be providing some of that boring ‘nuts and bolts’ stuff on-line, leaving time and space to enjoy the fresh, touchy-feely, food market type shopping experience.
As I think I mentioned last time, the bit of our small, but, previously, holistically perfectly formed, business that is really taking a hammering is the kitchen. With cafes and wine bar closed, the sales of pies and pasties, dips, soups etc have dropped off a cliff. Average spend might be up, but footfall is so low that we’re just not shifting a lot of anything that involves a degree of impulse to buy. It’s no secret that we freeze our pies and pasties, then bake them off in the shops so we thought you might like to buy them frozen and do the same at home and enjoy them straight out of the oven. So, we’ve added a frozen section to the collections form with a link to an availability list. if this works more will follow for the other departments so you won’t have to remember everything we stock that you need.
Food in Community Project…
Looking around, I’ve noticed that a lot of businesses are making a small charge for collating orders for collection and, even then, there’s often a waiting list. As with imposing a minimum spend, we’ve no intention of adding another cost to your shopping – but we have introduced the option of making a small donation to the local food bank (via the Food in Community project). We will match your donation in bulk pulses, grains etc so, hopefully, between us we’ll make a difference. So far you’ve been very generous so thank you.
‘Hole Farm Food Hub’…what?
Our solution to the delivery versus farm shop dilemma is that we’re putting together a proper online shop, with payment and delivery, of our more basic meat (mainly frozen), bake-off pies and pasties (see above), ready meals and, reasonably long life, kitchen products for local delivery (or collection). This won’t be a replacement, or alternative, to the collection service i.e. it’s not a weekly or twice weekly grocery shop but more the chance to stock up on the best quality ‘nuts and bolts’ food and drink offer to run alongside a more, dare I say, tactile fresh food shopping experience.
“We’re putting together a proper online shop”
The orders will be packed at the kitchen over the hill at Hole Farm, hence the name ‘HOLE FARM FOOD HUB’. Our neighbours at Hole are Riverford Dairy and Barnaby’s Brewhouse so we’ll also be offering their stuff too. The wines will follow (they really work on the internet because we can provide more information), as will some of the top sellers that we currently buy centrally for all the shops; apple juices, cheeses, olive oil, Hodmedod’s UK pulses and flour, oat milk, Shipton Mill flour, Le Parfait jars etc. So, with our neighbours, we should be able to come up with a viable and attractive ‘Hole Farm’ package. We’re hoping that bread from Dan, at the Almond Thief, and ferments, from Crock & Cole in Totnes will also be available. What it won’t include is vegetables and non-fixed weight meat.
It will obviously be accessible from our website but it will be a separate entity to the collection service at the shops and, hopefully, we can develop it into something with enough legs to outlast the current crisis. We’re excited about it and reckon we can make it into something of real benefit to all. We’re hoping to start in a small way, between Totnes and Ashburton during the week beginning May 11th but we’ll keep you posted. Hopefully, as we iron out the inevitable problems’ we’ll roll it out, firstly to areas around the shops and then the areas in between.
Products & Suppliers
Beef stock is coming – simmering as I type. Why it’s taken so long is a mystery to me, particularly when our first trial batch was so outstanding – even more so when made into a base for a Vietnamese pho noodle soup.
Laydilay Eggs sadly, are no more (for the time being anyway). Mandy has shut up shop for the duration of the current crisis and shipped her chickens off to an organic producer in Wiltshire. I’d rather my egg man was a little more local so we’ll be moving to Jerry Saunders at Orchard Organic Farm, Stokeinteighhead. We’re hoping Mandy will provide the necessary so we can start making the mayonnaise and meringues ourselves. Until she returns of course.
You might have noticed that Dartington Dairy are also no more. We’d love to offer an affordable, quality ice cream. £3.95 per 500mls and approx £7 per litre was what I had in mind so Harry has been experimenting with a view to buying their kit. He’s made a batch of vanilla (using Riverford mik and cream) which he’s put up in our soup pots and will be in the shops from May 1st for £5 per 750mls. If you like it, and it hits the right price point, please let us know.
Definitely not a new wine, but I saw one of our younger order pickers standing in front of the wine shelves looking slightly bemused. He was looking for a bottle of that well-known drink; Domaine Estos. A bottle of dom-estos was what it said on the order sheet and the customer got a polite not available here in broad felt tip.
But we do have some exciting new wines on the way including our first wine from Lebanon, our first for years from Alsace and some natural wines from Waterkloof Winery in South Africa. I’m particularly excited about the Saffers which have had amazing reviews. By a strange coincidence, the head honcho, Louis Boutinot, was in the wine bar last year and has offered to host an evening on his next visit in August. I’d be surprised if circumstances allow it to happen but fingers crossed. Have a look at Waterkloof wines website if you want to do a bit of homework. The importers, Boutinot (must be some relation) have an interesting blog post about natural wines (which, apparently, in France do now have a legal definition) on their website; https://boutinot.com/blog/natural-wines-flirting-faults/
Grown-up Homemade Lemonade
One man’s Netflix is another man’s lemonade and I’ve been locking down with my citrus juicer. I’m a bit worried about suffering from social isolation induced scurvy. Equally good with carbonated water or as a mocktail with tonic and Angostura bitters, I can’t think why something so easy isn’t on everybody’s to-do list. Most recipes call for straightforward chopping and sieving but I reckon boiling the squeezed lemons for a minute or two adds zestiness and a hint of pith that makes the whole thing much more interesting. The recipe below works at about 3:1 dilution with sparkling water making a massive difference. As the season is approaching try adding a few elderflowers. Gooseberries also work well.
Makes about 2½ litres 2kg organic lemons 1 kg cane sugar 1.5 litres water. Halve and juice the lemons. You should have about 750ml of lemon juice. Put the water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Put half the squeezed lemons in the water and boil for about three minutes, or until they just begin to soften. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a colander over another saucepan. Repeat with the other half of the lemons. As soon as the lemons are cool enough, squeeze out any excess liquid and bin. Add the sugar and the excess liquid from the lemons to the water and bring back to the simmer. Add the lemon juice and strain into sterile bottles straight away. Providing you hot-fill into sterile bottles there’s enough sugar to keep the lemonade for several weeks. If you want to keep it for longer either put the bottles in a hot water bath or use (or, rather, reuse) plastic bottles and freeze.