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My mission to buy local for Christmas

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

Food. Drink.

Such awesome products, packed full of passion, individuality, and taste, frequently sitting at the centre of what we do with friends and family. Especially at this time of year..

What I love particularly about the food and drink market is that there is so much choice right here on our doorsteps, made, grown and reared by passionate small business people –farmers, brewers, chocolatiers, smokers, distillers and the rest.

There are many ways in which we can chose to shop, and we often make choices based on convenience, and supermarkets are there for us at every turn, ready to help. It’s the easy option.We don’t have to think too hard, and we trust the big brands to deliver on price and quality. And we are all busy. Looking for any new supplier - particularly a food supplier - requires thought and risk of bad choices. It is much easier to stick with the status quo, even when we know that there are better options.

I live in a busy family, with two young(ish) children. Here, there and everywhere keeping the show on the road. Up until March 2020, the family shop used to be a 10-minute dash through a supermarket website on a Sunday evening.

Then COVID happened. COVID was awful. The unknown, the threat to life, the cost.

BUT, there were upsides. Our family had the time to sit down and have meals together. We talked. And discussed the food we were eating, where it was sourced from, what it tasted like. I had a bit of time to track down local small producers that I knew about, and to buy from them. It turned out that my then 8-year old had an opinion! And he loved being asked for it. He could easily tell whether the Lincolnshire sausages (a long-standing family favourite) on his plate were from the supermarket, the butcher or the local pig farmer, the latter always being the most popular.

And so the journey started. When the world got going again, I decided to do more buying from local suppliers. The issue of course was time, and to an extent cost. Maintaining accounts at 10 local producers was and remains time consuming. Rationalising the delivery charges. Trying to figure out if the extra cost was worth it. Many producers run on a limited marketing budget, making the online shopping experience clunky at times...

Where I got to in those lengthy machinations was that the buying decision couldn’t be about cost alone. I’ve already touched on quality and taste, but it is also, very importantly, about supporting the small batch, artisan producers. Ideally producers would be in the local community, but if this was not possible, then a small producer further afield. By way of example, we now buy pasta from a producer in Yorkshire - we buy in bulk to minimise the unit cost and we pay a little more, but we love it for the taste and the support we are giving.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Well, I’m involved in a project to launch a website next year that will provide easy access to amazing small producers, and we have clever ideas about how to deliver on price and convenience. It will be called We Farm Shop.

More on that another time. In the meantime, I have set myself a challenge –to buy as much of the food that that the family needs for the Christmas period from local small businesses. If there are no local small businesses, then I will look nationally and see what I can source. It’s not that I have it in for the supermarkets, or indeed the farm shops - they do amazing things on a larger scale. But I want to buy direct from the little guys - to have access to their passion, whether it be to deliver the highest levels of quality and taste, to innovate to stay competitive or perhaps to fulfil their green/ organic aspirations.

We, as consumers, value knowing who we are buying from and what their story is. A desire to put a face on the person we are buying from is a natural human instinct as it provides reassurance and ultimately loyalty. And that is where supermarkets and farm shops cannot compete - they cannot provide an emotional connection with the producer.

I was round at a local farm yesterday buying a range of stuff from the farmer’s (Rob) freezers, and I now know about his Oxford Sandy Blacks pigs, and that spend their lives roaming in the woods –their natural habitat.

It’s this type of connection with Rob and his animals that pivots me towards local producers like him. It obviously helps that his sausages and bacon taste delicious! And so to follow, a series of blogs on what I find as I go on a mission to buy for Christmas from local, artisan suppliers.

I will write about the people I find, their history and their passions. I will of course provide their details, including when they deliver into the north Wiltshire area, their minimum orders etc –essentially all the information you would need to make an informed choice, should you want to buy from them as well. The blog, and indeed the website when it is ready, will go further than highlighting fantastic food - I will also look at clever ideas that producers have for reducing costs, improving quality, enabling distribution and reducing their impact on the planet.

I’ll talk about the producer that has figured out how to send ice cream on overnight nationwide delivery, the crisp manufacturer that has plastic free packaging and the tea producer that uses solar power, to name but a few.

So, back to Christmas and all that food and drink I’m going to be buying. It’s going to be a fascinating journey, and I can’t wait to get started!


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