Karen Hughes is an organic grower in Morayshire, Scotland, and runs the brilliant Roots, Fruits and Leaves box scheme. Earlier this year she took part in our ‘How to set up a FarmStart’ training and is scoping the potential for replicating our Land Army scheme north of the border...
“I first heard about Kindling in March this year when a friend from Nourish's New Farmer Programme asked me if I would like to attend the FarmStart training with her. I had a look at the website and watched a promo video and said YES! I'm a northern girl, even though I'm now living in Scotland and have proud memories of when I worked and studied in Manchester shopping at Eighth Day and feeling very in tune with their co-operative business model, ethics and principles. Meeting Helen, Chris and Alex was very inspiring and I learnt a lot about FarmStart as well as other Kindling projects, such as Land Army, Manchester Veg People and Veg Box People.
Kindling has shown me that it is possible to create an alternative approach (other than a CSA) which supports producers by offering them an outlet for sale as well as giving them a fair price for their produce and importantly providing food resilience and security for people who live in the area!
Roots, Fruits & Leaves
I started working as a grower at Roseisle Gardens market garden in 2013 and began running a veg box scheme for them. A lot of our customers used to be subscribers of Earthshare (the UK's first CSA, which was based in this area from 1994 to 2010) who gave feedback that they still wanted to buy local,organically grown produce but did not want a set veg box.
In order to try to accommodate their needs, I designed and managed a system whereby customers can 'create their own' box from the fruit and veg that is available each week. Whilst running the box scheme, I was approached by several other local producers and the idea of setting up my own business, Roots, Fruits and Leaves, was born!
Roots, Fruits and Leaves aims to take care of the sales, marketing, packing and delivering of produce so that the growers can focus more time on growing and also receive a fair price for their produce. I now take produce from 10 growers, 9 of whom are from within a 10 mile radius of Findhorn where I live. All the producers are growing organically - with or without certification.
Now that the box scheme is more established and growing, the next steps I'd like to make are to find more help for producers down on the fields. In order that the producers can grow more produce, it is crucial that they have extra hands to help them. I have recently been in touch with Helen to hear more about Land Army and I feel very excited that aspects of this project could be something I could offer to the producers who supply the box scheme in 2017!
The basic excel/email ordering system has also progressed and in the Spring of 2017 I plan to join the Open Food Network who will become the new host for my online shop. OFN software has been designed specifically for food hubs and box schemes and will offer functions that support the type of business I am in, such as retrieving harvest lists, customer orders, delivery lists etc. It also means I can take on more products and more producers as well as support the OFN which is a social enterprise!"