Creating livelihoods for small farms
Thursday, 18th March 2021 by Rachel
Metske Bore Place

We're using the term “farmer-focused” a lot these days to explain our approach to running our veg scheme and farmers' market. It's about looking at what our land and soils can produce and basing the offer to our customers around that – the result being an emphasis on seasonal, local and organic. It's also about supporting the farmers properly so that they can thrive and treat the land with the respect it deserves.

We set up the Better Food Shed to help us to support farmers even further. It's a non-profit wholesale operation that simplifies London distribution for farmers, making it possible for more small-scale producers to sell their food to the London veg schemes that are part of the Better Food Traders network.

Which is why it was so brilliant to hear from Metske, one of the farmers that joined the Better Food Shed last year. Read on to hear how this system is transforming his life and livelihood.

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Last year was the first year here for me as an independent grower after working 2 years as an employee for Bore Place. I've grown organic vegetables for 13 years near Hastings but as my lease was not renewed I had to look for another place to grow veg. Bore Place offered me an initial 2 year employment with the outlook to taking it on as my own. Moving from Hastings closer to London opened up the opportunity to get in touch with the Better Food Shed and Growing Communities.
 

In it for the right reasons

First of all it is a joy to supply and trade with people who are in it for the right reasons, locally produced, respect for nature and the people who work the land. I hope I can pay this back with good quality vegetables for years to come.

 

Building a sustainable business

The Better Food Shed has made the step towards building a sustainable business much much easier. As I supplied already a number of box schemes in the Brighton area there was a solid base to make an income. Although this income sustained me and my family it was hard work and paid the bills but not much more. Every investment took a lot of thinking and considering. With the interest of the Better Food Shed in mind I could finally invest in a few machines that would cut out a lot of manual work and back/knee breaking labour. Although a bit of a risk it has worked out really well. I am now in a position where I can grow larger amounts and still have a market for them. And when my van broke down a few times last year after 13 year hard labour I was this year in the position to buy another on without sleepless nights.

 

Fair pay and honest prices

The ethos of the Better Food Shed guarantees me and my employees an honest price for our produce. Their wages have gone up from minimum wage to £10 hour and my income has gone up as well. Even more luck as my partners income has fallen away due to Covid.

Trading with the Better Food Shed has given me the opportunity to scale some crops up and specialize more on a few crops like whole head lettuce, fennel, and celeriac.
 

So long story short, thanks Better Food Shed and thanks to all your customers for making my business more sustainable and I hope to grow organic veg for many more years. Although no farming practise is 100% sustainable, every acre farmed organic is a step away from a destructive farming practises that are all about quantity and profit for some. I hope and see that our way of farming and trading is about quality and profit for all!