Latest news from Big Barn and our producers.

Free Onions, near you?

There is a glut of onions at the moment so farmers are getting about £20/tonne, 2p/kg for ‘A’ grade onions, the price for the same onions in the supermarkets range from 50-80p/kg, 30 times more! Some farmers are giving them away.

Grade 2 onions as they have not been topped. Perfect for stringing, cooking, preserving.

Grade 2 onions as they have not been topped. Perfect for stringing, cooking, preserving.

My cousin, who inspired me to start BigBarn, grows 100 acres of onions and is very depressed. He has grown a magnificent crop but will lose money. He is even having to throw away the onions that do not make ‘A’ grade, driving his wife to bagging up as many as she can to give to local worthy organisations.

This sorry tale is typical of the modern food industry. It is possible that some consumers are driving 10 miles to buy onions from a supermarket at 70p/kilo when onions from the same field, one mile away, are being thrown away.

So how did we get to this, what seems like, crazy food industry.

The modern food industry and supermarkets give us all the food we want, whenever we want it, at a ‘low’ price. Brussels sprouts in July, asparagus, lettuce and most fruit all year round.

Compared to rationing in the 1950’s we live in bountiful times.

Farmers grow crops either on contract, to a supermarket or middle man, or try and sell their crop for the best price at harvest. To keep cost low they have to grow a large acreage to achieve economies of scale like my cousin growing 100 acres.

The supermarkets organise their suppliers to get the best price they can and fill their shelves with a huge variety of foods to satisfy the needs of customers. If they are offered a product from another country they justify paying a lower price by saying they are passing on the saving to the consumer.

European farmers compete with UK farmers for supermarket contracts, and this year, with onions, the Dutch and Polish dumped a large tonnage, they were going to sell to Russia, on our market. Due to EEC regulations they are not allowed to plough in a crop so it is cheaper to send their crop on a lorry to the UK than pay for it to go to landfill.

Consumers see a big range of food, are told it is great value, but have no idea how much the food has been marked up or what was paid to the farmer. Food is grown for shelf life not flavour, most farmers have to sell through middle men meaning that, on average, for every £1 spent on food in the supermarket farmers only get 9p.

To me this national, global, food industry is anti-social and not sustainable. And why I set up BigBarn to build a social, local, food industry where farmers sell locally for a fair price, at least 50% of the retail price.

BigBarn local food map with Crop for the Shop & Cheaper than Supermarket flags

BigBarn local food map with Crop for the Shop & Cheaper than Supermarket flags

By cutting out the middle men consumers should get food cheaper than the supermarket and through communication encourage further production and greater agricultural diversity.

This communication helps people understand what is in season, and good value, and cook what is available. Those that do not know how to cook get recipes from local shops or use the internet like BigBarn’s Keep it simple Cookery videos.

Food banks give away bags of veg and show people how to cook instead of giving away supermarket ready meals.

Local farm shops, and even village or corner shops become the centre for local food. Schools and consumers are encouraged to grow food to supply the shop via our ‘Crop for the Shop‘ scheme and by growing food more people eat and enjoy fresh, healthy, seasonal, cheap, food.

If there is a glut, local people take advantage of cheap produce and swap recipes and preserving techniques to use up the extra food.

The start of a food revolution?

Your local food community?Picture: BBC Food programme

At last the consumer benefits not big business and the supermarket! Farmers grow food that tastes good, not globally traded commodities and

Sounds good, dreamer. I hear you say!

People leaving supermarkets, farmers changing the way they work?

Yes, this is a rather utopian vision, but, it’s happening: Tesco sales & profits diving, cookery programmes every half hour on the TV and local food shops thriving.

Thousands of people have given up the supermarkets, and are proud of it. In some parts of the country farmers have set up farm shops to be the centre of local food attracting and communicating with thousands of local consumers. See Perfect Farm Shop previous blog.

To join in and help build your local food industry use the BigBarn local food map to find who is in your area and go shopping and chatting to the farmer/owner.

Click on the picture to see the BigBarn about us video

Click on the picture to see the BigBarn about us video

If they want to get more customers refer them to our Perfect Farm Shop blog and tell them to call us about adding more to their listing on BigBarn to win customers.

If you know a shop we do not have listed please tell them to call us and we will add them. We charge a small fee that is recovered if, in one year, we find them just one new regular customer. And as a Community Interest Company all profits go towards our mission.

If you would like to donate to our mission and join our Community click here to donate or here to register for our free emailed post code specific newsletter with local news and special offers.

Exiting times for foodies! If you would like to comment on this blog please do so below.

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