Let’s set the record straight first of all . . .
Life as a farmer is a tough game. At the mercy of the elements, the economy, food trends and an uncertain Brexit on the horizon, there are compelling arguments for throwing in the towel and finding a regular job.
To set the record straight though – we are not farmers ourselves. The ‘we’ in Fin and Farm are Nick and Muir who set it up in 2009 and along with Jim, who joined shortly after, and we work with local farms throughout Sussex and West Kent. We bring fresh produce from growers and producers to commercial kitchens such as restaurants, pubs and hotels and home kitchens all along the South coast.
Why we do what we do . . .
The food chain from the farms to the shops is a delicate one, and our job is to work as a bridge to regularly bring fresh produce to urban areas, where it’s more difficult to access. The aim is to reduce the carbon footprint of local food and keep it accessible and affordable for our customers.
So, last year we lost two farms; one to retirement (the land has been converted to a glamping site) and one as income wasn’t sustainable. Naturally, this starts to ring alarm bells, as naturally, our regional farms are an essential feature of our local economy. Without them, access to good daily food and the collective carbon footprint would suffer not to mention our tourism, environment, maintenance of natural sites and local employment. We would sorely miss our diversity and quality of what is on our plate.
Of course, vegetables in the supermarket are relatively cheap because the growers and producers are often paid so poorly and tied into wasteful contracts which direct the bulk of the profit to the retailer. There is little security for the growers and they are left extremely vulnerable if they don’t yield good crops – hence and over-reliance on industrial growing techniques….that is if they are even based regionally – it’s often cheaper to source globally produce that we can easily grow locally.
But you know all of this. There are a ton of reasons to buy locally. But, in our experience, people are driven to the supermarkets not because they don’t care, but generally through lack of time and the demands of a busy life and making ends meet. It’s totally understandable; life can be rushed and stressful and we have a million things to think about.
Of course, it’s easy for us to recommend local produce when we spend so much time on the farms – but with our delivery service – or shopping at supermarkets such as HiSbe in Brighton or our home boxes, honestly, should be as easy as regular shopping habits.
So, what is #EatSussex August?
Even though we eat loads of local food ourselves, we thought we would go a step further and pledge to eat nothing but Sussex produce* throughout August. We want to show that it’s entirely possible to eat healthily, rustle up speedy meals and find interesting food locally and it definitely not be another drain on your already stretched time, imagination and budget. (* see Rules below).
You know though, even though we are really excited by the project, we still had to think carefully ourselves when we were planning. Like many, the thought of careful advance food planning isn’t something high on our agenda (‘fessing up here). we also have our work with our food businesses, a family (GCSE time – yikes), elderly relatives, a dog, our house which we are gutting, and that has to be occasionally cleaned, and somewhere fitting into all of that, a social life!
At home our daily food is usually not particularly complex, fairly quick one or two pots – although we do use loads of fresh ingredients. Healthy eating is high on our agenda so we rely heavily on pulses, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, and lots of bananas, peanut butter and coconut milk and cream.
We already eat probably 75% fresh local veg and fruit and our diet is pretty plant based, on the whole. We aren’t saints though and really enjoy our treats of chocolate, cheese and good wine or cracking open a chilled beer.
Nick eats meat although Muir is veggie, so there isn’t a whole load of meat in the house but Nick does treat himself on occasion to fresh Sussex sausages, chicken and the odd steak.
So, all in all fairly simple – and an exciting challenge. We will be learning to cook fabulous pasta at home with local flour and find fabulous substitutes to wean us away from bananas!
So, here are a few of the basic rules we’ve put together and we hope that you’ll enjoy the upcoming blogs/vlogs about progress and some more info on our growers and suppliers.
- All meals to be made from Sussex produce
- Can drink locally sourced (sustainably sourced, that is) coffee and blended tea from Edgcumbes near Ford and from MD Tea in Brighton.
- Can use locally packed salt and black pepper
- Can use locally sourced and sustainably imported spices from local suppliers
- We will use locally pressed hemp oil for dressing (as it shouldn’t be heated)
- Will use Mesto Olive Oil as Cate and Vasilis live in Brighton and they own the olive grove in Crete. All oil they transport themselves, so the carbon footprint is tiny. For health reasons, we would prefer not to cook with butter for a whole month! Although for taste, we have no objection at all!)
Please feel free to comment with advice, recipes and pointers to anything local that we may not have found on our travels. All advice welcome!
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