Big Barn: Local Food Goes Virtual
| Anthony Davidson |
With the coming food price crisis we need a social, local food industry to replace the corporate, profit-led, national food industry. There are some ways we can protect ourselves from price hikes with the help of Social Enterprise BigBarn whose mission is to divert some of the £120b spent with supermarkets to local producers and retailers with massive social benefits to all.
BigBarn was set up by a 5th generation farmer who noticed the onions he sold to a middle man for £130/ton on a Tesco shelf for the equivalent of £850/ton. This happened every year and is the same for most food products, including milk.
Twelve years later 7,000 local food outlets have an icon on BigBarn’s local food map with more signing up every day. 460 have set up online shops in an Amazon-style online MarketPlace and 90 other websites have the map and MarketPlace on their websites to help more people find local food and build a new local food industry.
Thousands of consumers visit BigBarn every day and some have even joined the food industry through BigBarn’s Crop for the Shop scheme where consumers can sell their home-grown food through participating retailers.
So what about the coming food crisis? Experts are already predicting a large rise in food prices as rain in this country has caused fungal disease in wheat crops, and in America, drought has reduced Corn yields leading to a sharp rise in all grain prices. These rises will soon increase the price of bread and cereals and then meat, as the grain to feed animals rises.
Most agree that it is extremely irresponsible of governments around the world not to stockpile grain for times like these: Grain stocks will be at their lowest since 2007 with only enough for 72 days consumption.
So after you have told your local MP to store more grain, here are some ideas on how we can protect ourselves from global price increases:
1. Buy local seasonal food
It’s important to avoid buying any food that will be affected by global commodity prices. Unfortunately, any animals fed grain (chickens, pigs, some cattle, some sheep) will also see prices rise. So find meat from animals fed on grass, which will have more flavour and have a great deal less dangerous fats. Other products like potatoes and seasonal veg should be the same as usual, so buying local and direct, significant savings can be made.
2. Make your own bread
Bread prices will rise as the cost of wheat rises. The price of a loaf, however, will rise much more than the flour ingredient and you will also be able to avoid all the additives in bread. For more on Real Bread visit Sustainweb or to buy flour visit the BigBarn MarketPlace.
3. Eat less meat or cheaper cuts
To buy grass fed meat and cover the extra costs of food you may not be able to do without, like pasta, cut down on the amount of meat you buy, or get cheaper cuts.
A grass fed, well hung, topside of beef from your local farmer, or butcher, will be cheaper and much better than a supermarket sirloin joint, (that was mooing in an intensive stock shed the day before).
To find your local meat producer or butcher type your postcode into BigBarn local food map page
4. Grow your own
This makes food really cheap food and a possible earner when you sell your excess via BigBarn’s Crop for the Shop scheme
Watch the video about the Crop for the Shop initiative in schools on the BBC
5. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk will often mean a wholesale price 50% of retail. Why not get some friends organised and share your bulk purchases?
Anyone who can read, or even watch a video, can cook. ‘Cook’ means converting cheap, fresh, local, season, healthy, ingredients in to great meals.
You can make 10 times the quantity of vegetable soup for the same price as one can of a well known brand soup. And end up with a healthier meal. Ready meals in the supermarket might look cheap but are NOT. For a video recipe see the BigBarn KIS (Keep it Simple) Cookery video page
These are exciting times: Let’s get enthusiastic about food and help build a long lasting, sustainable, local, food industry.
Anthony Davidson is founder of Big Barn an Amazon-style market place for small producers.