Nant Celyn Primary School in Cwmbran launched their Food Co-op in April 2013. Pupils from Year 3 take orders, attend to customers and bag up produce with the help of their Teaching Assistant Mrs Gooding. They also place orders with their supplier giving them a broader experience of running the Food Co-op from start to finish. Parents and Staff place orders after School on a Thursday. Delivery is the following week offering convenience and good value and the Food Co-op is proving popular with parents and staff alike who can collect their fruit and veg when they are already at school rather than having to go to the supermarket. Convenient and good value!
The Food Co-op in Aberporth is particularly successful because it links with a wide variety of other community activities and also offers a range of additional Welsh produce. Lead volunteer Anne explains:
"The Food Co-op runs every Tuesday morning at the same time as the Country Market and the Credit Union. Other organisations such as Citizens Advice, Age Concern and the Community Police are also there. This means the Village Hall is a hive of activity".
Soon after starting their fruit and vegetable food co-op, volunteers found there was a demand for other Welsh produce. Now customers are able to buy meat packs from Golwyg yr Mor Farm 3 miles away and fish caught and delivered by Welsh Seafoods from Milford Haven.
As with fruit and vegetables, meat and fish are sold in advance by volunteers on behalf of the supplier, direct to the customer. There is no middle man. The meat and fish is pre-packed so volunteers do not handle raw produce. Environmental Health approve of the system, which has since been adopted at other food co-ops.
Sean Ryan owns Mercurius and Stephanie, which fish off-shore 3-5 days at a time. Sean says:
"As fuel prices continue to rise, it makes sense that fish landed in Wales are eaten as locally as possible. This keeps the cost down and the fish fresher, while reducing food miles, which is good for the environment. We are also part of the UK's "Responsible Fishing Scheme", which is similar to the land-based "Farm Assured Scheme".
A framed photograph of "Mercurius" is on the wall at the food co-op so customers can really see where their fish comes from.
Dyserth food co-op has been running from Paterson Hall in Capel Dyserth since June 2007 and is one of the most successful food co-ops in North Wales. Supplied by Huson Produce, a family run farm in Hawarden, the Dyserth volunteer team of fourteen members runs the food co-op every Wednesday morning from 10.45am to 12.15pm.
The food co-op is based mainly on fruit and vegetable produce and a variety of locally grown produce provided by members. The availability of additional items, such as eggs, also proves popular as do the cakes and bread recently introduced for sale.
Dyserth’s customers put the secret of the co-op’s success down to the lead volunteers Colin and Elizabeth Richards and their team who, “give everyone a wonderful welcome.”
As well as being able to buy good quality fruit and vegetables at a very reasonable price, the availability of tea and coffee encourages members to socialise, “we’ve made a lot of new friends through visiting the food co-op”. Customers even say that sometimes, “the roof almost lifts off with laughter!”
Lead volunteer, Elizabeth Richards, also feels that a friendly service to the local community is so valuable, “We offer volunteers and customers and passers-by a chance to chat, with refreshments available at a modest price (local Welsh milk delivered by a milkman is used!).”
During term time the local school playgroup and the mother and toddler group buy bags of fruit and once a month the Community Police Support Officer calls into the co-op to meet residents. The food co-op is open at the same time as the Community Library to the benefit of both and the group have a great relationship with their local butchers and local charities.
The group have also held enjoyable ‘cook and eat’ sessions for their customers who want to thank the Dyserth volunteers, “for making all this possible”.
Fruit and vegetable growers, who are also wholesalers, can offer a full range of produce throughout the year. Many are keen to sell through Food Co-ops. Some buy from other local growers too and some also sell a range of additional produce. Here are a few examples:
Brian grows a wide range of vegetables on his farm in Llanrhidian on the Gower. He sells through a number of food co-ops in the Swansea and Neath area. Many are in schools, which run their co-ops as business enterprises. As well as growing Brian also buys from neighbouring farmers so that as much Welsh produce as possible goes to the co-ops. Pupils like to see where their food has come from and Brian has hosted many a school visit. Brian has helped the Rural Regeneration Unit (RRU) in the production of a short film to promote school based food co-ops.
The RRU has been able to help Brian by providing information about Single Farm Payment, FFMDD grants, CEVAS farm visit courses and Farming Connect's Whole Farm Plan.
Euros' family have grown vegetables at Belmont for almost 100 years and recently have started to sell through food co-ops. They grow Carrots, beetroot, swede, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, broccoli, sprouts, leeks, courgettes, broad beans, peas & rhubarb and have links with another grower in St Asaph for tomatoes, lettuce, spring onions & strawberries. They go to Liverpool Market twice a week for anything that cannot be sourced locally.
Euros works with Scilicorns Bakery In Llanrwst who sell mixed bread packs through food co-ops. They share deliveries, which helps keep food miles down and makes good business sense to them both.
Euros says "My Great-grandfather and Grandfather used to sell produce in the hall on the square in Llanrwst, until it was pulled down. My father supplied most village shops in the Conwy Valley until they closed due to the supermarkets. My aim is to keep growing produce to sell as "Belmont Produce" to the locals, as has been going on since 1917!"
This is a 35 acre family farm in Hawarden. It is a mixed farm run on "old fashioned" principles with minimum use of pesticides. They first sold through food co-ops early in 2005 and haven't looked back. They now deliver to approximately 80 throughout the North Wales area.
Co-op customers can also buy eggs, pickling onions & vinegar, compost, grow bags, peat, bark chippings, wild bird seed and fat balls.
Alan, his family and the team at Huson's have a friendly and open relationship with their food co-ops. Drivers are happy to tell co-ops which produce are grown on the farm. Meet Alan on our Food Co-op film.
Alan is aware of his impact on the environment. They use minimum plastic and as much degradable packaging as possible and always try to reuse and recycle. Food waste is either composted or fed to pigs and cattle, so it goes back into the land. They maximise multiple drops on delivery routes to keep food miles low.
Alan says "Supplying direct and in bulk cuts out the middleman so that we all feel the financial benefits. I enjoy selling direct to the public. The feedback is very satisfying. I believe that the co-op volunteers and customers like to deal direct with a grower too. Trade through co-ops now represent 50% of our business. We plan our planting according to the demand of co-op customers. As a result of the co-ops, we have big expansion plans and hope to supply more of our own grown produce in future. By "keeping it local" I feel that I am "doing my bit" for the local economy, while also promoting healthy eating".