Well, 2016, you’ve been a shocker. It’s been the year of fake farms, supermarket meat superbugs and paint thinner chemicals found in mass-produced gravy. But it’s not all doom and gloom. We’re living in a time where we’re expressing ourselves through food in ways like never before. In a year when one in five Brits posted a picture of their food online, what we eat has become today’s hottest social media currency. It’s thanks to our connected world that the landscape for getting closer to real transparency around where our food comes from and how it’s made has been blown wide open. Meet the inspiring and passionate change-makers making steps to safeguard the future of our food and planet you need to know about - and together, we can learn from them too. 2017, we’re ready for you.
1. Tom Hunt
Awareness of the plight of ‘ugly food’ and ‘wonky veg’ reached new heights in 2016, thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s shocking scenes of tons of not-supermarket-perfect parsnips being thrown away. If anyone should be praised for leading the way in the world fighting food waste and sustainable cooking in our capital, it’s Tom. Tom worked with Hugh as a course leader and cook on the River Cottage series and since moving to London he’s become a food writer (publishing his first book The Natural Cook in 2014), campaigner and the ultimate eco-chef. He’s the brains Forgotten Feast - a roaming restaurant that celebrates ‘the ugly, the unwanted and the unloved…wild and seasonal foods, wasted foods and foods that have been forgotten or ignored by the modern world’ - and the chef behind the impeccable sustainable credentials and root-to-fruit menu of his award winning restaurant Poco. With a 100% seasonal, and 95% waste free philosophy, he’s a man after our own eco-heart.
2. Anna Jones
It’s official, 2016 is the year that more people have turned vegan than ever before. The number of vegans in Britain has risen by 360% in the past decade, with the main influence being social media. What’s clear is that many people agree thinking carefully about what’s in your food and how it may affect your health can only be a good thing. A fellow fan of the plant-based diet, vegetarian food writer Anna Jones has risen the humble vegetable to its rightful place of full-on bells and whistles, simply showstopping, mouthwatering main event stuff. After a dull day at the office prompted a career change, she earned her stripes at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and went on to work with him as a stylist and writer for 7 years. Two cookbooks later, Anna’s passion comes from the pure joy of food and she believes healthy eating is as much about pleasure as anything else. Anna’s dishes make it deliciously easy to embrace all of Britain’s beautiful bounty and we love her because whether you’re veggie or not, her food will rock your world.
Created by a crack team of agro-ecologists, Abby Rose, Jo Barratt, Nigel Akehurst (our resident farmer-photographer) and Madeleine Maxwell give a voice to our country’s small-scale farmers in a monthly podcast. Together they’re committed to building a positive future for the planet and believe the answer lies in bridging boundaries between farming communities to share knowledge, collaborate and learn from each other. The Farmerama gang share our philosophy that our farmers are the caretakers of the earth and the choices they make affect all of our lives profoundly. And we can’t wait to see what they’ll be up to in 2017. Which leads us to…
4. #OurField Project
Abby’s other incredible project is a co-op grains movement that aims to change the way we grow grains forever through ‘living the farmer’s journey, reinventing farm economics and sharing farmer risk’. #OurField is built on an open source model where communities can ‘buy’ into a field and become part of the process in deciding how the crops in the field are grown. This unique project makes it easy for anyone to learn about the intricate decisions farmers have to make on a daily basis and engage with farming. Farmers also enjoy the freedom to experiment with new and publicly supported growing techniques. In our eyes, it’s a welcome win-win disruptor in the world of farming.
Winner of this year’s Observer Food Monthly Awards for best ethical restaurant, Silo’s 29-year old owner Doug McMaster is a true sustainability maverick. Every element of his Brighton business has received his magic touch, where “at least 99% of what we buy will go into our customers’ bellies, into our compost machine’s belly, or will be re-used in some other way”. And if that means a) owning a composter, b) spending £4k on a mill to grind his restaurant’s own flour, or c) buying in cream from a local dairy to churn it themselves and make butter to avoid the packaging of individual blocks, then he’ll bloomin’ well do it. Silo’s zero waste ‘designed back to front’ ethos and a philosophy built on a pre industrial food system that celebrates ‘pure foods born from clean farming’, means Doug had us at composter. Oh, and the food is 100% incredible.
6. Nicola Temple
A biologist, conservationist, science writer and co-author of Sorting the Beef From the Bull: The Science of Food Fraud Forensics, the adulteration of food really get’s Nicola’s goat (and it really get’s ours too). Nicola works with universities and individuals to develop engaging science stories and shine a light on how research has an impact beyond the world of academia. After the horsemeat scandal of 2013, Nicola and Professor Richard Evershed wanted to bring examples of food fraud together and share the sophisticated science that has helped discover and deter fraudsters, as well as the equally sophisticated science behind the fraud itself. Anyone with a passion for real wholesome food and raising awareness of the price to consumers, who pay for these crimes with their health, is a hero.
7. The Sussex Peasant
This very new venture is an exciting George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces-worthy transformation of a horse box into a mobile farm shop and restaurant that roams the Sussex countryside. Selling sustainable food that can be traced back to local neighbouring farms, locals can also look forward to dining on it too. Profits are shared with its farmers and the owner Ed Johnstone shares our belief in that it is possible to change the way we buy and sell food, just by simply doing things differently. Ed, we salute you.
If you daydream of giving it all up and heading off to somewhere far, far away and surrounding yourself with a beautiful rugged landscape packed with wildlife, then this is the Instagram account for you. Jef, the owner of the account, co-runs the extremely enviable Dalimach storm pod holiday accommodation on the Isle of South Uist in the Scottish Hebrides. Located on their croft, think more space than a caravan and smaller than a modern chalet in the wilds of the western isles of Scotland and you’ve got it. Expect lots of heart-melting snaps of Highland cows, native sheep, wild birds and stunning windswept landscapes.
What’s the fate of the tens of thousands of plants left over from Chelsea Flower Show? It’s Farmopolis - London’s first floating garden and an urban oasis on a big jetty between The O2 and Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park of course! After an intensive rehoming programme, the plants have created a verdant permanent cultural hub that hovers on stilts above the Thames. After conducting the ‘The Great Plant Rescue’ this summer, the mixed use space splits it’s life between being an incubator for sustainability and innovation designed to bring nature into the city and an ideas hub and conversation space for people to discuss the future of food, farming, culture and technology. Now hibernating for winter, you can look forward to seeing the plants come alive in spring 2017.
10. Jessica Seaton
Cottages, seasides, forests and foraging; this is the world of the Founding Director of Toast - one of Britain’s most-loved homespun clothing brands known for its ethical production policy. Having already championed traditional textiles, Jessica’s Instagram account is a delicious celebration of the connection between the food we eat and the land where we live. After a quick browse of her feed inspired by food from the seas, farmland, and wild places of the luscious West Wales landscape, you’ll want to up sticks, buy a cottage and get cracking on that homemade quince jam. Her book Gather, Cook, Feast: Recipes from Land and Water comes out next spring, and we can’t wait to tuck in.
We hope you have a cracking Christmas and a very happy New Year!
The Farmdrop Team