Thinking

How we do it: Why Farmdrop is a marketplace and why it matters

13th March 2015

Farmdrop started with the understanding that it is smaller scale, local food producers and farmers that care the most. They care more about how the food tastes, what their customers like, how they look after their local environment and how they nourish their local community.

Now it’s difficult to put a figure on caring, but what we could see from the outset was that when farmers and food producers trade through the conventional routes it is both they and their customers who tend to lose out.

The average a farmer receives of the final shelf price of the food they sell varies depending on who you talk to, but almost everyone we speak to is surprised at how low it is. The estimates range from between 7% and 11%. And every time the producer gets short changed then so do their customers.

Ben’s Damascene moment was in the aisle of a supermarket. Having come direct from Ripple Farm in Kent, he found the butternut squash they sold for less than a pound, on the shelf at near £4. Clearly something was amiss.

We had both seen how the food industry was undergoing big changes and wanted to create a platform for both groups that would provide a level playing field to stimulate and support smaller scale production across the UK.

And that’s why Farmdrop is an online marketplace and not a retailer. There are standard charges and rules that give all participants stability and the producers a much better slice of the pie.

But possibly the most important thing for our food producers and farmers is that they have more freedom. They are not tied into punishing arrangements that retailers ultimately always end up abusing. And when the retailers punish the producers it is they and society that suffers. It forces farmers into prioritising short term increases in yields, often at the cost of the local eco-system.

The other thing about our local marketplaces is that shorter, localised supply chains mean less cost in getting produce from field to fork, as it travels direct. If you buy fruit or veg at a supermarket it will have generally come through four or five sets of hands, (packing houses, central distribution centres, local distribution hubs and retail outlets), and travelled a great distance.

The farmer rotating their crops, making sure that they are true guardians of the land is not a twee notion. It’s not always tangible how urgently we should be addressing environmental challenges, but recent reports of the devastating Californian drought show how vital it is to follow sustainable practices. All over California they are drilling 100’s of feet for water to save their businesses. That won’t be an option for their children and grandchildren. We need to help those farmers and food producers that care to build viable businesses before we jeopardise the long term health of our land.

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