A new food hub in south Devon is looking for small food and drink producers to become part of a new community and eventually create a new space for locals to connect with and buy from.
The South Devon Food Hub has opened on a working farm close to the river Dart, in the Longcombe valley, with two drinks producers having already moved in. Initially, the hub will be for small producers to share resources and support each other, from marketing to storage, aiming to create a sense of community, and reduce isolation and stress. There is no retail permission for the site as of yet, but there are plans for a communal area, as well as open days and opportunities to visit.
Founders Ian and Julie Dennis said the idea came when they noticed a resurgence of interest in local food and drink, however those producers face significant challenges.
“Initially we are simply providing a space where food and drink businesses can come together in a collaborative environment, enabling them to support each other, potentially share marketing, distribution and storage, so saving not only costs but improving business resilience in these uncertain times,” said Julie Dennis.
Ian Dennis added: “We are very excited about our future plans for the South Devon Food Hub. As soon as we possibly can, we are hoping to provide a communal area to support the wider food and drink community. The communal area will include offices, a space to hotdesk, a meeting and educational space, a commercial kitchen and micro-units for start-up businesses.”
The duo also want to explore working with children and young people to help educate them about local food and farming.
Two local drinks producers, Devon Distillery and Orchard Drinks, have already moved onto the site, with Sharpham Cheese due to move in early 2024. The hub is based on a farm producing beef for Waitrose, grain for animal feed and oilseed rape, and there is hope that some of the producers may use raw ingredients grown on the farm.
“We are keen advocates of buying locally, both to support our local community and also to reduce our carbon footprint. In a discussion with Greg Parsons from Sharpham Cheese, who is also the chair of Food Drink Devon, the idea of an all-artisan local food producers’ ‘centre’ was suggested. Where better than on a commercial farm where some of the raw ingredients could also be grown?” Julie Dennis added.
Anthony Mangnall, Conservative MP for south Devon, attended the launch of the hub and said he is “highly supportive of measures to shorten supply chains and support local food and drink producers”. “This new hub brings producers together and provides them with the space to share resources and experiences, and to improve the farm-to-fork process,” he said.
Food hubs are a grassroots and local alternative to supermarkets and farmers’ markets, where producers and farmers can rent a space to sell or arrange collection of their produce.
According to a report by Sustain last year, food hubs can allow more of your pound to reach farmers by cutting out middlemen, while some small growers have said hubs can help reduce food waste compared to a market, as food is harvested to order.
To find your local food hub, search online or use the Open Food Network search tool.