We have managed not to increase the price of our veg boxes for three years, but the sums are no longer adding up. Those years have seen pressure on wages and other costs that to date we’ve largely countered by improving efficiency, but the killer blow has been the devaluation of the pound. As with the British farmers we work with, prices are agreed with our farmers in France, Spain and Italy a year or more ahead and we always honour them; treating farmers fairly is one of our founding principles. With the Pound remaining low against the Euro and winter approaching with its consequent increase in imported produce, the weekly cash drain has become too scary for us to wait in hope of a Sterling bounce-back.
As of 14th November most box prices will go up by around 5%, and some individual items will go up sooner by a similar amount. Our UK-only box will remain the same price. The alternative to increasing prices would be to move to larger suppliers, push for lower prices from farmers and pay our staff less; we are not inclined to take any of these paths. There are no investor dividends to be foregone (we are family owned and moving towards staff ownership), only our modest staff profit share, so I hope you understand we have little choice.
Longer term, I hope this will spur us to increase our homegrown produce. While over the year our veg is 72% British (mostly grown by us), I suspect we have become a little risk averse with our farming as the quality and reliability of produce from likeminded organic farmers in Europe has improved, resulting in us dropping the riskier early and late season crop sowings. We could also put up more polytunnels to shift a few of our acres climatically to the south of France.
Probably the biggest single thing we can do though is to get you excited about seasonal cooking and encourage a departure from the old favourites that most of us resort to, regardless of season. I ate the best dish I have had for a long time in our Field Kitchen restaurant this week; a curly kale Caesar salad created by James, our veg obsessed head chef. It sounds a ridiculous concept but really fantastic, 100% British and a pretty good place to start; you’ll find the recipe on our website.