In response to a report last month on how farmers selling to supermarkets often make as little as 1p profit, reader Jeremy Holloway got in touch to say how he makes a point of buying elsewhere. Let us know your own experiences in the comments below, and sign up to this week’s Wicked Leeks email for a community special.
I think it all started when I had my own shop in Weymouth, selling magic, balloons and juggling equipment, when I found supermarkets selling what I sold, but at prices I couldn’t buy at wholesale. It seemed extremely unfair to people like me who were specialists (I was a clown and a certified balloon artist), who couldn’t possibly have the buying power of supermarkets. That was about 25 years ago. So, I used supermarkets less and less over the next few years, until I realised: I didn’t need them at all.
I tend to eat organic and the choice in supermarkets (as far as I know) is very limited, but it is the power supermarkets have that influences me probably more than anything else, forcing prices down and squeezing farmers’ profits into losses.
I would often hear on the radio, comments like “this supermarket does this – other supermarkets are available”, when in fact it should be noted that there are other shopping options available.
I do live on my own, which makes shopping easier and I tend to cook from scratch. I also work in a petrol station, which sells organic vegetables so I can access raw ingredients when I want. And we also are blessed with a plethora of organic food shops in south Devon where I live.
I always read Wicked Leeks, which frequently reinforces my opinion on supermarkets; reading Wilding by Isabella Tree also had a huge influence on how I saw food production and the absurdity of some of our farming practices and consequently, the need to support farmers trying to amend how food reaches us.
Do I miss supermarkets? Definitely not. I live very happily without what they have to offer and do (very self-righteously) feel my health is a lot better for it, physically and mentally.
Top five ways to avoid supermarkets:
Re-visit your local high street. Make a note of specialist or independent shops and get to know your greengrocer and butchers.
Consider a veg box. Often they buy directly from farmers, cutting out middlemen and ensuring that with a shorter supply chain, more of the end pound reaches farmers.
Choose refills and local economies. There is a nationwide network of brilliant independent and zero waste refill shops. Very often, they are priced reasonably, with less packaging, less plastic and more money going back into the local economy.
Seek out the alternatives. Networks like the Better Food Traders act as a directory for ethical food businesses paying farmers fairly and allowing them to farm in a sustainable way.
Grow your own. Although gardening is not a magic bullet to self sufficiency, or a counter to the cost-of-living crisis, you can grow more than you think – even in a small space. The more you grow, the less you need to buy, all for the price of a seed packet and a boost of endorphins and fresh air to boot. Read our monthly gardening advice column from Garden Organic for tips on soil to seeds.