Supporting and promoting local producers has been a big thing this past year in Scotland and Falkland NeighbourFood market in Fife has been reaping some of the benefits.
One of Fife’s most popular food markets has announced it has injected nearly £12,000 into the local economy since it launched in June last year.
Falkland NeighbourFood, which is based at the region’s Falkland Estate, allows local food and drink producers to offer their produce in a safe environment as customers order products from a “virtual marketplace” and are then given a time slot to collect their items a few days later.
The estate has managed to help local producers sell more than 400 baskets of produce over the past six months at their weekly Thursday collection.
A total of 20 producers now sell through the weekly virtual market, including the likes of Pittenweem Preserves, Woodmill Game, Falkland Kitchen Farm, Bad Gal Boocha and Nini’s Pastries.
Falkland Kitchen Farm
Bryde Marshall, who runs Falkland Kitchen Farm with her husband Nat Dixon, says that being part of the marketplace has helped meet the sudden surge in demand for home delivery vegetable boxes.
“We’ve been involved with the market since the beginning and we actually rent land from the Falkland Estate.
“We have an organic market garden on the estate, and we had previously worked with Local Food Works, which was the market in Falkland. Then the estate decided it was going to launch NeighbourFood, which is slightly different to a traditional market in that it’s an online platform and people order in advanced.
“We’ve been supplying it since the beginning and it’s been going really well. We’ve had a lot of changes with the business as we used to supply restaurants, which we haven’t been doing the past few months, but there has been a big surge in demand for home delivery veg boxes, so that’s been keeping us busy.
“As NeighbourFood started in June, after the first lockdown, it’s difficult to tell whether there has been a big difference there.”
Being on the other side of a virtual platform means that producers don’t get to have the face-to-face interaction with customers at the moment due to Covid-19, though the platform usually allows makers and customers to meet in person on collection day. At the moment, producers are still able to share their story on the NeighbourFood platform.
Bryde says: “We do have a pretty consistent customer base through NeighbourFood, though I imagine some people have discovered us through the platform for the first time, too. We do often see the same names on our delivery list, though, one of the things about the virtual marketplace is that we don’t get to see the customers face to face. We drop the orders off at a central location, where all the other businesses also drop off their orders. Then the hosts give the orders to the customers as they arrive.
“There are a lot of customers we haven’t met but I think they feel a lot more connected to the producers from Falkland and there’s a bit of space for us to speak about our business on the online platform.”
She continues: “I think this is definitely something that will continue beyond the pandemic, particularly in Falkland as there’s been a big effort to encourage interest in local food and we’re really lucky in Falkland, and in Fife in general, that there are so many amazing food producers. So I think there will definitely be momentum for it to continue after lockdown.”
Customers love convenience
Lesley Duffy, who helps run Falkland NeighbourFood, said: “Some of our bestsellers are fruit and veg, beef and game – all of which come from within eight miles of our market.
“Our customers love the convenience of being able to browse local produce from the comfort of their home and pick up all their shopping in one place; we’re helping them reduce their food miles, as well as their travel time, which is great for them and the environment.”
Shopping at NeighbourFood is a great way to discover unique, seasonal products from local makers and growers that you won’t find in a supermarket, according to Hazel York from Springfield, near Cupar. She has been a regular at the market since it launched last summer.
She continued: “I’ve used the market for some time now as it’s important to me that I buy as local as possible and support the local community. I usually place my order on a Saturday morning when I can leisurely look through the products available and select what I’d like to try the following week. I’ve never been disappointed in any of the produce from fresh vegetables and eggs, to jars of chutney and mustard.”
“I’d recommend you give NeighbourFood a try and place a wee order. The price might be a bit more than in a supermarket, but the goods are much tastier, and it supports our local economy.”
Socially-distanced market collections take place at the Horse Stalls at the Centre for Stewardship, Falkland every Thursday 4-6pm. Orders must be placed on the NeighbourFood website in advance of collection.