Monday, 11 March 2013

Buy Local? Big Barn can help

Have you come across Big Barn, yet?

They are a Community Interest Company, committed to local food, and to reversing the anti-social trend of the UK food industry which is currently contributing to :

Small farms going out of business
Small rural shops and post offices closing
Decreasing access to fresh food
Food being produced for shelf life and not flavour
Excess animal movement
Too many additives in food, hidden behind a label
'Staple food' costs actually rising as middle men & retailer margins increase
Increasing consumption of ready meals
Increased reliance on oil as specialist farms move away from mixed farming

The basic idea of Big Barn is that by making it easy for people to buy food locally, from local producers, it will help slow the inexorable march of the supermarkets towards the homogenisation of our food and the death of our high streets and small producers. Lots of long words, and rhetoric there, but I feel like we're heading for some kind of 'moment' in our food culture, and long words and rhetoric are called for.

It's all very well thinking that as individuals we can't really make a difference, but if we don't do anything, then we really won't make a difference. And if we all take little steps, well that will probably add up to some quite big steps. It's all very well saying, "Oh yes, but it's not convenient for me to buy local" or "well, it's just too expensive", and rely on someone else to shop locally but if we don't do something, we're going to end up with the supermarket as the only option, with very little accountability. We've all seen how easy it was for horsemeat to get into the food chain - horsemeat that was unfit for human consumption - and the fact that we have become so far removed from where our food comes from can only contribute to this. If we can get back to local - even a little bit - and support local producers, buying more directly, we can show the big players in the food industry that we DO care about where our food comes from and what's in it. You see, it's all very well getting hot and bothered about it, but if we don't actually DO anything about it, to impact where it matters - in the profits of the big boys - the big boys won't change. Simples.

I buy from the supermarket - I'd be lying if I said I didn't - but I also try to shop locally where I can. We have a  great butcher in the village and I trust him and his meat. Fantastic. I can get fish from him too. If I get the chance, I'll get veg from a Farmers Market (if the back garden isn't providing). It doesn't always work though. I don't always have access to a car, and there's no greengrocer in the village (although there are local veg box schemes). I know I should do more. In the words of Peter Lane (he of the fabulous pork pies), may be we could all take half an hour to find one local producer, and go and buy from them. It would be a good start.

This is where Big Barn comes in. I've copied this straight off their website, what their commitments are:

  1. Provide a definitive database of producers who want to sell direct.
  2. Promoting these producers by displaying them on post code specific maps.
  3. Actively seeking other like-minded websites to have the BigBarn map, free, to open within their website to promote local producers.
  4. Develop and promote an on-line market place to allow producer members of BigBarn e-commerce to sell local food on-line.
  5. Continually looking for ways to help producers team up with local shops to offer consumer a complete range of food & drink cheaper, like for like, than the supermarket.
  6. Accessing any grants to help achieve the BigBarn community's objectives.
  7. Providing producer members with a database of case studies to help them improve their businesses and better meet the needs of local consumers.
  8. Continually improve the BigBarn website and related technology to make it user friendly and world class
And how does it work? Well, see number 2 - basically by using your postcode to find local suppliers in your area it makes it easier to by local. They are also pioneering online shopping from local producers. How good would that be?

As you'll see, I've added a button to my blog where you should be able to do the post code thing and find local producers near to you. Apparently, I may get commission from this. Frankly, I'm not so fussed about that, but if it helps people access more locally produced food more easily, that's fine my me. Apparently the whole horsemeat thing has sent people scrambling for their local butcher - let's continue this trend and make shopping local more than a passing fad.

So what are you waiting for?


  1. Brilliant. I love BigBarn too, I spoke to Anthony the owner last week for a work thing, what an inspiring chap. I think the site is totally genius and I love that you can see where produce is cheaper than in the supermarkets. It really makes changing the way you shop much easier.

  2. A subject close to my heart RJ - I use my local shops and farmers market as much as I can. Thanks for a great post. I'll be using the postcode thing too from now on :)

    1. Good stuff! It's so simple really - wonder why no one did it before now.


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