Public Money for Public Good? How can small-scale producers maximize opportunities offered by public sector procurement?
Hosted by FoodFutures and Lancaster University with experts.
How can small scale food producers access larger scale contracts offered by public sector and other anchor institutions in their local area? What are the opportunities and challenges posed by taking this route to market? This session was a chance for farmers and producers to have their questions answered by a panel of people with experience of working at different scales, from national to local, to create opportunities for small-scale sustainable producers to benefit from public procurement.
The Q&A session was with a mixture of producers with experience of different models of procurement. Panelists included:
– Greg Parsons (POM Support and the National Advisory Board for Dynamic Procurement)
– Duncan Catchpole (Cambridge Food Hub)
– Nicky Stonebridge (Lower Hurst Organics)
– Ebba Wilhelmsson (“Modellodlingen” Gothenburg)
– Chris Walsh (Manchester Veg People/Kindling Trust)
Prior to the session a video conversation with three members of the National Advisory Board for Dynamic Procurement was shared on the event website. This group have been instrumental in developing a pilot for a Dynamic Purchasing System for food procurement within central and local government. In this conversation we discussed how this pilot has the potential to facilitate access to public sector markets for smaller scale, sustainable growers and how producers might work to benefit from this.
Greg Parsons has a 30 year career in food and drink with a wealth of experience in working with food businesses to develop markets with retailers, caterers and large regional employers. In 2014, Greg founded Somerset Larder a collaboration of SME food and drink suppliers to provide a one stop catering service for local businesses using locally sourced, high quality food. In October 2017 Greg left Somerset Larder in ‘rude health’ with over 50 local suppliers, 94 employees (including 20 apprenticeships) spending over £3m PA in the local economy, to pursue other opportunities and develop his own venture, POM support Ltd. Through POM Greg now works across the food and drink industry using his experience and contacts to help small and medium sized businesses and collaborations to exploit their potential through Projects, Operations and Marketing. For the past 3 years Greg been working with Menter Môn and Welsh Government on the Môn Larder project looking at equality of provision within public procurement, and the creation of opportunities for food and drink businesses in North Wales. In his role for the National Advisory Board for Dynamic Food Procurement, Greg is leading a steering group in the South West to set up a ‘pilot’ for food and drink supply to public procurement, working with Crown Commercial Services. In May 2020 the ‘South West Food Hub’ was incorporated as a ‘Community Interest Company’ and presented with a memorandum of understanding to prepare to South West region for the impending changes in public sector procurement. You can find out more about the work of the National Board for Dynamic Food Procurement here: https://www.dynamicfood.org/
Duncan Catchpole is a social entrepreneur with more than twenty years’ experience in the organic and sustainable food sector. Duncan is the founder and owner of The Cambridge Organic Food Co.; an organic vegetable box scheme enterprise which was established in 1998. He is also project leader of the Cambridge Food Hub project, which is building a ‘local food ecosystem’ in the region. This is a way of structuring local food supply chains in such a way that lessens the environmental impact of food, minimises waste, improves connectivity between local food businesses and leads to more equitable distribution of food throughout the community. Duncan is also a committee member of Cambridge Sustainable Food; the organisation responsible for Cambridge’s inclusion in the national Sustainable Food Cities network. More recently Duncan has become involved with the Harmony Project; an initiative run by the Sustainable Food Trust and inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales’ book ‘Harmony; A New Way of Looking at our World’. Duncan is interested in the way the principles of Harmony can be implemented in commercial processes and systems, and in particular how the attributes of balance and interconnectivity can lead to improved efficiency and the elimination of waste.
Nicky Stonebridge works for Lower Hurst Farm, an organic farm in the Peak District National Park owned by Andrew Sebire. The farm has been organic since 1998 and they rear Hereford Cattle for beef production. In 2006 the farm shop was struggling to turn a profit on its sale of beef cuts and the farm started to explore different market opportunities. At the same time Jamie Oliver had just launched a campaign to improve the quality of food provided in schools and the Soil Association Food for Life scheme had just been formed. The timing was right and Lower Hurst Farm approached the local village school to see how meat from the farm could be supplied to them. This trial was successful and Lower Hurst Farm decided that it should supply into more schools. The process was far more complicated than the farm team had initially thought and Nicky was brought in to lead and set up a dedicated food business to produce and supply into the school food market. Nicky’s background was in Stock and Sales Merchandising and Marketing for a national retail group, but as a mother of three children herself she was keen that good, locally sourced food should be made available in schools. The Organic Food for Schools business grew and supplied organic meat products into more than 200 schools. In 2019 the business was awarded Supplier Champion by the Soil Association in recognition of the work the Lower Hurst team has achieved with school caterers. In 2020 despite the set-backs that we have all endured from the Covid-19 pandemic, we see the positive outcomes of people reconnecting with local business and understanding how important small producers are to the food chain. You can read more about Lower Hurst Farm here: http://www.lowerhurstfarm.co.uk/
Chris Walsh is an accomplished social entrepreneur and has helped establish two of Manchester’s largest and best-loved social enterprises; Bridge 5 Mill eco-centre and Fairfield Environment Services. He then went on to co-found the Kindling Trust in 2007, with the belief that ‘good food is a fundamental human right and a powerful force for positive social change’.
Chris played a key role in developing Manchester Veg People – a multi stakeholder co-operative of growers and buyers. Before lock-down the co-op was on target to sell over £250,000 of organic veg to the public sector, cafes and restaurants. He is an active member of a team who explores new procurement opportunities and maintains relationships with existing customers. Learn more about Manchester Veg People here: https://www.vegpeople.org.uk/newsite/
Ebba Wilhelmsson is the farm manager at the Model Farm Gothenburg where she is employed by the Property Management Department at the Municipality of Gothenburg. The Model Farm is a highly productive small-scale farm unit, providing food and education. By showcasing a business model behind a sustainable and successful small-scale farming enterprise run within a municipality, the Model Farm will serve as a driver for the integration of regenerative farming practices in the continuous evolution of urban and rural multifunctional landscapes. The farm is located on Gothenburg’s outskirts on municipal land, and the produce from the farm is delivered to schools, preschools, and old people’s homes. Around 40 different vegetables are grown on permanent, raised beds on 585 square meters (efficient bed use). The principles of market gardening and the techniques of biointensive agriculture are being used. The farm is a part of the European project SATURN, financed by EIT Climate-KIC with partners in Trento and Birmingham. To follow the development on the farm, visit their Instagram page: Modellodlingen.
Chris Walsh is an accomplished social entrepreneur and has helped establish two of Manchester’s largest and best-loved social enterprises; Bridge 5 Mill eco-centre and Fairfield Environment Services. He then went on to co-found the Kindling Trust in 2007, with the belief that ‘good food is a fundamental human right and a powerful force for positive social change’. Chris played a key role in developing Manchester Veg People – a multi stakeholder co-operative of growers and buyers. Before lock-down the co-op was on target to sell over £250,000 of organic veg to the public sector, cafes and restaurants. He is an active member of a team who explores new procurement opportunities and maintains relationships with existing customers. Learn more about Manchester Veg People here: https://www.vegpeople.org.uk/newsite/
You can read the session outcomes here.