Tell us a little about the team and the story of Food Float so far…
The Food Float story goes back to 2009 and the idea of using a Milk Float – hence our name and logo – to deliver local food in Dorking and to the surrounding villages. The High Street stall opened for business on March 6, 2010, and lockdown apart has traded for 50 weeks a year ever since, in all weathers. We are a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, with a Board of Directors, an Operations team led by Tim McEntire and Maddie Sutton, and a fantastic group of volunteers. We sell a range of produce: meat, vegetables and fruit, bread, cakes and other bakery products, fudge, fruit/vegetable crisps, eggs, butter and cheese, honey, and jams, marmalades and preserves.
How did you set about tackling the challenges of lockdown?
We were clear that we wanted to do our best to support our suppliers and continue to provide 'local food for local people', despite having to cease trading on the High Street in mid-March. We increased our delivery days from one to three, put out the word for volunteer drivers (we stand in awe of their efforts), and devised an assembly/delivery process that met all COVID-related requirements. The first week of lockdown alone saw a thirteenfold increase in deliveries. The outpouring of goodwill from customers was tremendous.
Did you have any problems sourcing local produce during that time?
Thanks to our wonderful suppliers, we were able to source local produce all through lockdown. We particularly appreciated their flexibility in allowing us to place orders throughout the week, enabling us to respond to the unusual market conditions rather than try to anticipate them.
Are there any suppliers you worked particularly closely with?
We'd have to single out Marion and the team at the Kingfisher Farm Shop in Abinger Hammer. They provided all our vegetables during lockdown - a truly spectacular amount!
How do you go about sourcing the produce you feature on your stall?
We have always tried to be approachable to people who are local and who would like to supply us. We’ve worked hard over the years to build good relationships with our suppliers – currently there are 23.
Now you’re able to be back out on the streets of Dorking, how have you found things?
It’s been so good to catch up with old friends and see new faces, and we’ve appreciated the support from MVDC. We’re in the main square in St Martin’s Walk on Fridays, and on the High Street outside Barclays Bank on Saturdays, trading between 8.30am and mid-afternoon on both days. We hope to stay open for the rest of winter, other than 25/26 December and 1/2 January when we’ll be closed for our annual break. Home deliveries continue on Thursdays, and we can put together orders for collection from the stall for people who want to come out but prefer not to linger.
What seasonal local produce are you most looking forward to add to the stall in the coming weeks?
Rainbow Chard is always popular at this time of year, along with parsnips, leeks and cauliflower grown at Secretts' Hurst Farm near Godalming. We love putting out Debbie’s Christmas Chutney in December. There will be a limited amount of locally-reared Gloucester Old Spot pork and Charolais lamb from the beginning of November.
Why do you think it is so important for people to Stay Loyal to Local?
Staying Loyal to Local (Food) helps people think more carefully about what they eat and pay attention to the means of production. Buying in this way helps people feel a part of their local economy, as well as fostering a sense of place. Food Float has always believed that by forging links between producers and consumers we will ensure a sense of respect for and appreciation of our environment and our dependence on it. It’s vital that producers, especially small ones, have easily-accessible and reliable outlets in which to sell their produce at a decent return.
Finally, do you have any exciting plans for the future with Food Float?
Christmas is always a busy time for Food Float, and we shall be offering hampers this year for the first time, as well as the usual highly-anticipated turkeys, ducks and geese from Etherley Farm near Leith Hill.
Tags: veg boxes
Stay Loyal to Local campaign