Those passing by The Plot in Union Street during December saw a bounty of apples, squashes, jars, plants and other local food through the windows. This delightful and inviting display was put together by Tess Wilmot and Carmen Wong for the Sustenance Partners Food Hub delivered in partnership with Food Plymouth. The pilot ran three days per week for three weeks bringing local food and produce to Stonehouse via the Tamar Valley Food Hub with a drop-off for producers and collection point for local people on Friday afternoons.
“We wanted to create an inviting space to encourage conversations about food and make local food accessible to more people and Nudge Community Builders’ alternative shopping arcade The Plot was an ideal setting for this” explained Tess, adding that “Food Plymouth has aspired to have a ‘shopfront’ for a long time, and it was lovely to experiment and trial some ideas while supporting the aims of the Sustenance project, which align perfectly with Plymouth’s drive to achieve Sustainable Food Places Silver award standard.”
Carmen, who fashioned a Christmas tree out of jars, is a co-animator of Jarsquad (a food-art project which facilitates communal making of jams and other preserves) and a passionate food researcher and artist. She was able to chat with Food Hub visitors about her experimental micro food co-op, which offers flour, grains and beans supplied by Hodmedod’s to subscribing members.
Carmen adds: “As a migrant, I’ve been curious about what constitutes an ‘indigenously British’ diet, given how some beloved foods have travelled a long way over time and space. These British grown beans and grains (did you know there’s British-grown quinoa?) are a little less local to Devon and Cornwall but could help us begin thinking about culture, soil, agroecology, and other regenerative farming practices.”
Local food research
Visitors to the Hub were invited to take part in a survey about the barriers to buying local food, with incentives on offer via the Tamar Valley Food Hub. Plymouth Food Aid Network coordinator Ayshea Cross was a masterful connector and helped Sustenance Partners link up with people in less affluent circumstances to share their views on the barriers to obtaining local food.
One of the joys of this nine-day project was encouraging people to try the different heritage apple varieties and welcoming them back to buy more juice or bags full of apples, some of which bore marvellously evocative names: Newton’s Wonder, Old Somerset Russet and Claygate Pearmain. Mottled, spotted, and in startling shades ranging from deep blush, sandy clay, and budding yellow, they did not look as ‘perfect’ as those from a supermarket, but the taste and flavour (back notes of butterscotch, following a burst of bright tanginess from the Adam’s Pearmain, for example) are unparalleled.
Food Plymouth’s All Ways Apples project went on tour this year to 11 community orchards in the city in September and October to gather, prepare and press over 400 litres of apple juice. Working collectively with communities from each orchard they produced an abundance of pasteurised juice, some of which was on offer at the Food Hub for a donation to support the care of the orchards in the coming months. The All Ways Apples team are keenly looking forward to have a regular apple stall from mid-August to December 2021 to introduce more Plymothians to the tasty and unusual varieties of local apples and making the most of the autumn’s fruitfulness.
Despite the January 2021 COVID restrictions delaying the planned one day per week continuation of the pilot, the research will continue over the coming months, providing participants with opportunities to have a voice around making local food more accessible to all.
This fascinating collaboration involving Food Plymouth and its partners, including consultants also working with the Open Food Network, and the resulting improved understanding of local food supply and demand will benefit all involved in the sustainable food movement.
If you are interested in taking part in, here is a link to the survey on the Sustenance Partners website.