Our series of blog interviews and insights with our retail partners continues. We feel that it is really important that we all listen to one another and work together for a more sustainable food future. Here we chat to Ben Aveling, co-founder of Radmore Farm Shop in Cambridge. As one of the first ethical, honest and conscientious retailers in the area, they were one of the first shops to stock our ingredients.
SM: What inspired you to open Radmore Farm Shop?
BA: It was a long time ago when Cambridge wasn't as well known for food like it is now. We wanted to make good quality, healthy, local food accessible and convenient to the local residents.
SM: What sets you apart from other farm shops in the area? What extras do you offer and why do you think that your customers love shopping with you?
BA: We have always been unique and one of a kind. Opting for customer relationships over profit margins and taste over pretentiousness. We have a keen eye for wonderful suppliers, and it's always been our mission to be a shop that you can't replicate.
SM: The Radmore Farm Shop is reducing more and more packaging and sourcing ethical products. What advice would you give to those wanting to start to shop more ethically?
BA: My advice is not to get worried about changing everything at once. For us, and our customers, it's all a learning curve. Make small changes, and start with something that's fundamentally an issue to you and the rest will follow.
We want to offer realistic options for all customers who are interested in zero waste as well as quality and provenance.
SM: As you know, we work directly with smallholder farmers in Africa. As a retail partner, you are part of our 'trade, not aid' mutually beneficial network, but why is this important to you?
BA: Businesses have the most significant responsibility to drive change on the planet. For us, it's no brainier - quality produce that the customer loves, making a difference to the lives and economies in Africa. It's a win-win.
SM: What do you like about what Storimarket is trying to achieve?
BA: We like that's it's bold and focused. It's not overbearing and doesn't appear to be forcing anything on anyone. It's delivering change, and it's a message with action.
SM: What do you and your customers think about our products?
BA: Our customers enjoy the products and like the fact that Radmore source from companies that share our values.
SM: What are some of your best sellers and your most unique products?
BA: Our best-seller is the mango. The most unusual would be the chocolate covered cacao beans. The intrigue lures customers!
SM: What are the biggest challenges to running an ethical, caring and sustainably sourced farm shop?
BA: As you can imagine, there's a lot. Main challenges are that you're going against the grain of mainstream society - a society where price and convenience are placed higher than quality, provenance, ethics and taste.
Our customers are an inspiration but certainly the minority in the grand scheme. We are pushing to drive change that will effectively make larger companies see sense and have to up their game.
SM: In an ideal world, what would you like to see more and less of in the campaign for real food?
BA: I would love to see a nation of food lovers caring about where food comes from and how and where it's made. I'd like to see a society that is striving for fair pricing, higher quality, elimination of unnecessary packaging. In an ideal world, there would be real job prospects for the next generation to want to work in the food industry. I'd like to see less intensive farming, more organic farming. There should be a more localised shopping economy. It would be wonderful if businesses worked together towards more ethical food chains and distribution.
But most of all, I would like to see more focus on a collective effort to ensure that our planet stands a chance for future generations. The way the food industry is now is not sustainable. We can't expect it to continue on this path without serious repercussions. All of this starts with us, the customer, driving change with our feet and our wallets. The big guns of retail will respond when sales drop on the products less favoured, and they'll have to listen as to why. We must make them listen for the good of future generations, and you'll be amazed how quickly they can respond when profits are at stake.