No matter how exciting a new product is, to make it onto our shelves, wowing in taste tests is only the first hurdle. We must be just as confident in the ethics of anything we sell as we are in the flavour.
Here are the inspiring stories behind the newest treats in our online farm shop.
Cornish sea salad
Often the best ideas are hiding right under our noses. So it was for Caro Warwick-Evans and Tim van Berkel, two ocean-loving surfers and the founders of the Cornish Seaweed Company.
Renewable energy graduate Caro was listening to a Radio 4 programme about the Irish seaweed industry when she had her ‘eureka!’ moment. Cornwall’s waters are bursting with richly nutritious seaweed; why wasn’t it being used?
Old friend & conservationist Tim soon got on board with the idea, but making it happen turned out to be far from easy. England had no seaweed industry to speak of, so they had no precedent to follow through the complex laws and regulations surrounding our coastline. Eventually, they were granted license to harvest from a 5-mile stretch of the Lizard coast by the Crown Estate.
Sustainability is a founding principle of the Cornish Seaweed Company. They worked with Natural England to create a national code of conduct for sustainable seaweeding, always harvest by hand, and dry the seaweed using sun and wind energy. They are certified organic by the Soil Association.
In its wild form, coffee is a shrub that grows in the forest shade, protected from the sun by a canopy of trees. However, to produce greater yields, a new breed of sun-tolerant coffee plants was created in the 1970s. Swathes of rainforest have now been cleared for sun-grown coffee plantations, destroying habitats, leaching the soil of nutrients, and polluting the ecosystem with chemical nasties.
Our new ground coffee is organically shade grown. The shade trees not only provide protection from the sun, but also drop leaves which turn to mulch, keeping the soil naturally moist and fertile. Local wildlife is free to thrive around the crops – especially birds, who repay the favour by taking on pest control duty and eating insects off the plants.
This coffee is better for people too. The beans are grown by Manos Campesinas, a cooperative of small-scale organic coffee farmers in the remote highlands of Guatemala. Manos Campesinas helps its members access the market and receive fair payment, as well as supporting them to plan and grow their businesses. The cooperative’s innovative work includes farmer-to-farmer training in advanced organic methods, and leadership programmes for women. Watch supplier Equal Exchange’s video about women in coffee.
Pure peanut butter
Another treat from pioneering fair trade supplier Equal Exchange, this thick, flavoursome peanut butter is made with 100% organic peanuts and nothing else. No salt, no sugar, no palm oil, no lecithin stabilisers – just the best organic peanuts, roasted without blanching to preserve all their natural goodness.
The peanuts are grown by the Yishui Xingye Groundnut Professional Association, a group of 58 small-scale organic farmers in the Shandong province of China. Each farmer leases a few small plots to grow their crop, leaving as much of the area wooded as possible to encourage plants and wildlife. They have been farming organically since 1996, and process the nuts in their organic-only processing factory.
In 2009 the Association was certified Fairtrade. The farmers have decided jointly how to spend the additional income. A successful idea must fulfil the 3 points pinned up in their training centre: serving a basic need, improving the situation of all the farmers, and possessing a long-term benefit. So far they have chosen to improve roads in the area, buy books and clothes for schoolchildren, and invest in better seeds, tools and irrigation.