A growing company is looking to connect more Belper households with Derbyshire farmers as they expand their vegetable box delivery service.
Twisted Turnip was launched in 2017 by Derby couple Clare Hadway and Ian Ball, to help farmers achieve a fair price and give shoppers a way to keep their money local.
Clare, 32, said: “I work in the food industry on manufacturing and business development, and have seen first-hand how farmers and producers and under huge pressure from retailers with strict standards on size and cosmetic appearance.
“We do audits for farmers and find that tonnes of vegetables go unsold, so we want to help the producers find new routes to the market.”
She added: “I’m not knocking supermarkets, they’re such an important part of the retail sector - but often it’s just that shops want to sell things like leeks, parsnips or carrots together at a specific size or weight to fit the packaging.
“That’s challenging for a lot of growers. The co-operative farm where we source most of our vegetables has given up trying to work with them.”
As the system of retail standards has grown more demanding, many farmers have sought to sell direct to food processing firms instead.
Otherwise, the waste vegetables may go unsold, and left in the ground, or used for agricultural feed. Any of those options mean that farmers will end up receiving less money than they would from retail, for essentially the same product.
Clare said: “Overall in the UK, something like a quarter of all edible food produced ends up being wasted, largely because retailers have rejected it.
“There is a lot of focus around food waste at the moment, and some supermarkets are selling non-standard produce as ‘wonky vegetables’ - but consumers actually expect to be offered them as normal. Calling it wonky highlights it as being different, when really it all tastes the same.”
She added: “We’re not a solution to that problem, but we offer an alternative. People are often shocked when they get our boxes to find that they’re not stuffed with ‘wonky’ vegetables.
“Often it’s just a case of size rather than shape. A farmer might produce one 400 gram leek, but a retailer would rather sell three which add up to the same weight.”
Clare and Ian launched the business last June after six months of discussions with farmers to find out what the issues were and what kind of system could help them.
Clare said: “We wanted to help other local businesses too, so we started off with a network of collection points which would benefit from having more people through the door.
“The Abbey is a great pub in Darley Abbey, but lots of our customers didn’t know it was there until we started using it. We also distribute via the University of Derby, a restaurant, a café, and a firm of accountants whose employees are using the scheme.”
She added: “It’s makes us feel more connected to our community. We get to meet our customers every week and talk to them about what’s in the boxes, as well as some amazing businesses.
“What makes us unique is that focus on the local economy, and that has been one of the most enjoyable parts. The other is that is has made us more creative and seasonal with our own cooking.”
As the business has expanded, Twisted Turnip has also moved into home delivery, now stretching to Duffield, Little Eaton and Belper.
Customers can choose from a range of box sizes, with prices starting at £4.50, and opt for a regular subscription or pay-as-you-go shopping.
Orders made by Monday are all picked fresh from a farm within 20 miles and delivered at the end of the week. The company hope to add non-vegetable produce in future.
For more information, visit www.twistedturnip.com.