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Meet our local suppliers

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By Charlotte Hawkins, Volunteer Contributor

Local supplier, Iain Tolhurst

An important part of True Food's ethos is to use local suppliers wherever possible. It supports small-scale local businesses which strengthens the social and economic structure of the community, cuts down on food miles with minimal transport distances, and food is nearly always fresher, travelling quickly from producer to the shop.

True Food stocks goods from many local suppliers. Many True Food supporters know that the fruit and vegetables are sourced locally whenever possible. But the favouring of local suppliers also extends to those who sell fresh products including bread, cheese and sauerkraut, and also foods that have a longer shelf life such as flour, sauces preserved in jars, honey and confectionary.  It doesn't stop there – even non-food items are sourced locally, including marketing materials, handmade cards, eco-friendly sanitary products and household cleaning refills.

I contacted a few of our local suppliers and asked them a few questions about what they supply and their relationship with True Food. Nigel and Jo Eddon of Honeys of Henley are a husband and wife team who have provided us with raw honey since last year.  Tutu Melaku runs the Ethopian Cafe based at the Global Cafe on London Street, Reading. She supplies us with her home-made Misr Wot and Mabaya sauces. Iain Tolhurst owns the organic farm that supplies us with much of our veg. The farm is based on the Hardwick Estate, just outside Whitchurch on Thames in Oxfordshire. For all of them, supplying to True Food is an important part of their business, and True Food shoppers benefit from local goods that it would otherwise be hard to access.

What do you supply to True Food, and where do you source your ingredients?

Nigel Eddon: We sell unpasteurised, coarse filtered honey. We love our bees and the honey they produce! It comes from our bees that forage in the Chilterns and  the Thames Valley. From the plant, to the bees, to you! The truffle in the Black Truffle Honey comes from a truffle forager in Dorset. We also supply bees wax wraps, which we manufacture ourselves. We source our 100% cotton wraps from local cloth suppliers, and the beeswax is British (we try to use our own as much as possible).

Tutu Melaku: I make sauces. My ingredients are all sourced from locals as well as using fair trade and organic producers.

Iain Tolhurst:  We supply a wide range of vegetables and fruits. The produce is all grown on our Stockfree organic farm at Whitchurch on Thames.

Do you have a special ethos that sets you apart from other suppliers of similar products?

Nigel Eddon: Although we are commercial, we look after our bees with as little interference as possible. We actively support BIBBA, which promotes the native Black honey bee. We do our best to be sustainable – our hives are wooden, sourced from sustainable forestry, we have actively reduced our use of plastic packaging, and continue to review our processes to be able to reduce/reuse/recycle.

Tutu Melaku: My ethos is to market a quality, authentic Ethiopian recipe, made using ethically sourced ingredients, with the addition of Ethiopian love and passion to enhance the British diet. Central to my business is my commitment to invest 10% of my profits to my charity, Tutu's fund for the Future, which champions and sponsors the education and welfare of Ethiopian children in deprived communities.

Iain Tolhurst: We have been registered organic for 42 years and are one of the longest running organic vegetable farms in the UK. Our produce is also grown to Stockfree Organic standards certified by VON and Soil Association. This makes our produce especially suitable for vegans and people who care about true sustainability of food. We have a regular carbon footprinting exercise to calculate how the farm performs in respect of carbon emissions and sequestrations. We are a Community Interest Company and have regular public events and demonstrations on the farm. We have been involved in trials and research into organic/vegan production methods for many decades. The farm is widely visited by persons in agriculture from all over the world.

What do you enjoy most about supplying for True Food?

Nigel Eddon: We love the enthusiasm of True Food for the products being stocked. And most definitely the focus on sustainable choices – we can all strive to make better choices.

Tutu Melaku: I enjoy True Food's commitment to promoting ethical, quality products to our local community. They show a genuine desire to see shoppers think before they eat, and grow in global and ethical awareness. I also admire their effort to promote and support local business people such as myself. The staff are always helpful and enthusiastic about my products.

Iain Tolhurst: We support local businesses. The shop is on our delivery route so it is convenient for transport. True Food pay us fairly and promptly. We like the business model and ethics.

How do you see your relationship with True Food developing in the future?

Nigel Eddon: We would like to continue supplying True Food pretty much as we do now. On 23rd February we had a "meet the maker" at the shop! We can offer tastings (local honeys are surprisingly diverse) and demo one of our hives, along with the equipment we use and answer any questions.

Tutu Melaku: I am in an exciting phase of growing my catering business in Reading, and hope that one aspect of that will be increased sales of my sauces through True Food. My business plan includes increasing the range of sauces I sell, so my hope is that I can market a wider product range through you. 

Iain Tolhurst: We would like to supply more produce to True Food and have a closer working relationship.

So there you have it! When you buy at True Food it's not just for quality products and ethical production, you are also reducing food miles and supporting the local community. Building a strong relationship with local suppliers is integral to True Food's values, and one that we will continue to expand as we go forward into the future.