There’s no taste like home

PUBLISHED: 11:31 08 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:13 20 February 2013

If you want local food grown by local people for local people look no further says Dave Hancock

If you want local food grown by local people for local people look no further says Dave Hancock

Listen to a major supermarket chain announce annual profits equivalent to more than £300 per minute and your stomach may churn. Listen to managing director, Des Walker tell you he's seen year-on-year growth of 90 per cent and you want to slap him on the back.
Des Walker and his wife, Debra Reece, began their business six years ago. They made 13 deliveries in their first week of trading. In 2007, they merged with a company from Ledbury, Herefordshire, called Flights Orchard Organics. They now employ 35 people and annual turnover has reached £4million.
This is serious business but with a feel-good aspect. The company is Boxfresh Organics and it delivers locally-grown organic produce, from local suppliers to people and businesses within the local area and employs local staff. Des Walker says: "We're constantly keeping an eye on our ethics. We have a strong recycling ethos. We recycle our food waste as compost and we're about to have flyers produced on recycled paper using vegetable-based inks."
Des admits that competition is tough, as more companies - including very large ones - have entered the vegetable box delivery business. He says: "Quite often, they're not really local - their produce gets transported many miles. We deliver within a maximum radius of 65 miles from our base and 85 per cent of our produce comes from local growers in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Powys."
All Boxfresh Organics produce is, er, organic - from producers certified by the soil association. Des says: "We can't get enough and are always seeking new suppliers. We'll be buying land to grow our own produce."
Jane Rushworth from Clive has been a Boxfresh Organics customer for four years and Shropshire Life invaded her kitchen to witness the receipt of her weekly box. "When I first started getting the deliveries," she says, "it was a bit of a novelty. Walking to school with the other mums, they would ask what I'd got in the box that week.
"I still find it exciting unpacking the box to see what's in it."
Jane is an experienced cook and runs an outside catering business called Avocado with her friend, Gileng Salter. She says: "We set it up when we were both living in Hertfordshire. We were both into food and Gileng is very creative. We put the emphasis on tailor-made, homemade food for discerning customers and were soon doing lots of weddings, parties, christenings and so on. We got most of our food locally and the business grew amazingly quickly."
When Jane returned to her home county of Shropshire a few years ago, a growing (increasing in size and getting older) family made her scale down the outside catering a bit. She says: "Gileng is still busy in Hertfordshire and we do sometimes get together for big dos."
Jane's reason for choosing a vegetable delivery company is straightforward. She says: "I'm a busy mum with three boys whom I'm trying to make eat lots of fruit and vegetables. I like to cook healthy food so having it delivered each week is the easiest option."
Pausing, she asserts robustly: "There's never been a chicken nugget in this house."
Harvey is Jane's middle son and she says he's now showing an interest in food. She has pledged to make him able to cook by the time he goes to college. That should make him healthy (and popular with fellow students).
Customers choose what kind of boxes they want - whether its just vegetables, just fruit or fruit and vegetables with options of salads, eggs, apple juice, meat and organic extras. They also choose the size of box they require - Jane has a Large Mixed box costing £16.50, the contents of which are listed below. A couple of days ahead of the weekly delivery, they can vary the quantities if they wish - to stock up for having guests, for example.
There's plenty of variety week to week and Boxfresh Organics gives advice on its website and on the newsletter in each box of produce coming into season so that customers can plan ahead. There are suggestions for recipes too and notice of special offers - puddings at Christmas, for example.
Having lived in Hertfordshire, which is a watercress growing area, Jane eagerly opens the packet of watercress - which was actually grown organically in Dorset. It's not possible to source everything locally and, indeed, some fruit (such as bananas) has to come from abroad. Des says: "There's quite a variety of things grown in Herefordshire where Flights Orchard Organics is based but in Shropshire they mainly grow spuds and carrots."
With the skill and ease of a chef and absolutely no f-words, Jane creates a bowl of watercress soup for the delectation of us observers. While we swap 'soup-erlatives', Jane's inspecting the rhubarb - which has come from the Flights Orchard Organics farm in Herefordshire. Jane says: "I think I'll make a rhubarb pie for tea this evening. My husband and the children will love that."
As she does so, Jane describes the ingredients and method, which we note down earnestly - they are reproduced in this article. As we anticipated, Jane's Rhubarb Pie looks delicious. As she slices into it and steam escapes, there's a collective licking of lips. Shamefully, a minor scrum for the first piece ensued but we were soon all profiting from Jane's cooking skills and Des Walker's profitable organic activities. That's what I call profit-sharing.

[box out]
Jane's Rhubarb Pie
10oz plain flour (sifted)
5oz butter
1lb rhubarb
4oz sugar
Cold water to bind
Milk to glaze
Pinch of salt
A little caster sugar

Rub together the flour and butter, adding a few tablespoons of cold water to help it bind. Chill the mixture for 15 minutes.
Cut the rhubarb into chunks and gently sauté in butter until soft and add the pinch of salt. Roll out the pastry and lay onto a pie plate. Place the rhubarb onto the pastry base and cover with a pastry top - pinching it at the edges to seal the pie. Glaze the top with a little milk.
Bake in a hot oven at 200°C/Gas Mark 6 for about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with caster sugar when still hot.
Serve with cream or ice cream. Serves four.

[box out]
In Jane's box this week
Cosmos Potatoes (Herefordshire)
Carrots (Herefordshire)
Watercress (Dorset)
Rhubarb (Herefordshire)
Leeks (Staffordshire)
French beans (Gloucestershire)
Purple sprouting broccoli (Herefordshire)
January King cabbage (Herefordshire)
Onions (Holland)
Apples - Elstar (Italy)
Oranges (Italy)
Early Rhubarb (Herefordshire)
Bananas (from the Savid co-operative in the Dominican Republic)

[box out]
Boxfresh Organics
Boxes are available in different sizes to suit single customers or large families and customers can change the size and contents of their boxes from week to week. Boxes contain vegetables or fruit or both and you can order eggs, salad, meat and apple juice among other things. The best-selling Mixed Fruit and Veg Box contains six varieties of vegetables and three of fruit and costs £11.75 with free delivery. Des Walker suggests you order one box to start with to get used to the quantities and variety of produce.
Boxfresh Organics
Rodenhurst Farm
Tel: 01952 770006



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