Stirling-based charity Forth Environment Link is set to launch the city’s first ever Food Assembly, an eco-friendly initiative which allows local people to shop online for seasonal produce from a range of local farmers and producers.
The scheme, which originated in France, aims to connect shoppers with the people who make or grow food in their local area by giving them a place to buy their produce - sourced from within a couple of miles of the city - online.
Once Stirling Food Assembly goes live on Thursday September 22nd, registered shoppers will be able to log on to browse the local produce on offer, add items to their online basket and collect their shopping from Stirling Cycle Hub, by Stirling Train Station, on the following Thursday evening from 4.30pm-6.30pm.
The Assembly will reduce food miles and food waste at the same time, according to Forth Environment Link Project Co-ordinator Emily Harvey, she says: “We hope that this new kind of food shopping will connect people better with the seasons, their local food producers and their environment, growing their appreciation of the real value of food.
"It is free to sign up and you can shop as often or little as you like. Farmers and producers will deliver their weekly orders in person, so locals will still get the chance to meet the people behind their food like a traditional, monthly farmers’ market.
"The difference being that shoppers will be able to see what produce is available in advance, allowing them to plan meals for the week ahead which will help prevent food waste. Pre-orders also mean less risk for the farmer and producer.”
By choosing to buy local produce, Assembly users will also be boosting the Stirling economy as Emily explains: “The Assembly ensures food producers get a fair price for every product sold. Our food producers will keep over 80% of sales for every product compared to 15-25% through supermarkets.”
There are currently three other Food Assemblies in Scotland. Leith Food Assembly member Stan Blackley who enjoys the service says: “I shop at The Food Assembly because I value knowing where the food I eat has come from.
"It’s a joy to be able to meet the actual people who’ve grown, raised or produced the food you’re buying, and to build up a personal relationship of trust, respect and even friendship with them.
"By shopping at The Food Assembly, I get to know exactly where my food has come from, and who and what has been involved in getting it to me, and I can support small businesses, entrepreneurs and the local economy by eating fresh, quality, local produce.”
Over 400 local people have already signed up for the Stirling Food Assembly and the initiative has been warmly received by food blogger and food educator Nikki Reid from Alloa: “Traditionally produced, local food meets new age techy convenience – I love it.
"The real beauty of the Stirling Food Assembly for me is that I can pick up my goods straight after work, due to the allocated evening collection times, and I don’t have to worry about having cash on me – or overspending – which keeps my budget in check.
"The Assembly will give me access to local produce without the need to attend multiple markets (which are usually held during working hours) and also allow me to make a commitment to my customers that, wherever possible, produce used within my cook classes will be local. Something I feel very strongly about.”
Forth Environment Link has been busy bringing local producers and farmers on board to ensure a wide range of foodstuffs such as freshly baked breads, preserves, cheeses and cakes will be available when Stirling Food Assembly launches later this month.
One of the first producers to sign up is Théo Laffargue, Baker and Director of the Stirling’s community supported Riverside Bakery: “Our team are passionate advocates for a re-imagined Scottish food system that breaks down barriers between producers and consumers. A system that has thriving farmers and food producers at its centre, builds vibrant communities and produces food for people that is ecologically and socially just. Our bakery is run for and by the local community, we co-produce the bread together. Joining the Stirling Food Assembly will help strengthen our local food network and help make our handmade bread available to the wider Stirling community.”
The first Stirling Food Assembly will take place on Thursday 29 September at 4.30pm at Stirling Cycle Hub, where locals will be able to meet farmers and food makers, taste local food samples and see where their food comes from – as well as collect their first order.
Alison Younger of Old Leckie Farm which is in Gargunnock, seven miles west of Stirling, was one of the first producers to sign up to Stirling Food Assembly and will be supplying free range eggs, as well as salad leaves and cut flowers when in season, and is excited to be given the chance to connect directly with her customers: "Our farm is not in a very accessible location, so we were looking for an easier way to get our products out there.
"It can be quite daunting to diversify into selling, but the Food Assembly is great as it provides us with the technology and support to get our produce to market whilst getting a fair price for what we sell.
"We get to keep over 80 per cent for every product sold, which is far more than we would receive selling our produce through a shop. It also cuts down our travel costs, as we'll only be making one delivery a week and there will be less waste as we'll know in advance how much has been sold."
"The weekly format suits us better than a monthly farmer's market as we have 300 hens who lay an average of 1700 eggs a week. It also ensures our products are fresh and tasty. Customers will receive their eggs within a few days of lay and salad leaves and flowers will be cut on the day of delivery to give them the longest possible shelf life. I'm looking forward to meeting customers when they come in to collect their orders and to finding out what else they would like us to sell."
Gillian says: "David & I set up Ardunan Farm from scratch in 2007 on 24 acres we own in Strathblane. We now live here and farm full time rearing our rare breed 'Oxford Sandy & Black' pigs, a flock of sheep, some chickens & ducks for meat and eggs and Christmas turkeys (which must be ordered by September each year).
"Products we will be selling at the Stirling Food Assembly include Rare Breed pork, Rare Breed pork sausages including flavours like pork & cider."
Theo says: "We make everything by hand, from scratch, with Scottish and British grown and milled flours, using traditional long fermentation methods (sourdough) that improve digestibility and nutrition in our loaves."
The products Theo and the bakery will be offering include sourdough loaves, sourdough wheat loaf, seeded rye, croissant, baguettes.
Rebecca says: "We wanted to reconnect people with the countryside, and where their food comes from. We did this by inviting people to come onto our working farm and see where pumpkins grow, and for them to pick their own.
"We also encouraged local restaurants to use our produce, so they could reduce food miles, and cook with fresh, local produce."
Rebecca will be offering their famous pumpkins.
Duncan says: "We are artisanal producers of a range of smoked seafood, including salmon, trout, and halibut. We are first to market in the UK with the concept of Seafood Charcuterie.
"We focus on the curing and drying of our Seafood, leaving our fish to rest in its Cure for 5 to 10 days."
Duncan will be offering their hot smoked original cure salmon.
Artisan cheesemaker Drew, who is based in Strathearn, will be offering two of his cheeses, the Strathearn and the Lady Mary.
Laurianne says: "I am a raw vegan cake maker. I make raw cakes, tarts and bites. All my products are dairy, eggs and refined sugar free. I do not use ingredients containing gluten."
Products Laurianne will be selling include her cake box and raw snack balls mix.
Judith says: "We grow all sorts of vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, and interesting herbs using regenerative, wildlife friendly methods. This is our first season in production."
Kate says: "Through our background as hoteliers we had identified that there was a lack of good quality preserves available in the market. We trade principally through farmers markets in Scotland, we are BBC Good Food Champions and have won numerous awards for our preserves, most notably Gold Medals at the prestigious World Marmalade Awards.
"We are proud to supply two 5 star hotels in Scotland, many boutique B&Bs, and farm shops. We also have a couple of stockists internationally, 1 in Canada and 1 in Germany."
Products on offer will include Lime and Passion fruit curd, orange marmalade with 12 year old Deanston Malt Whisky.
• Forth Environment Link is urging locals who want to buy at the first market to register for the Stirling branch on www.foodassembly.com by Thursday 22 September.