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Anthony Davison founded Big Barn 20 years ago to encourage direct trade between producers and consumers. As a fifth-generation farmer from Bedfordshire, local produce is close to his heart, and with Big Barn he hopes to show others the many benefits of sourcing locally.
“We now get around 5,000 visitors a day and host around 9,000 local producers on our map. We share our map with around 90 other websites – our aim is to have more and more websites host our map, more and more people on it to encourage trade, and in some cases make it possible for producers to pair up and offer a complete shopping basket,” Anthony explains.
“We’ve become a community interest company to spread the message of working together and changing the food industry.”
This year, there has been a significant change in the perception around local shopping and how small food shops impact the wider community.
“People are realising that local is the right way to go. They get a bit annoyed when they buy something in a farm shop that is perhaps overpriced and they don’t notice the difference, but I think with Covid and Brexit and stories about huge businesses making loads of money and not paying any tax, they’re realising that if they spend their money locally then they’re putting their money back to the local economy and potentially increasing jobs locally,” Anthony says.
“There are so many positives to sourcing food locally that people eventually get it - but it takes advocates to keep getting the message out.”
Anthony is also a champion of using food as an education tool. “If you connect with children at a young enough age, they love getting their hands dirty and engage with subjects they previously thought boring and tricky,” explains Anthony.
When he ran a Crop for the Shop scheme in Leicester, he learned that linking academic subjects to the veg patch is a great way to get kids engaged in their lessons, while also encouraging them to learn about food from an early age.
“We’ve been pressuring people like Henry Dimbleby from the Food and Farming Strategy to get a lot more food growing in schools. If we create a generation of children who know how to grow and what to cook with it, they’re going to be better customers and eating better food - also influencing their parents,” Anthony says. “It’s a great long term strategy to fix the food industry.”
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