Farmer Focus: Where are food box scheme ingredients sourced?

Given the recent temperatures, I have to wonder whether winter has finished and spring has finally begun.

The past two weeks have really dried things up and, as ever, everything needs doing all at the same time.

Winter cereals on the whole look really well and in need of a spring wake-up. Early nitrogen applications are complete, farmyard manures have been spread and the trace element/nutrition mix has been sprayed.

See also: Tackling rust and chocolate spot in beans post chlorothalonil

Let’s wait and see if this is a fool’s spring. Interestingly, we recently had the opportunity to try miscanthus for cattle bedding.

As a dry, well-drained bedding material, it ticks all the boxes. Given this season’s straw values, miscanthus that is not wanted for biopower generation is great value. Whether it will break down in the manure and then spread in the fields remains to be seen.

As many will know, computers seem to have replaced personal contact, with meetings and seminars all morphed into virtual encounters.

I hope this is only temporary, as so much non-verbal communication adds to the learning experience. Having said that, we only recently caught the “on-demand” bug in our house and discovered Netflix and its ilk.

I now see how the way we all consume home entertainment has changed forever – speeded by the pandemic.

Perhaps more importantly for the agricultural sector, another change has been delivered – a ready-to-cook food box.

In our household, we have been tempted down the Gousto path. The benefits are all too easy to spot: the convenience of all the ingredients, delivered in the correct quantities, with a massive range of styles and tastes that we might never otherwise try, and great value for money.

The downside (and this is the bit that will affect farmers) is that we have no control over the provenance of the ingredients.

I fear the box scheme entrepreneurs will chase value by looking overseas for low-welfare, factory-produced, cheap foodstuffs.

These box schemes are a growth market that won’t go away when we come out of lockdown – so maybe somebody should be launching a Red Tractor-standard British food box to compete? 

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