We seem to be filling a niche in the market for those who are mindful about how their vegetables are grown and also of how much value they get for their money
AS the debate between organic versus non-organic rages on one dynamic young vegetable grower in the South Hams, Devon may just have found the solution.
Last year Ben Brunning, 27, from Newton Ferrers, set up a new box-scheme business which is as close to being organic as you can possibly get without actually being able to use the full unsprayed, untarnished organic label.
The Nearly Naked Veg Company quickly established itself in South Devon and within six months was awarded the coveted Taste of the West 2009 Awards On-Line Retailer of the Year title as well as reaching the final three for Devon Life’s Newcomer of the Year award.
Ben’s central ethos is that he will only ever use things like herbicides, insecticides and fungicides if he absolutely has to thereby producing vegetables which are almost as clean and pure as organic. He also uses traditional farming methods such as weeding, hoeing and raking by hand which help reduce the risk of disease.
Educated at Wiltshire College in Lackham where he gained a higher national diploma in agriculture Ben developed an “obsession with potatoes” which nearly cost him his life. “I was working in a huge potato farm in Cambridgeshire and I fell into a potatoes harvesting machine. I was eight months in hospital and off work for three years – and that gave me a lot time to think about things.”
Ben eventually took a job with Riverford Organics where he became the farm’s foreman but he became frustrated as his own vision of how vegetables should be grown began to take shape. “I wanted to forge ahead with my own ideas. During my final two years at Riverford, I had my own rented half-acre plots here growing different varieties of veg seeing how they grew, how they were hit by root flies and so on. Then last year we had two weeks of beautiful sunshine in the spring, then a good douse of rain – and I decided to go for it,” he said.
Ben can sell vegetables more cheaply than most 100 per cent organic farms thus giving more people the choice of buying local vegetables and making doorstep deliveries affordable to every pocket.
According to a study by Which? magazine, organic food on average costs 60% more than ordinary produce with huge variations within that. The higher prices are due to weaker economies of scale. Organic produce is generally grown on smaller farms and often needs to be transported separately. The lack of fertiliser means yields are between 10% and 50% less than conventional farming. At the moment Ben’s boxes are just about a third cheaper than those of organic producers.
Ben might well have hit upon a concept which will serve him well in the future as he sets in motion a potential new food wave.
He said: “We seem to be filling a niche in the market for those who are mindful about how their vegetables are grown and also of how much value they get for their money.”
For more visit www.nearlynakedveg.co.uk
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