We’re holding a Public Meeting on Wednesday 29th April, 7pm, at St Nicolas Church, Sutton. This meeting will ask the question: Can we open a community-owned farm shop and cafe in Sutton?
The evening we will include a talk from the Plunkett Foundation, who have helped hundreds of communities across the UK to take control of the issues affecting them and start community-owned businesses. The rough agenda (still to be confirmed) is:
19.00 Tea, coffee
19.30 Farm Shop/Cafe Vision
19.45 Survey results and questions
20.00 Plunkett Foundation: community-owned shops
20:30 Next steps
Last month (March 2015), we conducted a survey asking our friends, supporters and customers whether we should open a Community Farm Shop. We had a fantastic response from 207 people. There seems to be so much energy for this and many people pledging to help make it happen.
Since then, we sat down as a farm team with one of our business advisors. We had a debate about whether we should pursue this business idea. On the one hand, we feel that it would be a venture that compliments our farm, giving us an outlet and space to extend the social impact and healthy food education activities we do. On the other hand, we simply don’t have the capacity to undertake it. The honest truth is, we are incredibly busy on the farm. We work long hours to keep the farm alive and have extremely tight sales margins to work with. Customer numbers are still low and this is too much risk for us to take on. We don’t have the capacity and we have to focus on our farm first and foremost.
The role we can play is facilitating a conversation. As we started that conversation, we feel we would like to have one chance to bring everyone together to continue it. We believe there’s an entrepreneur(s) out there willing to take the vision forward and we would support them as best we can.
As a result of this meeting and engagement with the public, we hope to find people who will spearhead this project. We hope that further meetings will establish a steering committee. We really believe it can happen and that the energy is there.
So if you’re free, please come along. At the very least, you’ll learn a thing or two about what it takes to open a shop or cafe.