EU programme helps grower set up vegetable box scheme

A Northern Ireland vegetable grower has used assistance from an EU initiative to develop a successful vegetable box scheme supplying local homes.

Farmbox: internet-based business links directly with its consumers - image: Farmbox
Farmbox: internet-based business links directly with its consumers - image: Farmbox

Third-generation grower Nathan Gilmore, who farms near Newtownards, Co Down, said: "We concentrated on producing quality produce, but leaving others to handle the business of supplying consumers.

"Then we heard about the Supply Chain Development Programme, which allowed us to tap into a lot of professional advice." This helped Farmbox to develop as a largely web-based business ( linking the business directly with consumers, said Gilmore.

"The initial response to our website was phenomenal. Young families, pensioners and sports enthusiasts all want to eat healthy and eat local produce but are short of time to shop for it."

A medium Farmbox, costing under £20, includes a range of potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, broccoli, Savoy cabbage, turnip, onions and mushrooms, all supplied straight from the farmyard.

The initiative has since extended to meat supply, in collaboration with a leading nearby farmer butcher, and to Gymbox, developed this summer to help customers on a diet and exercise regime.

This latter was based on Gilmore's own efforts to lose three stone in weight (20kg) under the guidance of a fitness instructor. "I learned that having easy access to healthy, fresh food that is easily prepared is vital," he said.

An active presence on social media has helped raise awareness of the brand.

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