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OFM Awards 2019: Best independent retailer – Field & Flower | Food


James Mansfield and James Flower met in 2006, in a blaze of tweed, shotguns and Range Rovers at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. “Don’t judge us,” says Flower, who grew up rearing cattle in Somerset. He was expecting the place – now the Royal Agricultural University – to be full of farmers, but there were more people there to study “estate management, that kind of thing. It was a bit of a shock although we met some amazing people, but in the first week James and I met and stuck together.”

Mansfield had arrived from London where he’d been working at the Ivy. He’d already done a media degree but he was far more passionate about farming.

“We spent pretty much the whole three years [at college] talking about what we could do when we left,” says Flower. “My family’s small tenant farm in north Somerset produces Hereford beef. It was going to a local cattle market and anyone could buy it.” It might have ended up at a local butcher’s or just as easily at a knockdown price on a supermarket shelf. “Quality grass-fed beef was being wasted,” he says.

The pair wanted to sell the beef, along with produce from similarly traditional other small farms with an emphasis on animal welfare, direct to the public. This way, the provenance of these foods would no longer go unsung, and farmers could sell at a fair price, allowing them to keep up the good, if extremely hard work.

Since Mansfield and Flower graduated in 2010, they’ve been steadily building their business, taking their meat to Borough Market in London and Glastonbury festival, enlisting producers whose farms they know well, and eventually selling meat boxes nationwide. Their thinking was, says Mansfield, that: “Abel & Cole and Riverford have done an incredible job with their veg boxes, delivering to 70,000 people a week, why couldn’t we do the same with grass-fed, free-range meat?”

The business model has served them well. In the year ending 2017, their turnover was £2.7m. When they recently raised £877,000 in eight weeks via Crowdcube, half of their 650 new investors were customers. “We used [the money] to develop our new website, increase the product range and for marketing,” says Mansfield.

Field & Flower now offers fish, cheese and deli products. They have even started making ready meals. The range includes sous vide duck legs to harissa pulled pork. “We’ve cooked that for 12 hours ready for the customer, and in 25 minutes it’s a meal for six people.”

The pair believe the trend for eating more responsibly is trickling down to those not ready to ditch meat. “It might sound strange coming from us, but we’re not advocates of eating meat every night of the week,” says Mansfield. “It’s not right to be able to do that.”

The way their food is produced, adds Flower, avoiding the need for grain feed and fertilisers, reduces methane, food miles and carbon footprint, while boosting biodiversity. “We believe there is a strong argument for a small amount of correctly sourced animal proteins in our diets.”

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