Farmers stand up to the supermarkets

Urban Islington wouldn’t usually be the first place that comes to mind when buying farm-fresh fruit, meats and cheeses sold by local farmers themselves. Instead you’d expect to find the Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local selling imported goods to residents.

Food Assembly, a network of food sellers who launched their Islington branch on Tuesday, looks to change that. The organisation brings producers and the public together, allowing people to buy directly from farmers in a room above the Islington Townhouse pub on Liverpool Road. Customers place orders directly with local farmers and then return the following week to collect their lamb chops, wild garlic or Stilton.

Rose Fooks, a founder of Islington Food Assembly, hopes the initiative will be a success. A similar scheme in Kings Cross attracted over 1,000 members. She said the idea is “common in Europe” and likened it to the farmers’ markets found in more rural areas, but even in Islington the food only travels an average of 13 miles.

Producers can also get involved. Jez, a chocolatier, said: “It’s great because you get to meet the customers, and there’s a good community of producers you get to know as well.”

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Sally, owner of ‘Skinny Dipping’, an Islington-based brand of homemade dips, was a customer of Food Assembly before getting involved herself. She said: “It’s so nice because you get to see and taste the food before you buy it,” adding that now she’s selling her own products, she loves to see people’s reactions as they sample her dips.

With a Sainsbury’s next door, Sally said the network feels rebellious.

“Standing up to big supermarkets when we’re losing more and more local suppliers – it’s good to get that freedom.”

Islington Food Assembly has 22 traders and takes place every Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Islington Townhouse pub. There’s no joining fee as you buy directly from the producers who deliver to the following week’s assembly.