Bread, berries, coffee: the surge in DIY food

Through the COVID-19 crisis, consciousness itself seemed to change.

The evidence of stress in our food system was always there, but suddenly a host of people began to seek out local sources of farm-fresh vegetables from producers they could read about. Happily, our sister project Rock Farm up the road grows fruit and vegetables on six acres as a therapeutic programme for people in need of support and nature connection. The raspberries and leeks go on sale at Florence Road Market, which we also operate as a community hub in Brighton. These are among the projects funded by Skylark profits.

The demand for this sort of thing — West Sussex salads and sausages, delivered directly to people in lockdown — has gone bonkers, and emerges hand-in-hand with the surge in homemade sourdough and even home-brewed coffee. Suddenly, the connection between producer and consumer feels more vital, like a lifeline to people who have been stuck mostly indoors. During spring berry season, it was extraordinarily difficult to buy strawberries and raspberries because fruit farms were mobbed with people wanting to do it themselves.

This is fundamentally how we wish to do “commerce,” with an open door to just about anyone who wants to enrich simple transactions with an actual relationship. On a mile of A-road near Steyning, you can now drop into our roastery, where coffee is sourced carefully with individual producers in mind; glimpse the shared house at Buncton Manor, where people can live together, with support, for up to two years; and pick raspberries at Rock Farm, where more and more food crops are now coming off a permaculture farm in a way that connects a slice of north-facing slope in the countryside to the market pitch in central Brighton, and people with disabilities to urban shoppers.