By Jo Denison
I started this project in week six of lockdown after being inspired by Skipton’s local food producers and independent shops, their entrepreneurial skill and network of cooperation, working throughout the lockdown to support the town’s people in a crisis and to survive themselves.
Over the last few weeks and months our food shopping habits have changed pretty much overnight. Faced with long queues, empty shelves and the risk of crowds in the supermarket, we have turned to use delivery services, but many have also chosen to visit the local independent shops more frequently than before. Not only do we rely more on local producers and suppliers, but the trip out to the green grocer, or the 6ft apart door-step chat with the delivery driver has become an important social interaction, a link to the outside world, a bit of normality in a strange time.
Most food businesses are severely affected by the lockdown, some had to completely reinvent themselves, forging new alliances to secure supply, open themselves up to new markets, digital platforms and customer bases, all while ensuring their own safety and the safety of their customers and staff. Of course, the dominance of the giant online retailers is a threat to small independents, but there are also many opportunities in this situation and hopefully, the renewed popularity of the independents is here to stay in the long term.
I’m a commercial photographer by trade, specialising in food photography, so I have a professional in interest in food culture. I also love good food, local produce, artisan manufacturing methods and I care about the environmental impact of food consumption.
Being an independent freelance entrepreneur in my own business, which I choose to base in Skipton rather than one of the metropolitan areas, I feel a connection with the other small traders in town. And, not least, my business has itself been hit by the crisis and I am faced with having to reinvent myself to some degree.
In the last few weeks, I have met some of the independent food suppliers of Skipton. The people photographed are based on my personal involvement and often one encounter led me to another.
This is an ongoing project, if you are in Skipton, have worked throughout lockdown and you have a food story to tell, please get in touch!
Steep & Filter
Dally and Michael originally set up Steep and Filter as a vegan café and a refill store for dried goods, selling pulses, nuts, seeds, grains, Eco toiletries and cleaning products.
When Covid hit, they realized the grain store alone wouldn’t be enough to keep the shop open. Reacting to demand they started picking up surplus veg from the restaurant trade, sacks of flour and yeast, quickly turning Steep and Filter into a small greengrocer. They also supply veg boxes ordered over the phone, customers don’t even need to get out of their car, they just drive by and pop the boot.
Michael and Dally find that their customers often end up having long chats whilst shopping, there is a lovely peacefulness about Steep and Filter and Dally is a good listener. Steep and Filter support the Skipton Food Bank with goods that they are urgently missing and they are currently raising money to fund this further.
Skipton Cheese Stall
Dave Craig has worked on the markets all his life, he retired for five years but missed the busy lifestyle and friendships so much he came back in Feb 2019 running the Skipton Cheese Stall.
It seems the customers were also missing personal interaction, the stall has been busier than ever during lockdown and he hopes the renewed popularity of the market will continue.
Tony Thorpe of Carron Lodge supplies cheeses direct to Dave Craig on his stall on Skipton high street. Despite having to furlough some of their staff, the Lancashire cheese-makers are still producing and delivering.
Lockdown has been a challenge as they lost a lot of business in the hospitality sector, but the resilience of independents has seen them through.
Dominic Craig was a coffee roaster before lockdown. When the demand for fresh coffee from cafés and restaurants stopped, he started coming to work with his Dad, Dave Craig of Skipton Cheese Stall for something to do.
Clients began asking for bread and potatoes and before long Dominic was running a full greengrocers stall. Dominic has enjoyed it so much he has secured a pitch on the market beyond lockdown.
We’ll be sharing more wonderful stories and images from Jo’s lockdown project later this week. To avoid missing it, make sure you’re following us on Facebook. You can see more of Jo’s work by heading over to her website, following on her on Instagram or liking her Facebook page.
If you would like to share some of the things your business has been doing during lockdown, please email [email protected]