Enterprising Yorkshire farmers have announced a new marketing co-operative enabling farmers and smallholders to fight back against the high volumes of imported flowers sold in the UK.
Scenting an opportunity to support the British cut flower sector, Gill and Peggy Hodgson, fourth generation farmers from Everingham, East Riding, launched the co-operative; Flowers from the Farm Ltd – after successfully growing and selling flowers on spare land at their 200 acre arable farm and, recognising the potential for others to do the same.
Setting up as a co-operative with advice from The Co-operative Enterprise Hub, which aims to help to ‘create a co-operative a day’ during 2011, the mother and daughter duo are now talking to interested growers across the UK who need just half an acre of spare land to get started.
Gill Hodgson said: “One of the problems is that people have tended to forget about seasonality. Alarmingly, only around ten per cent of flowers sold in Britain today are grown in the UK whereas, twenty years ago it was almost half.
“However, with an increase in people moving to greener lifestyles is coming an increase in the popularity of traditional British flower varieties.
“Growing cut flowers need not require high capital outlay and has the prospect of good returns. It also gives farmers, already with the land, equipment
and skills required, an avenue for diversification – providing an alternative source of income that can sit alongside current operations.”
Michael Fairclough, Head of Community and Campaigns at The Co-operative Group, which invested £7.5m in The Co-operative Enterprise Hub to support the creation and growth of member-owned enterprises across the UK, added: “The co-operative model offers an alternative way to do business, a robust approach to enterprise that can contribute to the re-building of a more balanced and sustainable economy.”
“As the general public becomes increasingly concerned for environment, sustainability and accountability, we are seeing more and more people taking ownership into their own hands and having a say in the running of businesses and services important to both their lives and the demands of local communities.”
Flowers from the Farm Ltd is a not-for-profit co-operative. With very low overheads, it will be owned and run by its members and aims to encourage more farmers and smallholders to grow flowers for cutting. It will work to identify local markets and, promote and support the resurgence of traditional British flowers.
It hopes to attract over 200 members and, ‘founder members’ joining before the end of 2011 will enjoy a life-time discount.
Gill Hodgson concluded: “The move to local production has already taken place in the food industry but flowers are still being transported thousands of miles across the world – even when the same varieties are available in season in Britain!
“We believe our co-operative of small growers can succeed where other business models have failed, we will grow specialist varieties that do not travel well; sweet peas, zinnias, cosmos, ranunculus and many more that are not imported because of the difficulty in transporting them.
“By working together we can encourage and promote the British cut flower, helping to make locally grown flowers the automatic consumer choice.”
The Co-operative Enterprise Hub – For further information about member-owned enterprises, and the advice, support and finance available to set-up, run and grow sustainable co-operative enterprises.