The Cambridge Organic Food Co. is at the heart of Cambridge’s organic food community. We represent nearly every organic farm that is local to Cambridge and have been delivering boxes of organic fruit and vegetables in Cambridge since 1998. We also supply produce to many independent organic, specialist and health food shops in the local area.
Left to right: Josh, Kenny, Duncan, David, Rob, Mike and Dave. Not pictured are Tyler, Kim, John and Blake.
The Cambridge Organic Food Co. was set up by Duncan Catchpole in 1998. Duncan grew up on an organic apple orchard in Risby, just outside Bury St. Edmunds. Duncan has studied Organic Farming and Growing at Otley college and also understanding climate and climate change at Madingly Hall.
Currently Duncan is a member of the Cambridge Sustainable Food City steering group.
From its inception, the policy for the Cambridge Organic Food Co. has been that practices of the company should reflect the wholesome nature of the produce we were dealing with. We know that our customers consider the ethics of the company they are buying from to be as important as the products they are buying.
If I were to sum up the one overriding principle that dictates the policies of the Cambridge Organic Food Co. it would be this...'we aim to be everything an organic box scheme ought to be'. Put another way, it is our purpose to deliver the best possible box scheme service, and there are four fundamental aspects of our business by which we ought to be judged: products, practices, customer service and innovation.
The key selling point to any box scheme should be its ability to give you access to produce that simply isn't available from the mainstream food retailers. Clearly it goes without saying that the produce should be organic, and everything that goes into a Cambridge Organic Food co. box is certified organic. What really sets us apart, however, is that we are able to buy produce directly from the organic farms that are local to Cambridge. Because we have direct links to nearly every organic farm that is local to Cambridge there is no truer representation of Cambridge's local organic production than our box scheme. Although factors such as seasonality dictate that we cannot ensure that everything in the boxes has been grown locally it is our policy that the produce from our local farms always has the priority. Please read the page on our website entitled 'local produce'.
Another charateristic of the farms which supply us is that they are not large scale commercial producers, but smallholders who are dedicated to the organic cause. These are people who take great pride in the food they produce and as such put extra care and attention into its production.
To the ethically conscious consumer it is important that the practices of the company which is supplying your goods are as sound as the products themselves. In particular, we consider it very important that the environmentally considerate nature of the production of organic food continues beyond the farm and all the way to your doorstep. The concept of the box scheme itself is intrisically environmentally freindly. By dealing with produce at a local level we are dramatically reducing the number of food miles clocked up in comparison to virtually every other food retail outlet. The individuals who work at the Cambridge Organic Food Co. are all appreciative of the impact of even small little gestures and the priciples of 'reduce, reuse and recycle' are well implemented. For example, we reuse the boxes themselves , our green waste is taken away for composting and discarded produce is kept aside for a local pig keeper. Our top priorty when choosing the make and model of our new vans was to get the most fuel efficient vehicles that would be capable of carrying a round's worth of boxes. This led to us ordering a Fiat Doblo cargo lwb with a frugal 1.3 litre diesel and specified with the optional stop/start function, a combination which we believe to be the first of its type to come to the UK. Our dream is that one day we will be completely self sufficient in energy and be a provide a vision of what future food distributions systems could be. Sadly, finances dictate that we aren't there just yet but it must be encouraging to know that you are supporting an organisation that has such aspirations and will invest its profits accordingly.
If our customer service isn't outstanding then we have fallen short of the standard we have set oursleves in this respect. We take pride in the lengths we will go to to ensure complete customer satisfaction.
A critisism that is often levied at box scheme services is that the customer often gets produce they either don't want or have become fed up with because of its inclusion for several weeks on end. At the Cambridge Organic Food Co. we have overcome this by letting box scheme members choose their box contents if they wish. With this website the process has become very user-freindly too.
With such an unprecidented allowance for box customisation, however, we do leave ourselves vulnerable to the risk of mistakes being made. Likewise, the very nature of organic produce means there are higher instances of quality issues (for example, the lack of pesticides used means a greater liklihood of finding a little beastie in your lettuce every now and then). Our attitude towards these circumstances is to accept that these things happen from time to time but to be ready and prepared to do whatever it takes to put things right.
The Cambridge Organic Food Co. is a forward thinking and progressive organization. We pioneered the box scheme model, being one of the first to deliver boxes in Cambridge, and have continuously evolved and improved our service ever since.
The following is a piece that was written for our very first website back in 1999. We feel the sentiments of it are just as relevant today...
'Truly Organic From Plough To Plate.'
The rise in popularity of organic food in recent years has been outstanding, and it is encouraging to see British consumers are putting lot more consideration into such an essential part of our lifestyle. However, in all the excitement of supplying this demand many people seem to have missed the point of what organic food is all about. The organic food that you can buy in the supermarkets may bear the organic certification symbols, but activities like processing, packaging, profit motivated sales, and above all importing, are neither sustainable or in keeping with the true principles of organic production. Any consumer who is truly enthusiastic about organic food will recognise the importance of buying food locally. After all, what's the point of putting so much care and attention into producing food in an environmentally friendly manner if all that hard work will be undone the moment it leaves the farm?
The premis of the Cambridge Organic Food Co. is simple. We aim to provide you with organic fruit and vegetables that have been produced in your local area, via a method of supply that is environmentally considerate at every stage, from the moment the seed is sown to the moment it arrives at your door. As well as supplying the type of produce you want to buy, we try to be the kind of business you would want to buy from.
* A great deal of effort is put into recycling any reusable materials and minimising wastage. Energy efficiency is also considered very highly
* We are open and honest about the produce we supply and the people who grow it. Our regular newsletter, and this website, provide a closer link between you and the grower. You will even get the opportunity to visit some of our organic farms on our 'organic farm tours'.
* Being a small, local business, you can be confident that the money you spend will go to the people who have worked hard to provide your food. In turn we try to support other businesses and charities that we feel are worthwhile.
* Most of the produce we use is bought directly from local organic farms. We have a very close working relationship with the growers, including some of the most prestigious individuals in the organic industry.
Our association with many of our region's organic growers is our greatest asset. The contents of our boxes are therefore a genuine representation of the local area's organic production. Our goal is to provide a local market for all of the produce from the farms from which we buy. Every member of our box scheme makes a significant difference to the local rural economy, and towards reaching this goal.
It's a question of choice. As long as consumers recognise the relevance of our service we will continue to provide a truly organic alternative for buying organic food.
Organic certification is your guarantee that the produce you are eating has been grown in accordance with the national standards for organic agriculture. It also tells you that the company who has handled the produce post production will do nothing to compromise its organic integrity and offer comprehensive traceability back to the farm. 'Organic' is a legal term and any company selling produce as organic should be able to produce their organic certificate on demand.
click here to download a pdf of our organic certificate