Honesty, passion and a general disillusionment with London’s lunchtime offerings has spurred Dominic Kamara and Craig Wills, the founders of Farm Collective, to front an exciting food movement, delivering the finest farm fresh produce to the hungry workers of Farringdon.
**Honesty, passion and a general disillusionment with London's lunchtime offerings has spurred Dominic Kamara and Craig Wills, the founders of Farm Collective, to front an exciting food movement, delivering the finest farm fresh produce to the hungry workers of Farringdon.** The concept behind Farm Collective is to deliver farm fresh, premium quality food; sandwiches, salads, sausage rolls, cakes and pies all locally sourced from the nation’s finest small farms and suppliers. Sounds familiar? Well yes, there are plenty of decent markets around London delivering UK farmed produce, but how many of these are stepping up to compete with the likes of Pret, Starbucks and Eat? Slap bang in the middle of all the familiar lunchtime chain spots of EC1, Dom and Craig have rolled out an exciting food movement. It’s not only drawing in over 500 visitors a day, but it’s also quite possibly sending shudders down the spines of the food giants. So why did the duo decide to set up shop in EC1? “We like Farringdon," says Craig "because of obviously the link to the market and there’s a very broad audience here of architects and designers but also lawyers and accountants, so its great for us to demonstrate that this is a proposition that everybody likes. We want to demonstrate to ourselves, to our investors and to everyone else that we’re taking this seriously. And that if we can put ourselves next to Prêt and Eat and Starbucks and survive, well than we must be doing something right”. Having previously worked in advertising, for the likes of Satchi and Satchi and JCDecaux, Craig certainly knows a thing or two about branding. The Farm Collective couldn’t have arrived at a better time. People are taking more notice of what they put in their mouths, in terms of ethical issues and sustainability. Across the country, food events and festivals along with media coverage are highlighting the fantastic produce that’s home grown and farmed on British turf. “'For me the Farm is about celebrating UK produce," says Dom, who quit his job working for the European Bank two years ago to pursue his conviction. "Over the years as a nation we have become the poor men of Europe, lagging behind (in perception anyway), our French and Italian cousins. This is simply not the case. We are a nation of food fanatics who produce some incredible food, and the farm is a vehicle to get this wonderful produce to the city masses.” The pair set about visiting UK farms and producers to check out what they had to offer. “We obviously have to see if they [the farms] meet our criteria," says Craig. "They need to demonstrate sound animal husbandry and a progressive commitment to welfare - both physical and emotional.” Dom and Carig boldly decided early on that organic was not a criteria. “A lot of the producers we are working with seem to be making produce in a way that’s far better than organic, in terms of the self-sufficiency of their farms, the husbandry, the approach, the lack of environmentally un-friendly footprint and how they approach what they are doing," explains Craig. Once they’d found a handful of inspiring suppliers they invested their own money into a kitchen in east London, where they started creating sandwiches and salads for deliveries. The success of this first step caught the attention of investors and before they knew it the Farm Collective outlet in the city was launched. On a sunny mid-week day, I wandered over to the shop to see the premium offerings for myself. There certainly is an impressive selection of goodies to be had, all accompanied with honest sourcing descriptions such as ‘Roebuck Farm Red Ruby Beef with Tracklements Horseradish on a Flourish Granary Loaf’ and ‘Herefordshire Ragstone Goats Cheese with Slow Roasted Tomato salad”. There are also hot pies and mash, soups, fishcakes and sausage rolls. The counters are topped with cakes, cookies and gooey flapjacks (the best I have tasted in a long time). There is even decent coffee to be had, sourced and roasted by the Square Mile Coffee company and guaranteed to please any eagle-eyed coffee enthusiast. The staff are high-spirited and exude refreshing enthusiasm and knowledge, and it’s not surprising that long winding queues form at breakfast and lunchtime. Every morning the meat and vegetables are roasted on site and sandwiches and salads are freshly prepared. It’s the most wholesome and delicious fast food one could hope for, with the added bonus of a low price tag. “The whole thing about the farm is that it’s really simple," says Craig. "There’s no over frills - it's great produce with a twist just to make it a bit more contemporary”. In order for the Farm Collective to burgeon further, Dom and Craig are persistent in keeping up to date with new and exciting producers. “It’s a tough one but we are working through different media roots, inviting people to tell us what they’ve found or for people to approach us directly," says Craig. "We probably only have about four or five approaches a week but we’d love to triple that so that we can have a greater supply of chain. Because that’s obviously going to be the lifeline of us." As for the future of Farm Collective, well there’s no doubt that their ethical ethos, zeal and sincerity will result in more shops and an extension in branding. “I’d quite like to bring out our own ranges of certain products in partnership with some of our suppliers," muses Craig. "And maybe move towards having concessions in major retailers, such as Waitrose or the Co-op. Who knows, we’ll see..." Maybe, just maybe, Craig and Dom’s drive to champion British produce is exactly the kind of competition that London’s monotonous city chains need. **Farm Collective:** 91 Cowcross St, London EC1M 6BH. Tel: 0207 253 2142. ** Written by: ** Leila Sarraf