Video case study: The Sustainable Weigh, Caernarfon

So my name is Dan, and I am the owner of The Sustainable Weigh, based in Caernarfon in North Wales and we’re an ethically minded food shop, based on helping people reduce their plastic use, reduce their food waste and shop more locally. I’ve been in retail and food retail management for years and years but my wife and I have always in interested in, growing our own food. We have land, we have animals at home, so this is the way of bringing together my food retail experience and the things we’re passionate about and interested in.

So we sell a range of fruit and veg, a range of dried foods, so, cereals pulses, rice, pasta. We sell fresh local bread, cakes, seeds and grow your own kits.

We do a range of non food things like shampoo bars and refills for household liquids, so a whole wide range of things to give people a really great alternative to shopping in the supermarkets.

So, in the short term, we’ve only just opened on these premises, we’ve just moved here, a couple of months ago. So for us, it’s about getting through that first winter, learning about what our customers here want, because everywhere is slightly different. And then longer term, its about growing, finding more and more great options for our customers, certainly with a wider range of fruit and veg, there’s loads more local producers we can get involved with and work with, but, also, with more fresh bread and things like that, and there’s loads of non food items and things we can do as well. So there’s loads of growth opportunities for us.

So, our main interactions with Horticultural Wales have come through Izzie, who’s come to visit us repeatedly and been really enthusiastic about bringing together different parts of the food supply chain. So Izzie put us in touch with Tyddyn Teg who we get fruit and veg from, grown locally barely 10 miles away if that. She’s also put us in touch with New Leaf Nurseries on Anglesey who provide our Grow Your Own Packs and things which have proved so popular with customers. So that’s really been a really helpful, great practical thing, that that’s brought to our business On top of that, it’s offered up networking opportunities, the chance to meet other businesses and reach out and make contact with people, which is always really important. And its great to find out what interesting things people are doing as well. Quite often you don’t get change to do that, when you’re locked in your own little silo, your own little world doing your thing, and sometimes its really great, the outside influence making you see the bigger picture.

So, I think the main opportunities come from, awareness and branding probably. I don’t think people, consumers, look at Welsh produce as being something they should specifically look out for. So I don’t think that there’s that established brand and reputation, and actually there’s load of great stuff being grown in Wales! Loads of great stuff being produced in Wales, full stop. And so raising that awareness of what’s out there, and you know, it’s more than just potatoes and leeks. There’s a whole world of stuff that we can get people into and more aware of. And I think that presents a huge opportunity.

In wider terms, there is not a lot support for small business, and there is zero support for Green small business, trying to do the right thing, trying to tackle the Climate Emergency that we’re living through. And so anything that can come down the food chain, anything that can come down from Welsh Government that helps that, that promotes that, is fantastic! Because, at the moment for business like us, there’s nothing out there that supports those goals, there is no help, this entire sector of low waste, plastic free shopping, is basically being funded by passionate individuals maxing out their own credit cards. So its really important to scream and yell and try and get as much support for this, as humanly possible. Whether that’s specifically Horticultural Projects, or the whole green ethical way of living, that we need to move towards.

So one of the ways Horticulture Wales has definitely helped us, is through social media. By sharing, our content and linking us to what they’re doing, it really has helped raise awareness of us, and how we fit into that wider picture. When we opened the shop here in Caernarfon, Izzie was straight in, took loads of pictures, shared what we looked like, helped people be aware of what we’re doing here, that was different to what we were doing in Menai Bridge. And that really helped us at that really important time.

I think in terms of measuring the impact of Horticultural Wales, it’s not easily quantifiable in pounds and pennies. But we’re going to be able to attend our first Horticultural Wales meet and greet event next week, and that’s the first time that one has been held close enough to make that practical.

As small print business with that time pressure, it’s really important that those events are as geographically plausible to attend as they can be. That makes it easier to dial in to what that networking that’s out there. Every single connection helps. So you might not be able to put a pounds and penny figure on it, you might not get huge great gains out of it but it does add up, and it is important to strengthen local connections, because if you’re going to have meaningful change in how we shop for food, shopping locally is a huge part of that. And to do that you need strong bonds between producers, retailers and everyone involved in the chain, and every little difference Horticulture Wales make to that, adds up to helping create that impact and that change that we need.