I googled ‘organic veg box Cambridge’ after we’d had some London friends come to stay and (in a very grown up way) ended up having a big veg geek session about Abel&Cole. I figured Cambridgeshire must have a scheme what with all the stunning produce around the county.
So seeing as I worked on market day in Saffron Walden (the Tuesday veg stall is amazing) and loath buying fresh produce from the supermarket, I was thrilled to find the Cambridge Organic Food Company (or COFCo). BWC got founder Duncan Catchpole to tell us a little bit about the company.
What inspired COFCO?
We’ve been going for 16 years now and so the original inspiration is hard to remember. What I would say is that fresh inspiration comes up on an almost daily basis and I’m more motivated now than ever before.
I started the business while I was at college and there was an organic growers co-operative based in the west country who were sending out pre-packed organic veg boxes and we were going to be one of their ‘agents’ who would deliver the boxes in Cambridge. However, delivering those boxes was an embarrassment and I knocked it on the head after just a couple of weeks. This demonstrated that there was an opportunity to do something much better.
What’s your best kept Cambridge secret?
I wouldn’t keep anything a secret, I’d shout about the very best stuff to ensure we sell as much as we can. The headline product on the horizon must be Cobs Bakery‘s new ‘Cambridge Loaf’, see sneak peak below with Jon Cook (from Fosters Mill), Alan Ackroyd (from CobsBakery) and Abi Erian (Wimpole Hall Home Farm). It is a sourdough wholemeal loaf made from wheat that has been grown on the Wimpole Hall estate and milled at Foster’s Mill at Swaffham Prior.
We are particularly proud of our direct links with the organic farmers that are local to Cambridge, like Adrian Izzard of Wild Country Organics, Paul Robinson and the Prospect Trust. We are also the recipients of produce grown at the organic kitchen garden at Audley End house.
What’s your favourite recipe?
I’m a great lover of all types of food and so it’s difficult for me to pick out just one as a particular favourite. But seeing as you’ve put me on the spot I’m going to say the Aubergine Parmagiana recipe as featured in issue no. 105 of our newsletter. I’m not vegetarian but I do recognize that us westerners have far too much meat in our diet to be good for our health and, more importantly, to be sustainable from an environmental perspective. In this parmagiana recipe you get a wonderful smoky flavour from grilling the aubergines and they have a ‘meaty’ texture. It’s delicious.
What’s next for COFCO?
COFCO has a reputation for innovation and pioneering alternative and sustainable methods for food distribution. The company is continually evolving and we’ll never stop coming up with new ways of doing things. Most recently our efforts have gone into our new website, which was launched just before Christmas. Functionality wise we believe it to be possibly the most sophisticated box scheme website in the UK and are particularly proud of the feature that enables customers to choose exactly what goes into their box if they are having a bespoke box.
I am currently putting a lot of my time and effort into the ‘Cambridge Sustainable Food’ project. We have aspirations that Cambridge will become an exemplar sustainable food city and if this happens there will be a massive role for the Cambridge Organic Food Co. It’s in its infancy but it would be great for anyone who takes an interest in sustainable food to check out the CSF website. We’ll be at Eat Cambridge food and drink festival in May too so you can find out more about us there.