SHOP LOCAL: The Food Float - Dorking’s pop-up farm shop
PUBLISHED: 09:43 10 November 2020 | UPDATED: 11:23 11 November 2020
The not-for-profit community interest company was born from the idea of using a milk float to deliver local food
In many ways, Food Float is a Surrey food and drink business that was ahead of its time. While producers have scrambled to find more direct routes to customers this year, the very essence of Food Float was to help make local food and drink as accessible as possible to people in the Dorking and surrounding area.
“The Food Float story goes back to 2009 and the idea of using a Milk Float – hence our name and logo – to deliver local food,” says Food Float’s Julia Redfern. “Our High Street stall opened for business on March 6, 2010, and lockdown apart has traded for 50 weeks a year ever since, in all weathers.”
A not-for-profit community interest company, Food Float is led by an operations team of Tim McEntire, Maddie Sutton and Julia these days, supported by a fantastic group of volunteers.
They sell a wide range of produce from their weekly stall, including meat, vegetables and fruit, baked products and more. They’re a regular pop-up farm shop, basically.
“When lockdown arrived, we were clear that we wanted to do our best to support our suppliers and continue to provide ‘local food for local people’, despite having to cease trading on the High Street in mid-March,” says Julia.“We increased our delivery days from one to three, put out the word for volunteer drivers (we stand in awe of their efforts), and devised an assembly/delivery process that met all COVID-related requirements.
“The first week of lockdown alone saw a thirteenfold increase in deliveries. The outpouring of goodwill from customers was tremendous.”
Supported by their network of 23 suppliers, Food Float has been able to source local produce throughout this year, even during the more challenging and unpredictable moments.
“We’d have to single out Marion and the team at the Kingfisher Farm Shop in Abinger Hammer,” says Julia. “They provided all our vegetables during lockdown - a truly spectacular amount!”
Food Float is now back in Dorking with their weekly stalls. You’ll find them in the main square in St Martin’s Walk on Fridays (and when second lockdown ends also on the High Street outside Barclays Bank on Saturdays) trading between 8.30am and mid-afternoon.
“It’s been so good to catch up with old friends and see new faces, and we’ve appreciated the support from Mole Valley District Council,” adds Julia. “We hope to stay open for the rest of winter, other than December 25 and 26 and January 1 and 2, when we’ll be closed for our annual break.
“Home deliveries continue on Thursdays (and Saturdays during lockdown) and we can put together orders for collection from the stall for people who want to come out but prefer not to linger.”
In the spirit of eating the seasons, there’s plenty of delicious and locally grown food to order from them at this time of the year too.
“Rainbow chard is always popular, along with parsnips, leeks and cauliflower grown at Secretts near Godalming,” says Julia. “We love putting out Debbie’s Christmas Chutney in December too, and there will be a limited amount of our own-reared Gloucester Old Spot pork and Charollais lamb from the beginning of November.”
Food Float has spent more than a decade forging links between producers and consumers and, at times like these, such forces for community good have never been more important. Make sure to say hello if you’re ever passing through Dorking on a weekend.
Food Float is a member of Local Food Britain, a food and drink network that has brought together approved members from across Surrey and beyond. From independent tearooms to bustling farm shops, small local producers, speciality and fine foods, you can eat, drink and breathe all things local by visiting localfoodbritain.com