Chefs embracing "Nature's Grade" produce
featured on: Open House magazine
Monday, September 23, 2013 Alex Yeomans

Cafes, restaurants and catering companies in Melbourne and Geelong are saving up to 40 per cent on their produce bill by embracing fresh ingredients irrespective of size and shape.

New social wholesale food business Spade & Barrow is committed to celebrating the fact that fresh produce doesn't have to be perfectly shaped and helping farmers sell all of their crop. The company has called their service "Natures Grade" - food as nature intended.

"At Spade & Barrow we view food as nature intended - it may be aesthetically imperfect - but after all not every carrot can be a supermodel," said Spade & Barrow creator Katy Barfield.

Purchasing more than 80 per cent of their fruit and vegetables directly from farms, Barfield says it is all about a fair and equitable food system.

"Our farmers are getting a fair price for their whole crop so we are helping them to stay on their land and reduce unnecessary waste," she said.

Customers are sent weekly price lists with farm specials and can choose the produce they would like, with the opportunity for considerable savings by buying mixed bags and boxes of top quality fresh produce.

"Chefs are always after the best quality produce," said Andy Gale, head chef of St Ali and owner of Duchess of Spotswood. "When prices go up we struggle because we can't just increase our prices. It is far better to get produce directly from the farm and understand where it comes from and chefs really want that information."

Proud Mary head chef, Chris Hamburger, is another convert.

"Having an edge as far as sustainability is concerned, as well as a great connection to the farmer through Spade & Barrow, gives us a sense of what is really happening in the farming community," he said.

"The range is always seasonal and that is exactly how it should be and how we should be cooking, when produce it at its best, most available and cheapest. We have to learn to value what fresh produce should really be like and that means it comes in all shapes and sizes," he said.

Spade & Barrow achieves sustainable business model through imperfect produce
featured on: Food magazine
19 September, 2013, Aoife Boothroyd

New Melbourne based social wholesale food business; Spade & Barrow have developed a holistic approach to their operations by advocating a direct plough approach which ensures that farmers are able to harvest their entire crop - irrespective of size and shape.

Spade & Barrow pride themselves on celebrating the fact that fresh, natural produce can be either be wonky or straight, large or small, and chefs around the state are embracing the company's commitment to Nature's Grade produce.

"At Spade & Barrow we view food as nature intended - it may be aesthetically imperfect - but after all not every carrot can be a supermodel!" said Spade & Barrow creator Katy Barfield.

Barfield says that the company purchases 80 percent of its fruit and vegetables directly from Australian farms.

"Our customers love our Nature's Grade produce. It's fresh, seasonal, locally grown and arrives on their doorstep, direct from farms, at a fraction of the regular cost.

"Our farmers are getting a fair price for their whole crop so we are helping them to stay on their land and reduce unnecessary waste," she said.

Head chef of St Ali and owner of Duchess of Spotswood, Andy Gale, said that Spade & Barrows' business model is 'massively important for the future of the industry.'

"Chefs are always after the best quality produce. When prices go up we struggle because we can't just increase our prices. It is far better to get produce directly from the farm and understand where it comes from and chefs really want that information," said Gale.

"Farmers get the recognition and money they deserve and we get amazing quality asparagus at a third of the price," he said.

Proud Mary's head chef, Chris Hamburger agrees with Gale by stating that; "Chefs are now at the forefront of food production and they have to get behind this initiative."

"Having an edge as far as sustainability is concerned, as well as a great connection to the farmer through Spade & Barrow, gives us a sense of what is really happening in the farming community," said Hamburger.

"The range is always seasonal and that is exactly how it should be and how we should be cooking, when produce it at its best, most available and cheapest. We have to learn to value what fresh produce should really be like and that means it comes in all shapes and size.

How businesses can slash their fresh produce bills
featured on: Hospitality magazine
2 October, 2013 Brea Carter

New wholesale food company Spade & Barrow is encouraging businesses to embrace the idea that fresh produce does not need to be cosmetically perfect to be fit for consumption.

A number of cafes, restaurants and catering companies in Melbourne and Geelong are getting in on the action and reportedly saving up to 40 percent on their fresh produce bills.

These include renowned cafe and coffee destination St Ali and British cafe and restaurant Duchess of Spotswood.

"What Spade & Barrow are doing is massively important for the future of the industry," said Andy Gale, who is the head chef at St Ali and owns Duchess of Spotswood.

"Chefs are always after the best quality produce. When prices go up we struggle because we can't just increase our prices. It is far better to get produce directly from the farm and understand where it comes from and chefs really want that information."

Andrew Fisk of Tapas Bar & Rooftop is also reaping the benefits of the initiative. "Working with Spade & Barrow has enables us to offer our customers fantastic, fresh local produce at a great price while reducing food miles and supporting our local farmers," he said.

Spade & Barrow advocates for a direct plough approach where farmers harvest their entire crop, regardless of the shape or size of the produce.

It refers to fruit and vegetables that are harvested in this way as 'natures grade,' because they will be consumed as nature intended - big, small, curly, wonky or straight as opposed to cosmetically perfect.

"At Spade & Barrow we view food as nature intended - it may be aesthetically imperfect - but after all not every carrot can be a supermodel!" said founder Katy Barfield.

The wholesale food business purchases 80 percent of the 100 percent Australian produce directly from farms - and Barfield said the system is fair and equitable - it benefits farmers, customers and the environment.

Gale agrees with Barfield in that everyone benefits from the system. "Farmers get the recognition and money they deserve and we get amazing quality asparagus at a third of the price," he said.

Despite its imperfect nature, Barfield said customers are pleased with the fruit and vegetables they purchase from Spade & Barrow.

"Our customers love our Nature's Grade produce. It's fresh, seasonal, locally grown and arrives on their doorstep, direct from farms, at a fraction of the regular cost.

"Our farmers are getting a fair price for their whole crop so we are helping them to stay on their land and reduce unnecessary waste."

Chris Hamburger, the head chef at Collingwood cafe Proud Mary is one particularly happy customer. "The range is always seasonal and that is exactly how it should be and how we should be cooking, when produce it at its best, most available and cheapest.

"We have to learn to value what fresh produce should really be like and that means it comes in all shapes and sizes," he said.

"Having an edge as far as sustainability is concerned, as well as a great connection to the farmer through Spade & Barrow, gives us a sense of what is really happening in the farming community."

Spade & Barrow


Table Talk spring 2013
Spade & Barrow is an innovative social business, revolutionising the way commercial kitchens procure fresh produce. In partnership with Aussie Farmers Direct, they shorten the supply chain by purchasing produce direct from farmers and delivering it fresh to their customers. Advocating for a direct plough approach where farmers are able to harvest their entire crop irrespective of size and shape, results in fresh, locally grown produce delivered directly to the customer.

They're innovative approach is not only good for the environment, but also for their customers who are saving up to 40% on their fruit & veggie bill since they switched suppliers.

Spade and Barrow carry great quality seasonal Australian produce, from everyday staples to micro herbs and specialty items. They deliver 6 days a week to restaurants, caterers, cafe's and commercial kitchens across Geelong and Melbourne, through their wholesale service. Call them on 03 8669 4950 or visit at the website www.spadeandbarrow.com.au for a price list.

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BACK TO THE GRASS ROOTS

Bill Henderson's farming property, Bonnie Doon, near Tylden in central Victoria, has been in the family for generations.
featured on: ABC rural
17 Feb 2014

"My grandparents it would have been, started growing spuds, not on this farm, actually it was up the road a bit in 1915, so we might be able to celebrate 100 years if we are lucky.

"And they've been growing them here since about 1918, and every year since then."

Traditionally, the area was a big potato growing region, with spud farms dotting the road between Tylden and nearby Trentham.

"You'd have to say it's almost finished now, there's only about, just a few families that even grow spuds at all."

Bill says if it weren't for his wife Jill's income from an off-farm job, he'd probably no longer be a potato farmer, that's because he doesn't produce enough potatoes to be able to secure a contract with a processor, like McCain, who he used to supply to.

"I will never get a contract with McCain again, because I'd be miles too small," Bill said.

"What we produced was fairly good quality and we had a fairly good name, I think we were reasonably trusted.

"They don't really want small growers, there's too many people to deal with."

After losing his contract with McCain, Bill sold his potatoes on the open market, with mixed success. Now he's been approached to supply directly to restaurants.

It's an initiative of Katy Barfield, who has started a business called Spade & Barrow, to work with growers and chefs to create a direct supply chain that gives farmers a fair return.

"We find farmers like Bill and we look at what produce they can't sell, then we work with chefs and we work with them to work through their needs, and then match them up with farmers and we handle all the logistics," Katy Barfield said.

Katy, who was the founding CEO of food charity SecondBite, which collects surplus fresh food and delivers it to people in need, is passionate about reducing food waste, as well as helping farmers stay on the land.

"If we can't continue this tradition of farming, if we can't protect our rich agricultural land, then where are we headed?"

Spade & Barrow won't grade the produce it sources from farmers. Instead, they'll take the entire crop, even smaller and oddly-shaped vegetables.

"That way we can really help farmers be viable, if they can get a fair price for their whole crop, as opposed to just 60 per cent of their crop."

She says the smaller and different shaped, or slightly blemished, fruit and vegetables often taste just as good.

"What we need to do is really re-educate and buy with our taste buds, not with our eyes."

Chef Matt Wilkinson, who owns a chain of Spud Bar restaurants, was among a group of chefs Spade & Barrow organised to visit Bill Henderson's farm to inspect his potato crop.

Matt Wilkinson is hoping Bill may be able to supply potatoes for the Spud Bar chain, which uses more than three tonnes of spuds each week.

He says it's important to use locally sourced produce, and create ongoing relationships with farmers.

"It's about knowing the product you are selling, it's about coming out here and asking questions and learning and just listening."

After establishing supply contracts for farmers in Victoria, Katy hopes to expand into other states, as well as beyond the restaurant trade.

"One of the key markets we want to penetrate is the public sector.

"I personally believe that, wherever the public purse is open, it should be money spent on Australian produce, not imports. I'm talking about prisons, hospitals, schools, army bases, etc."

From farm to fork
Social enterprise Spade and Barrow is helping growers at the farmgate, where it counts.

featured on: Good Food
11 March 2014

Roslyn Grundy
Potatoes grow easily in the fertile red volcanic soil around Trentham, Daylesford and Ballarat. The problem is selling them.

Bill Henderson's family has been farming the gently undulating property at Tylden in central Victoria for three generations - but he says the number of spud farmers in his district has dwindled to a few.

"It doesn't matter whether it's spuds or practically any kind of farming that you do, you can't really make any money out of it." Since 2012, when frozen foods giant McCain Foods dropped Henderson's contract, he's been forced to sell his crop on the open market. It hasn't been easy.

But the arrival of Spade & Barrow may offer some hope.

Founded by charismatic Englishwoman Katy Barfield in November 2012, the social enterprise aims to keep family farmers on their land by buying produce direct at a fair price and selling to businesses at less than wholesale.

The same week news broke that the federal government had decided not to offer a lifeline to Shepparton cannery SPC Ardmona, Barfield visited Goulburn Valley growers to see whether Spade & Barrow could help.

So far, about 100 schools, kindergartens, restaurants and bars have signed up - among them Iberian-inspired bar-restaurant Bomba, social enterprise food business StrEAT and St Ali, with cafes in South Melbourne and Carlton North. Most have learnt of it by word of mouth.

Bomba chef Andrew Fisk gets most of his fresh produce through Spade & Barrow - staples such as onions, garlic and carrots, and seasonal fruit such as stone fruit, apples and pears.

"I think it's really important to look after the local farmers," he says. "It reduces food miles so we're not wasting a lot of money on transport; the farmers get a fair price, we get a better price and the customer gets a product that's fresh and local … It makes sense on a heap of levels."

Having already established food rescue group SecondBite, Barfield is acutely aware of the issue of food waste. Supermarket buyers, who control up to 60 per cent of Australia's fresh food market, reject more than 320,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables every year because they're too big, too small, misshapen or the wrong colour. Spade & Barrow buys fruit and vegetables of all shapes and sizes, which it sells under the name Nature's Grade, reasoning "not every carrot can be a supermodel".

Rob Auger, food services manager at StrEAT, says if they're making cauliflower and cheese croquettes, it doesn't matter whether some of the caulis start off 150 grams smaller than regular supermarket specimens - they're going to be cut up anyway.

Barfield has bold plans for Spade & Barrow. Eventually, she hopes to supply Australian-grown produce to prisons, hospitals and other institutions funded by the public purse, replicating the business model in other states.

But her aim isn't simply to run an all-Australian wholesale fruit and veg business. "We want to disrupt the food system because it's broken. We want to do that by offering farmers a fair farmgate price for the majority of their crop, not just for the 60 per cent of their crop that looks aesthetically perfect."

Founder Katy Barfield Talking 'Curly Capsicums' With Peter & Kate - 3AW's Breakfast Show.


featured on: 3AW's Breakfast Show
17th April, 2014

We're calling out to all commercial kitchens to register with us to embrace the curly cucumber, the wonky carrot and the 'not quite perfect pink' apple and in doing so support Australian Farmers to stay on their land!

Spade & Barrow: The Crops Left Behind

featured on: Broadsheet
03 June 2014

Miriam Kauppi
Not every carrot can be a supermodel,” Katy Barfield has said. And although at first this seems a wacky thing to say, after talking to Barfield at duNord, one of the restaurants her produce company Spade & Barrow supplies for an hour or so, I understand completely what she means.

Barfield was the founding CEO of Second Bite, a food rescue organisation that takes food bound for landfill from the Prahran Market and restaurants around Melbourne to Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda. It is then made into meals for those in need of a feed. This year Second Bite will collect and redistribute five million kilograms of fresh food – approximately 10 million meals.

Often the fruit and veg left behind at the market is the wonky carrots and curly capsicums. Through Second Bite Barfield met farmers who also had trouble selling produce that wasn’t aesthetically perfect, but which tasted exactly as good veg should. She realised farmers were often forced to sell their crops for a pittance and chucked out what wasn’t accepted by big food wholesalers and supermarkets. “I was meeting more and more people who couldn’t afford to put good quality, fresh food on the table. And farmers who were saying: ‘We’re about to lose our farms. We are about to receive food relief ourselves’,” says Barfield. That’s when the idea for Spade & Barrow clicked. “I thought, there is a real inconsistency here. There’s something not working in our food system.”

To Barfield it is a simple, common sense proposition: pay Australian farmers a fair, transparent price for their produce. Buy it from them direct and sell it on to the hospitality industry. Avoid wasting perfectly good – if crazy-looking – produce by selling it to chefs who know it cannot be judged on its looks alone. And most importantly, connect the growers with food consumers.

“Chefs tell me they want to meet the farmer, pick the region and keep it local,” says Barfield. These chefs include Matt Wilkinson (Pope Joan, Spud Bar) and Guy Grossi (Grossi Florentino, Ombra). Cafes and restaurants currently supplied by Spade & Barrow include Arcadia Cafe, Charlie Dumpling, Chew Burger, Feast of Merit, Kinfolk, St ALi, STREAT, Tivoli Road Bakery and many more.

Forty per cent of any crop does not meet the aesthetic standards retailers and wholesalers demand. Barfield cuts out wholesalers who import what’s cheap, and perfect looking rather than what’s Australian and fresh. She can give chefs a better price because with Spade & Barrow there is no double handing as there often is in the complicated, veiled wholesale system.

Matti Fallon is the head chef at CBD Scandinavian eatery duNord. He heard about Spade & Barrow from Andrew Fisk of Bomba Bar. “He told me what they’re all about and it’s exactly what we’re about,” says Fallon. He accepted Spade & Barrow’s invitation to spend a day at a potato farm in Trentham run by Bill Henderson, one of Spade & Barrow’s producers. He and other chefs from Melbourne met Mr Henderson and learned all there is to know about growing potatoes. “That trip sold us on Spade & Barrow,” says Fallon. “I don’t have to worry about the middle man being devious, which happens all too often. It’s important to know there is some one at the end of the road where the food is coming from.”

The coffee and chocolate market has had its practices questioned in the past. They answered with the fairtrade certification. Barfield believes the tide is turning on fresh produce, meat and dairy products in the same way. “If consumers know the cost of them buying an imported, perfect-looking orange over a home-grown, local orange is an Australian farmer going out of business, then they can make that decision for themselves,” says Barfield.

Spade & Barrow releases a price list every week and itemises all the costs involved in shipping, washing, packing and distribution. It also lists exactly from where produce has been bought: the region and the name of the farmer. If Spade & Barrow need to buy it wholesale from the Melbourne Market in order to provide chefs with what they need, it will always be from an Australian producer and this will also be listed.

For Barfield, this is how you insert fairness back into the food system. “If everyone knows what everyone is being paid, and what the costs are along the way, the consumer will choose wisely. They can’t do that at the moment, they don’t have a clue.”

The other reason for this not-for-profit organisation’s transparency is to stick it to those who continue to do business any other way. “I want to sell and buy produce at a fair price and show how I do that and stay viable,” says Barfield. “To prove we can be viable and pay people good wages. To say: there is no excuse not to do business ethically.

Not every carrot can be a supermodel | Katy Barfield | TEDxCanberra
featured on: TEDxCanberra
11 Oct 2014

This talk was given at a local TEDx event where Katy Barfield challenges the prevailing food system which is driving farmers off their land and into bankruptcy. So much of their agricultural produce is 'not pretty enough' for supermarket shelves and goes to waste. Katy proposes a new transparent business model which gives consumers the opportunity to choose 'nature's grade'.

Katy was CEO of food rescue organisation SecondBite which under her leadership experienced intense growth and expansion from Victoria to efforts nationally – distributing over six million kilos of fresh food to 800+ community organisations. Whilst at SecondBite, Katy witnessed the struggles facing our farming community and shocked to learn that farmers were moving off their land in droves unable to remain viable. In 2013 Katy established Spade & Barrow with a mission to keep Australian farmers on their land by paying a fair price for their produce, purchasing produce in all shapes and sizes and distributing it directly to commercial kitchens. In just one year the organisation has grown to include over 150 regular customers, with iconic accounts such as Portsea Hotel, Grossi Florentino and Salsa’s in the portfolio.