The people of Stroud have shown new ways to bring food from the growers and farmers to the plates of the people who need it during the lockdown.

Many food producers have been hit hard by the closure of the hospitality market.

Cafes, hotels, pubs and restaurants had been buying large quantities of produce from local producers who suddenly found themselves with large quantities of unsold produce, and at the same time shoppers were facing food shortages in supermarkets and restrictions.

One of the answers has been online shopping.

The Stroud farmers’ market very quickly set up systems to take orders by Facebook, email and phone, passing on the orders to the stallholders and then arranging home delivery to shoppers.

The not-for-profit, online grocery, Stroudco brought forward its plans for a re-launch and is now taking a maximum of 50 orders every week from Stroud people wanting to buy from a growing range of local food producers offering vegetables, meat, dairy, bread, eggs, cakes, honey, beer and wine as well as a wide range of store cupboard items.

This was possible with the help of a team of locals who stepped forward as volunteers to help with a variety of tasks including uploading products onto the online shopfront, collecting produce from suppliers, sorting and delivering orders and planning delivery routes.

Many of the Stroudco suppliers are very small-scale. They include Rosie and Nell’s veg from the starter farm and even people selling bits of allotment surpluses and home-made produce.

The aim is to support lots of people to start producing food not only for their own consumption but to use the Stroudco food hub to make a small income through selling surpluses. In this way Stroudco aims to gradually build up a diverse network of small-scale food producers and build local food resilience making the Stroud District less dependent on imported food.

The Stroudco online shopfront is open to vulnerable shoppers from Saturday every week to give them priority access to limited-availability produce.

It then opens to the public from Sunday evening until early Wednesday each week.

When orders close, the totals are automatically emailed out to the local growers, farmers and other producers every Wednesday morning so that they have time to harvest and prepare the produce which Stroudco then delivers to homes around Stroud on a Friday. 

Other online shopfronts include the pop-up veg stalls that some very local communities are setting up. These include one on Bisley Road run by Carol Mathews. Carol was in touch with a couple of new start-up farmers called Rosie and Nell who have recently taken over the starter farm at Oakbrook Farm.

They were growing salad and veg for local cafes and restaurants. In the early days of the lockdown they urgently needed to harvest large quantities of salad and kale sprouts which would have been wasted if no market could have been found for them. So Carol set up a pop-up veg stall using an online shopfront to take payment for orders which she then left out for shoppers to pick up from her front yard. Rosie and Nell say it was a life-saver for their infant business at a very tricky time.

The pop-up veg stalls and Stroudco are using the Open Food Network (OFN) for their online shopfronts.

The Stroudco team heard about the Open Food Network and brought it to the UK in 2014. It has grown steadily across the country since then with 50 online shopfronts using it to sell produce from over 1,000 food and drink producers. In the last seven weeks, the turnover of OFN has increased by 850% as food producers and local food enterprises across the country suddenly realised the need to set up very short supply chains between the people who are growing, rearing and producing the food and the people who need to eat it.

Nick Weir who was part of the group which set up Stroudco in 2006 and later helped to set up Open Food Network UK said: “Stroud has such a strong track record of making things happen and finding better ways of doing things. It is very exciting to see how quickly our community has found ways to support our vulnerable people, keep our local food producers in business and build a local food system that is resilient not only to the challenges of a pandemic but flexible enough to adapt quickly to the other challenges our world is likely to be facing in the not far distant future."

To see the Stroudco website, go to or email for more information.