Your name and age and some background about you:
Ed Johnstone, 34. I was brought up in the countryside in Sussex and have always been very into good food, the outdoors, local farming, the importance of a local community spirit and – most importantly – the producers behind the food we eat. I’m a firm believer that it is the produce and producers that define it all.
What is your business called, where is it and when was it established?
The Sussex Peasant was established in 2017 and we now have 16 markets in and around Brighton and Hove. We pitch up to the same local communities on the same day each week selling from an old wooden panneled horsebox that we have converted into a mobile farm truck. Our markets now stretch from Kemp Town all the way to Arundel.
Tell us about the the produce you sell…
We solely sell what is farmed or produced in Sussex. Everything you buy from our trucks come from 30 miles of the market. Our aim is to rebuild the food system around a local farm network as we believe it is better for society in general: our health, our local communities and our local economies. We believe creating communities around a local farm network is a social and cultural glue.
From our trucks we sell Sussex-grown vegetables, meat, dairy, cheese, cakes, breads, pastries, jams, chutneys and much more. Our beef and lamb are 100% pasture fed, our chickens and pigs are free range and our game – in the season – is wild.
We also farm both traditional and native breeds to this area, for example Sussex Cattle from Michael and Jayne at Jacobs Ladder in Chelwood Gate. They are brilliant people, great farmers and guardians of their land, animals and local environment.
Our vegetables are organically grown without insecticides or pesticides and our harvested either one day or three days before you would buy them so all super fresh and packed with nutrients.
Our bread is from The Flint Owl Bakery in Glynde who use a local, stone-ground organic wheat.
This year we are also looking to launch our Sussex Peasant Fish Van at our markets. We will be working very closely with our good friends at Sea Haze – Jack and Neil – to help us provide fish caught from small day boats at our markets.
How many on your team and who are they?
We now have a team of twelve. So a small but hugely passionate team who pride ourselves in selling accessible local food that’s farmed well.
How did the idea for your business come about?
After some time travelling in Argentina, I realised they had a much closer relationship with food and their producers whereas in this country we were getting further and further away from the people who grow the produce that keeps us alive.
Supply chains were also getting more and more complicated to a point which defied common sense. As a result it had become harder and harder to buy local produce with complete transparency. We collect from Sussex farms and bring it to our market to sell – it’s as simple as that. You can trace all the food in our trucks to the field it was grown or farmed in.
How have you coped through the pandemic?
As a retailer of essential products we managed to stay open which was huge lifeline that we were very grateful for. We were also greatly supported as people looked to a local supply chain and also began to understand the importance of it. More people began to see our local farmers as an insurance policy once again. People also saw the benefits of shopping outdoors and the safety of that.
What are your plans for the future?
To continue our work in Brighton and Hove and the surrounding areas, seek to be better, bring more producers to our markets, do more work in the local community, working more closely with schools and foodbanks to highlight the importance of a local farm network to feed our villages, towns and cities.
We are very grateful for all our support to date and love working in the city and this county in general. It is a truly community-led initiative that we are proud of yet also realise the need to keep on improving and developing.
Weekly market days in Brighton and Hove:
St George’s Church, Kemp Town
St Ann’s Well Gardens, Hove
St Andrews Church, Hove
Queens Park, Brighton
Preston Park, Brighton
Hove Park, Hove
Upper Hamilton Road, Brighton
Stoneham Park, Hove
For complete weekly market dates across Sussex visit www.thesussexpeasant.co.uk