12 ISSUES FOR £24 Subscribe to Yorkshire Life today click here

How the Halifax Food Assembly is revolutionising the market place

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:40 04 April 2017

Aine Douglas of Incredible Aquagarden  and Mandy Wilson of Dolcie Biscotti get ready for the tasting

Aine Douglas of Incredible Aquagarden and Mandy Wilson of Dolcie Biscotti get ready for the tasting


Artisan producers in Halifax join forces for an innovative click-and-collect food market

Kirstie Crossley (left) and Lynnette Miller of Oat Cuisine with Carol Longbottom (centre) get ready to welcome customers to the tastingKirstie Crossley (left) and Lynnette Miller of Oat Cuisine with Carol Longbottom (centre) get ready to welcome customers to the tasting

All Saints Parish Hall in Skircoat Green is a hive of activity. It’s buzzing with local food producers selling their wares. Tables are laden with cool mint halloumi, labneh, rarebreed sausages, raw milk, duck eggs, spelt bread, focaccia, oak-smoked chicken, kiln-roasted salmon and all manner of other delicious delicacies.

Unfortunately, despite all the buzzing in the hive, no one is selling honey. But, surely, that can only be a matter of time?

‘I’d love it if we could get a honey producer on board,’ said Carol Longbottom, who set up Halifax Food Assembly last summer. ‘Yogurt would be great as well. And Ice cream. I’d really, really like someone to come in with ice cream.’

The aim of the assembly is to give members, who can join for free, the chance to fill their online shopping basket with local produce and then pick it all up at the same time – 4.15-6.15pm every Wednesday at the parish hall.

It’s convenient, because they don’t have to trail round the producers individually or wait for the monthly farmers’ market; it’s good for the environment, because the food is travelling, on average, less than six miles and is collectable from a single, accessible hub; it’s budget-friendly, because there’s no middle-man to pay or fancy shop to fund; and it’s good for producers, because they get guaranteed sales and can pocket more than 80 per cent of the listed price.

Rachel Berry of Rachals Kitchen with chocolate brownies prepared for the Halifax Food Assembly food tasting held at  All Saints Parish Hall, Halifax Photo: Lorne Campbell / GuzelianRachel Berry of Rachals Kitchen with chocolate brownies prepared for the Halifax Food Assembly food tasting held at All Saints Parish Hall, Halifax Photo: Lorne Campbell / Guzelian

‘The concept is very simple and everyone’s a winner,’ said Carol. ‘Members can shop online for their weekly food groceries, choosing from a wide range of fresh and seasonal local produce, such as fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese, meat and so on.

‘It doesn’t cost anything to become a member and it’s up to you how much you buy and how often. As a member all you have to do is shop in the comfort of your own home and pop along to your weekly collection. Easy.’

Halifax Food Assembly now has around 600 members (a number that’s steadily increasing by one or two every day) and 15 food producers, including Yorkshire Dama Cheese, Your Secret Gourmet, Pextenement Cheese, Porcus, Lovebread, Chapelbank Smokehouse, KLS Farm Meats and Heritage House.

Each producer lists the products they have available at thefoodassembly.com (on the Halifax page), customers can order up to midnight on Monday and their shopping is delivered to the parish hall, next to Calderdale Royal Hospital, on Wednesday.

‘It combines the convenience of internet shopping with the satisfaction of meeting the people who actually produce the food,’ said Carol, a freelance journalist and food enthusiast who was inspired to set up the assembly while researching food security issues for her PhD.

‘This is the 21st century solution to sourcing the very best local food, grown or bred sustainably, by people in this area. And it’s also a great opportunity for people who are keen to chat to our producers about their products; the meat they’ve farmed, the cheese they’ve made, the milk from their cows only three miles down the road.

‘Our producers are really local, travelling on average just 5.2 miles to reach the venue. Derek from Heritage Kitchen travels the furthest – and that’s only 14 miles.’

All credit must go to Carol for the success and smooth-running of the food assembly. She gets 8.35 per cent commission on each sale, but this is hardly a king’s ransom when you consider the hours she puts in every week, the emails she answers, the queries she sorts out, the paperwork she organises, the social media buzz she generates and the publicity she garners to keep the producers and the customers coming. Oh, and she also has to pay for the parish hall.

A further 8.35 per cent goes to the UK Food Assembly HQ in London, where the scheme was launched in July 2014 with the aim of ‘enabling the general public to purchase high quality food while supporting small-scale producers, who create jobs and foster social wellbeing’.

There are now 82 food assemblies fully open or under construction across the country. In Yorkshire, Halifax is currently the only operational group, but two others are on their way in York and Sheffield.

Internationally, there are around 1,200 food assemblies, the vast majority of which are in France where, like so many great foodie ideas, it all began.

The French call their version of the scheme ‘La Ruche qui dit Oui!’, which translates rather marvellously as ‘The hive that says yes!’.

Every food assembly, whether in France, Italy, Denmark or Halifax, is an independent, local project, but each remains rooted in the national and international collective.

It feels like a simple solution to the foodie conundrum of how to shop locally without spending too much precious time and money. So, why doesn’t every town have its own food assembly?

‘You need someone willing to take it on,’ said Carol. ‘You can’t run these things by committee because nothing would ever get done, so you need someone passionate and committed at the helm. It’s not easy but, honestly, I absolutely love it. I get a real buzz out of it.’

To find out more about Halifax Food Assembly, and for details of how to set up your own, visit thefoodassembly.com

More from Food & Drink


So when are you going to write a book? It was a question that at first just made Martin and Jill Fish smile because they hadn’t given the idea much thought, if at all. ‘But so many people kept asking,’ says Martin, flicking through the newly published Gardening on the Menu, written with his wife Jill. His mind is already on volume two.

It was an obvious thing to do together. Martin is a professional horticulturalist, garden writer and broadcaster. Jill, a former infant teacher, is a cookery writer who loves to make the most of the fruit and vegetables they grow in their North Yorkshire garden.

Everything was at their green fingertips – Martin’s many years of writing about practical gardening and Jill’s cookery writing plus her collection of family recipes all quite naturally came together over one winter. ‘There were times when we did wonder what on earth we had taken on. It was quite intense but it was a case of just getting on with it,’ says Jill.

The 300-page book is a practical guide to more than 25 different fruits and vegetables Martin and Jill have enjoyed growing in their three quarter-acre garden and eating as a family over many years and still do today. Some are eaten fresh and others stored or preserved. Martin includes easy-to-follow advice with tips on getting the best from your crops and there are 100 recipes from Jill, including the toffee apple pie that launched her cookery writing career 10 years ago.

Ask Martin about growing organically and he will not lecture. ‘I would never tell anyone what to do. I will only pass on what I know works really well.’ He uses as few chemicals as possible and his growing tips throughout the book reflect good practice and common sense that help to keep soil and plants healthy.

Gardening expert Carol Klein explains what makes Gardening on the Menu different to every other grow and eat guide. In the book’s foreword she writes: ‘Good gardening and good cooking should not be slaves to fashion, they rise above trendiness and though Martin and Jill’s book is bang up to date, the quality of their knowledge and their ability to transmit it will be relevant indefinitely. You’ll read these pages and think just as I have: “Thanks Martin. That’s a better way to do that. I’m going to do it like that in future…and thanks Jill. I can’t wait to taste that!”’

There’s a chance to visit Thornycroft, the Fish family garden on July 23rd when it is open to the public from 11am-4pm as part of the National Open Garden Scheme. Martin will be there to answer your gardening questions. Other visits by appointment can be made too. Visit martinfish.com for more information.

Read more
Friday, June 23, 2017

We search for the finest talent in Yorkshire’s food, drink and hospitality industries.

Read more
Friday, June 23, 2017

Usually more ‘D’oh!’ than dough in the Yorkshire Life test kitchen, Jo Haywood attempts perfect pizza.

Read more
Sunday, June 18, 2017

Speak-easy style bar joins the growing number of businesses investing in Hull’s regeneration.

Read more
Hull Pubs and Bars
Friday, June 16, 2017

Rudding Park development chef, Matthew Wilkinson, is responsible for the menu for the Yorkshire Life Food & Drink Awards 2017. He tells us about his typical day.

Read more
Rudding Park
Monday, June 12, 2017

York is one of the most visited locations in the UK, afternoon tea should be on the itinery of every one who visits the city,

Read more
Afternoon Tea York
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Don’t forget to pick up some fresh kippers the next time you’re in Whitby.

Read more
Yorkshire Food Whitby
Sunday, June 4, 2017

Guests join us for lunch at a West Yorkshire restaurant where 3+1+5 equals quality modern cuisine in a stylish setting.

Read more
Yorkshire Life Luncheon Huddersfield
Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Another new opening in Harrogate that promises something different.

Read more
Harrogate Pubs and Bars Cocktails
Monday, May 29, 2017

Experience a truly unique shopping experience at one of Yorkshire’s leading family-owned food and drink stores.

Read more
Thursday, May 25, 2017

You don’t have to forage far to find delicious seashore greens on the Yorkshire coast, as Jo Haywood discovers.

Read more
Coastal Yorkshire Yorkshire Food
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Don’t know the difference between a dessert spoon and a tablespoon? There is hope for us all, as Jeannie Swales discovers.

Read more
Yorkshire Wolds
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It’s been just over two years since the Fusco family business earned the title of UK’s number one fish and chip restaurant and takeaway. Esther Leach makes a return visit to the Quayside, Whitby to find out what happened next.

Read more
Coastal Yorkshire Yorkshire Food Whitby
Monday, May 22, 2017

There is very warm welcome to be had at The Bay Horse, Burythopre and The Goodmanham Arms, Goodmanham both of which are run by Vito & Abbie Logozzi and are arguably two of the best country pubs around...

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Yorkshire Life Application Link

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Yorkshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search