At a time when everyone is paying greater attention to the sourcing and provenance of what they eat, it is very appropriate to be talking with Caroline Handley who has been a staunch advocate for fresh locally produced wholesome food for many years and who owns the shop Handley Organics in Ledbury’s Homend. Caroline says:
I became interested in the connection between food and health when I was diagnosed with cancer and my consultant advised me to eat an organic diet. I created a vegetable patch and started growing for friends and family. I became passionate about organic produce and the patch grew and grew. Eventually I decided to start a business from it and Handley Organics was born.
Today, 25 years on, the enterprise includes a 32-acre Soil Association-certified organic farm near Bromyard producing fruit and vegetables, a wholefood shop at 82 Homend and the more recently opened Apothecary. There is also a monthly stall at the Talbot Market in Knightwick and Caroline supplies local pubs and restaurants with seasonal fruit and vegetables. She is the main grower on the farm, supported by two full-time and one part-time members of staff. In the summer, she employs up to 40 fruit pickers.
Handley Organics aim is not just planting a few fruit and vegetables in a healthier way – it is more ‘global’ than that. For Caroline, growing organically is a way of protecting human health and the environment. She says:
I strongly believe that it’s not about making a premium, it’s about wildlife, protecting our ecosystems and providing people with safe, healthy food from a trustworthy source. We work tirelessly to produce excellent crops of exceptional quality vegetables – to do this properly is hard work. It’s not just a job; it’s a whole way of life.
I am a firm advocate of local sourcing and believe that shopping locally for fresher, healthier, less-travelled food supports our local producers and shop-keepers. Buying local organic food helps people reconnect with the land, the source of their food. When you eat with the seasons you can enjoy more unusual and traditional varieties and local specialties.
The benefits of buying local, organic food are:
- It’s good for the environment – less road and air transport, less packaging, less pollution and less waste.
- It’s good for the local economy – keeps money in the local area, creating jobs and businesses locally and giving farmers and growers a more economic return.
- It’s good for the community – making links between people in the urban area and the countryside.
- It’s good for your health – fresher food with improved nutrient levels, containing fewer contaminants.
I took a look around the shop at 82 The Homend, Ledbury. There is a wonderful array of vegetables supplied by Caroline and other organic growers. She also stocks a large range of wholefoods including tinned, jarred and pre-packed foods from Suma, Essential and Infinity together with a fantastic range of herbs and spices (fresh in season) sold loose or pre-packed. She keeps a range of teas and coffees from the best and most respected suppliers and baking products from the likes of Marriages and Doves Farm. There are tasty looking cakes and pastries from local producers and pre-packed bacon, gammon and mince from Cridlan & Walker, a prominent local organic meat producer. In the chiller units I discovered milk, local cheeses, butter, fresh yeast and many other choice products, some even handmade by Caroline. Loyalty Cards are now available from the shop which offers real savings in these challenging times.
Handley Organics used to stock a range of non-food products. Caroline had a dream of creating an ethical and organic shop selling everything from the very best in herbs and supplements through to natural remedies, organic and ethical products for hair and skin care, toiletries and make-up, essential oils for aromatherapy and massage and ethically sourced household products. In 2010 this dream was realised when she opened The Apothecary Shop, also in Ledbury’s Homend, providing a tranquil place where customers can source products and information about natural remedies and treatments for health and wellbeing. There is a cosy treatment room at the back which is used by local practitioners for a range of alternative therapies.
So whether you are looking for wonderful tasty, life giving local food or something to make you look or feel better, Handley Organics and The Apothecary have it covered for you on the High Street in Ledbury. Caroline says:
We see ourselves as trustees of the land and everything has to be taken into account – the wildlife, conservation, human values and an ethical business style.