Julie and Ian Dennis, co-founders of South Devon Food Hub [Emily Fleur Photography]

South Devon Food Hub launches to support region's food and drink producers

Emilie Morris
Authored by Emilie Morris
Posted: Thursday, August 24, 2023 - 07:15

Founded by farmers with a strong sustainability and regenerative commitment, the new South Devon Food Hub has just launched. 

Located near the River Dart in the beautiful rolling hills of Longcombe Valley in the heart of South Devon, the new hub is specifically targeting small food and drink producers who are looking to scale up their businesses and have greater connections to a supportive community and network. 

The hub comes at a time when people are looking out for products which are locally sourced, with environmentally-friendly packaging and are sustainably and ethically produced. There has been a resurgence of interest in artisan food and drink, however, for the producers it is a time of a wide range of challenges. 

Commenting on the new South Devon Food Hub, co-founder Julie Dennis, says: “We are keen advocates of buying locally, both to support our local community and also to reduce our carbon footprint. In a discussion with Greg Parsons from Sharpham Cheese, who is also the chair of Food Drink Devon, the idea of an all-artisan local food producers’ ‘centre’ was suggested. Where better than on a commercial farm where some of the raw ingredients could also be grown?”  

Julie continues: “Initially we are simply providing a space where food and drink businesses can come together in a collaborative environment, enabling them to support each other, potentially share marketing, distribution and storage, so saving not only costs but improving business resilience in these uncertain times.  The possibilities are endless.  Fundamentally we are creating a community here, we have spoken to many small business owners who say they can feel quite isolated at times, so we feel there is a greater need for what we are trying to offer here.”

Adding to Julie’s comments, fellow co-founder Ian Dennis, says: “We are very excited about our future plans for the South Devon Food Hub.  As soon as we possibly can, we are hoping to provide a communal area to support the wider food and drink community.  The communal area will include offices, a space to hotdesk, a meeting and educational space, a commercial kitchen and micro-units for start-up businesses.”

Julie adds: “Ian and I are keen to work with children and young people to educate them about farming and the importance of local food production so we will be exploring this further, hopefully being able to show the younger generation how food is grown on a farm and how it is then turned into what they buy in the shop.  The hub’s communal space will also give them the opportunity to produce something edible on the farm where it was grown.”

Two local businesses, Devon Distillery and Orchard Drinks, have already moved into the hub. Both businesses are run by dynamic people who are well suited to the collaborative community to which they now belong.  Sharpham Cheese will be moving in during the early part of 2024 once their unit is fully operational. 

The hub is based on a working farm where the two main enterprises are beef and grain. The beef is sold in Waitrose & Partners and the grain is either used for animal feed, seed or porridge, with oilseed also being produced. A driving force behind creating the new hub has been for Julie and Ian to see businesses creating products from the local area, especially their own farm. Local food for local people!

To find out more about the South Devon Food Hub visit www.southdevonfoodhub.co.uk