Hodmedod- not a word we hear everyday! It is an old East Anglian word meaning ‘round,’ or ‘curled up’, and was chosen by founders Nick Saltmarsh, Josiah Meldrum and William Hudson, as it represents their East Anglian roots and the idea of rebuilding our lost heritage to improve the future. It really is a perfect name for this company, who are successfully bringing less well-known beans and pulses, such as black badger peas, back into fashion.
Based in Suffolk, the Hodmedod’s team are innovating the agricultural system by co-producing with farmers and engaging with customers in new ways. They are improving how we grow our produce and challenging how and what we eat, integral parts to determining the health of the environment. Hodmedod’s sources and supplies top quality beans, grains and pulses from British farms working towards creating an agro-ecological model of production.
Hodmedod’s produce like the fava bean and black badger pea epitomises this idea of re-establishing our connection to the land, whilst showcasing that their produce can be both economically viable and enhance the health of the planet.
How does Hodmedod’s work?
Winners of BBC Radio 4’s Food and Farming Awards, Hodmedod’s is an agriculture initiative that works with both the farmer and the customer; helping to produce innovative produce with the farmer and directing sales to the customer. Seen as the ‘enablers’ in regenerative agriculture, Hodmedod’s co-produce with 25 farmers across the UK, working closely with them at every stage of the process – or season of the farming year.
Hodmedod’s works towards a system that is led by demand before supply. They work with farmers to grow particular varieties that focus primarily on the quality of flavour and agroecology improvements. Unlike in a conventional system, where the priority is to produce high yield over anything else, and where farmers have no control over what their harvest is worth, the farmers working with Hodmedod’s are given back the control, welcomed into the conversation to set a fair price for their work. For example, Hodmedod’s asks the farmers they work with for the invoice, and not the other way round which is often the case in conventional farming – something that many farmers initially had difficulty getting their heads around. One of the co-founders of Hodmedod’s, Josiah Meldrum even had to persuade one farmer why they justified more money than what they were invoicing!
Hodmedod’s also encourage the farmers they work with to sell their produce through other outlets. For example, one farmer working with Hodmedod’s was able to purchase a new stonemill, which has enabled him to sell flour direct to bakeries across the UK.
The success of Hodmedod’s has been founded on their ability to support innovation and create a transparent community. Hodmedod’s customers can connect with each farmer directly, whether they are small-scale farmers that have 20-30 acres or larger-scale farmers that have over 3000-acres. Many of the farmers working with Hodmedod’s actively share their regenerative methods of production for others to learn and be inspired.
“In the UK, there is a growing understanding of where our food is coming from, and it is networks like Pipers Farm, who are at the forefront of narrating those stories…”
Who does Hodmedod’s work with?
The first farmer Hodmedod’s worked with was Mark Lea from Green Acres Farm. Mark, alongside his wife, Liz, runs an organic mixed arable and sheep farm near Shifnal in Shropshire. Mark has been farming organically since 2000 and works to a five-year arable rotational system
Mark works to the idea that diversity is key to successful farming, which lends itself to their low-input, organic farming system. With the help of Hodmedod’s, Mark has been able to grow a number of crop varieties and develop the genetic diversity on the farm improving soil fertility and resilience to threats like extreme climate conditions and disease. This genetic diversity also means that his crops will be more successful in searching for nutrients in the soil and become more competitive against weeds. Mark now grows organic wheat, oats, clover-based leys, and native, ancient species like the Carlin Pea – a strain of the ancient European field pea – that is very popular with Hodmedod’s’ customers.
Mark says. “Hodmedod’s have offered me the opportunity and space to think differently about my farming system. And, even when challenges arise, they are there to support. They helped me trial and test new ways of working, from growing one species in a small patch to several species in a few acres – their help is invaluable!”
Alongside growing organic and ancient pea varieties, Green Acres Farm also grows an innovative ‘crowd’ of wheat called ‘ORC Wakelyns Population’, which is made from 190 crosses of 20 different heritage and modern species of wheat. The species-rich crop is found to be more resilient in drought or flooding, and has been shown to increase productivity. The premium price Mark gets for his crop has helped him to purchase a stonemill, allowing him to mill the farm’s own varieties of wheat on site and sell directly to customers.
Hodmedod’s helps the customer to understand where their food is coming from and how they can support those farmers working in harmony with the environment. Hodmedod’s was founded as they felt that policymakers weren’t moving fast enough. They hope with the work they are doing with both farmers and customers, policymakers will create a new mandate for a more regenerative approach towards food production in the UK, especially if we want to arrest the rapid decline in climate change.
You can view the range of Hodmedods grains and pulses.