Helen Browning OBE – organic farmer and chief executive, Soil Association
Helen was championing organic long before it went mainstream, ever since taking over her family’s farm in her twenties. Three decades on and she hasn’t looked back. Helen continues to run Eastbrook, a 1,500 acre mixed-holding organic farm, and is passionate about providing her animals with the best life possible. Alongside her role as a farmer she is also Chief Executive of the Soil Association, the UK’s leading food and farming charity. Helen has also put her name to two local ventures just around the corner from her farm in Swindon – the Chop House and the Royal Oak, both of which serve down-to-earth organic food sourced straight from the farm.
Liz Haughton – owner, The Cooking Company
Liz cut her teeth in London’s food scene during the 1980s and 90s, working in kitchens from the trendy Groucho Club to the iconic River Cafe. Liz’s own catering business, The Cooking Company, was born when she took over the running of Bristol’s Folk House Café, now a certified organic cafe, in 2006. Her values are tight – the Folk House serves organic, locally sourced and sustainable food and Liz is a a strong believer in investing money back into the community. In 2015, Liz’s company won the bid to run Bristol’s Spike Island Café after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Liz attributes her success to her female mentors, saying, “Being a woman in the food industry has not presented many of the sexist challenges many face in the more traditional areas of catering because I was lucky enough to have a series of extremely strong female role models in the industry over the years, Ruth Rogers and Rose Grey being two of many. Bristol has no shortage of brilliant women in catering and I think using them as role models will help any young woman wanting to make her mark in the industry.”
Ruth is on a mission to revolutionise supermarkets by transforming them into fairer, more sustainable places to shop. Ruth and her sister Amy conceived the idea for HISBE – a radically different kind of supermarket. HISBE is more than just an independent supermarket, it’s a community initiative laden with values that stands up for ethical sourcing practices and makes good food accessible to people on average budgets – by putting happiness before profits. Brighton became home to the first HISBE in 2013, and Ruth has plans to expand and spark a national supermarket revolution – watch this space.
Geetie Singh-Watson MBE – organic entrepreneur, publican and restauranteur
Growing up in a commune in the Midlands, Geetie became well acquainted with self-sufficiency from a young age. Later in life she became inspired by the concept of the gastro pub and made it her mission to prove restaurants could be both sustainable and profitable. In 1998 when she took over London’s Duke of Cambridge in Islington, Britain’s first organic gastro pub was born. Geetie trades on good business ethics and the Duke serves up a menu of seasonal dishes packed with organic vegetables. Together with her husband, organic farmer and Riverford founder Guy Watson, she also owns Riverford’s award-winning organic Field Kitchen in Devon.
A former Head of Production for the BBC, Kalpna has founded her own media company, sat on the boards of charities and business partnerships and launched a programme to help organisations promote diversity at the highest levels. But alongside her business credentials, Kalpna has a passion for food and has been driven to share this passion with others. She has been at the helm of food festivals, judged food awards, and is the founder of 91 Ways to Build a Global City, a Bristol-based initiative bringing the city’s 91 language communities together by using food to tell the stories of their traditions and culture. Kalpna is also the author of Spice Yourself Slim, a best-selling book on food and health that draws on her childhood of healthy, flavourful Asian cooking.
Have we missed any inspirational women in sustainable food? Use the comments section below to let us know.
The Abergavenny Food Festival takes place 15th-16th September 2018. We’re proud to be sponsoring 100 Years of Women in Food on 15th September at 12:30 at Borough Theatre – get tickets for the event here. Come visit The Farmyard on 16th September at 13:00 for Resilient Farming in Volatile Times, a panel discussion with Triodos Bank’s own Simon Crichton. Want to know more about the food and farming businesses we support? Visit Triodos Bank’s stall in the Market Hall all weekend.
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