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5 Inspirational Women in Sustainable Food

This September, award winning food journalist and BBC presenter Sheila Dillon will take to the stage at Abergavenny’s Borough Theatre for a look back at the changing role of women in food over the last century. As part of the Abergavenny Food Festival, Sheila will be joined by some incredible women for 100 Years of Women in Food. Triodos Bank is proud to be a sponsor of the Festival, and to celebrate we’re shining the spotlight on five of our favourite inspirational women in sustainable food.

5 Inspirational Women in Sustainable Food - Helen Browning, chief executive, Soil Association

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.”

5 Inspirational Women in Sustainable Food - Ruth Anslow, co-founder of Hisbe FoodRuth Anslow – social entrepreneur and co-founder, HISBE Food

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.

Kalpna WoolfKalpna Woolf – business leader and award-winning food writer

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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Why We Support Sustainable Food | The Colour Of Money | Triodos Bank 2 years ago

[…] 5 women in sustainable food […]

sheila Blethyn 2 years ago

You have missed Christine of Christine,s Sustainable Supermarket Bradford on Avon Wiltshire

Reply to sheila Blethyn
Janie Prince 2 years ago

I would like to suggest jyoti fernandes of 5penny farm , wootton fiTzpaine, and the land workers alliance. She is a bionic campaigner for small holders, and food producers, helping them with planning issues and now campaigning for a better deal around Brexit. At the same time she produces milk, makes cheese, caters for events. A total inspiratiion!

John Drowley 2 years ago

I’d like to suggest you include Joy Carey in your list of Inspirational Women in Sustainable Food. Joy is an independent consultant in food systems planning and author of “Who Feeds Bristol? – towards a resilient food plan.” Her website is at http://www.joycarey.co.uk with more information about her contribution to Sustainable Food.

stephanie harrison 2 years ago

i’m thinking of my daughters plum and vanilla who started the plumvanilla cafe in narberth pembrokeshire 8 years ago, and now a deli next door is 2years old..they provide as much organic local food as they can source, and feed people who have endless dietary requirements. they employ 10 women and some teenagers. we have an enormous amount of fun and joy in our work..fantastic salads, soups, pates..you must come and look!vegetarians and vegans have lots of choices and meat eaters can find one or two things too!

Joanna Poulton 2 years ago

Sadbh Moore co-founder of ‘The Sustainable Food Story’

Fran Bernhardt 2 years ago

Great list but you need to include Sarah Bentley, the founder of Made in Hackney – the UK’s only eco-community kitchen and cookery school!

Kath Dalmeny 2 years ago

These five are wonderful. There are so very many more. How’s’about:
Alison Swan Parente – School of Artisan Foods – cultivator of all things quality – skills, food, flavour
Victoria Williams, Food Matters, doing great work to improve food skills in prisons
Dee Woods, champion of all food things fair, accessible, diverse and wonderful
Hazel Gowland, who has fought for years to help people with seriously allergies to eat well and with confidence
Rosie Boycott, previously London Food Tsar, now taking food policy into the House of Lords
Orla Delargy, who played a pivotal role in saving Free School Meals from the government chop
Sandra Passmore, who worked so hard to established school food standards, even before it was a “thing”
Stephanie Wood, School Food Matters, helping children enjoy great food and pushing up the standards
Jeanette Orrey, Food for Life – school food champion – making school dinners delicious and sustainable
Jo Lewis, Food for Life – brilliant campaigner and food policy strategist
Vicki Hird, Sustainable Farming campaigner and policy specialist extraordinaire
Ruth Westcott, valiant and determined sustainable fish campaigner
Katherine Button, spearheading the campaign for better hospital food
Sarah Williams and Janelle Conn, helping over 100,000 Londoners as part of Capital Growth to have access to community food growing spaces
Maria Deveraux, who has kept alive the flame of food growing being put ‘on prescription’ by GPs
Patti Rundall and Dr Helen Crawley, who would defend breastfeeding to their dying breath
Tilly Jarvis, who so delightfully and supportively helps students to start good food enterprises
Maddie Guerlain and Lailah Nesbitt-Ahmed, improving access to good food for people living on a low income
Jyoti Fernandez and Bea Laughton, tenacious champions of small-scale and agro-ecological farming
Julie Riehl, running a training allotment in Regent’s Park, cultivating people as well as food
Kawther Hashem and Katharine Jenner at Consensus Action on Salt, Sugar and Health, tirelessly working to combat junk food and promote healthier diets
Ruth West, Clare Horrell and Pippa Wood, who patiently support smaller farmers to keep their businesses going
Gillian Morgan, who has single-handedly kept food on the national planning policy agenda, where it needs to be
Barbara Crowther, Corinna Hawkes, Modi Mwatsama and Jane Landon, who have done so much to keep junk food marketing in its proper place (i.e. restricted)
Sue Clifford, who invented Apple Day and makes food and place so important
Maresa Bossano, who helps communities set up and run CSAs – Community Supported Agriculture
Clare Oxborrow, dedicated campaigner for Friends of the Earth’s sustainable food programme
Carina Millstone, heading up Feedback’s global campaign against scandalous food waste
Jean Blaylock, valiantly bringing everyday food and human concerns to otherwise-obscure, anti-democratic and exclusive international trade and other negotiations
Amy Mount, stepping up like no other to field farming and environmental concerns, on behalf of the broad environmental movement, as part of Greener UK
Caroline Drummond, persevering in the effort to shift mainstream farming to more sustainable practices
Joanne Cherry, co-champion of no-till agriculture and restoring our precious soil
Ellie Kontorravdis and Imogen Richmond-Bishop, champions of the Right to Food, that would allocate legal responsibilities to ensure that 8.4 million of our fellow citizens no longer go hungry
Fidelity Weston, passionate advocate of pasture-fed livestock
Sara Jayne Stanes, who never gives up in her mission to see children learn about and appreciate good food and cooking skills, and taking up cheffing as a profession
Helen Woodcock, local food hero, running a land army for food growing in and around Manchester
Shirley Cramer, working to making healthy food the norm everywhere, for everyone
Emma Hockridge, Laura Mackenzie and so many more at the Soil Association, dedicated to improving food and farming
Fiona Gooch at Traidcraft, tireless champion of fairness in global food supply chains
Felicity Lawrence of the Guardian, putting herself on the line again and again to reveal the parlous working conditions and sometimes modern slavery in many supermarket food supply chains
Bridget Henderson, patiently and diligently working behind the scenes to improve pay and working conditions for tens of thousands of food and farming workers
Sue Davies of Which? (Consumers Association), who will rarely get a bong for the expertise and care she puts in to defending consumers’ food rights, but she really should
Sofia Parente and Vera Zakharov, working fit to bust to support communities around the UK to go Sugar Smart
Sheila Dillon – patient listener, cultivator, broadcaster, good food promoter, award-giver over so many years
Carolyn Steel, genius analysis of our food system, the state its in, and what we need to do about it
Sue Pritchard, valiantly coordinating the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission – working for a better vision for food and farming post-Brexit

…And so very very many more!! This is just rapidly and off the top of my head. You’re getting my point? The list should be very long, not just five, And there are many unsung superheroes – male and female – in the food movement. It’s so worth celebrating! Let’s do it more! We – and our male food friends – are the movement that can make the world well-fed, healthy, optimistic and enjoying our time together on this precious planet of ours.

Reply to Kath Dalmeny
Kath Dalmeny 2 years ago

And Julie Brown and the whole team at Growing Communities, social enterprise trading their way to saving the world, carrot by glorious organic carrot. And every single last darn one of the Better Food Traders network, following suit!

Reply to Kath Dalmeny
Rachel Harries 2 years ago

And you of course Kath, should be on that list too!

Reply to Kath Dalmeny
Katie Lloyd-Nunn 2 years ago

Wow that’s an amazing list!

Melanie Siggs 2 years ago

Missing – the phenomenal, humble, Caroline Bennett. She came back from Japan in the 1990s and set up the first conveyer-belt sushi restaurant in Britain. Japanese cuisine, of course, includes large amounts of fish, and it wasn’t long until Caroline became aware of environmental issues, starting with blue fin tuna. She became increasingly involved in food issues, and through Invest in Fish, a project that brought together stakeholders involved in fisheries in south-west England in an attempt to agree a long term solutions. For Caroline this has been part of a much wider practical initiative to reduce food miles within Moshi Moshi, work with seasonal foods, increase sustainability, introduce direct sourcing, increase links with local food producers and generally act as a responsible restaurant. Caroline is also a board member of Slow Food UK. Most recently she has set up an ethical fishmonger on Plymouth quay providing fish for fish boxes. Caroline breathes and quietly, strongly, actively, lives the business of sustainable food, leading by example

Reply to Melanie Siggs
Kath Dalmeny 2 years ago

Yes, yes, yes! Caroline Bennett! Duh, how could I forget. Passionate, principled, patient and persistent advocate of all things Pisces.

Reply to Kath Dalmeny
Tania Han 2 years ago

Another vote for Caroline Bennett for her work with Sole of Discretion and for patient perseverance, as mentioned above.

Ben Jarlett 2 years ago

I’d like to suggest Julie Brown of Loose Plastic Free shop in Stroud. She’s not famous or high flying, but she’s passionate and works tirelessly to make the shop work because she believes in it more than anything else. Do check her out!

Nick Morphet 2 years ago

Perhaps you should include Isabella Tree, one half of the couple who farm Knepp Castle in Sussex? She’s just written an inspiring article about sustainable farming for the Guardian, and is author of Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm

Susanna 2 years ago

What a list! Lots of others as the comments indicate including some with a UK-wide (and beyond) influence on consumer attitudes and trends in food. How good to know there are so many working in this direction

Gaina Dunsire 2 years ago

Kath Dalmeny – Chief Exec of Sustain – should definitely be on the list!

Reply to Gaina Dunsire
Tania Han 2 years ago

Another vote for Kath, who has recognised so many other women in her comment above but neglected to name herself!

Jamie Hartzell 2 years ago

Maybe Sophi Tranchell from Divine Chocolate?

Reply to Jamie Hartzell
Ffion Storer Jones 2 years ago

Agreed 🙂

Tessa Strickland 2 years ago

The five women you have featured all do fantastic work. What about Fiona Bird, in Scotland? She has devoted decades to campaigning for healthier diets and offering cookery lessons in schools across the UK. She’s the founder of Stirrin’ Stuff, which works to educate children about food, and the author of ‘Kids’ Kitchen’ and ‘The Forager’s Kitchen’. She deserves more recognition!

Bill van Marle 2 years ago

I think they are all fantastic, but I would have included Daphne Lambert of Greencuisine Trust, an educational charity which engages with individuals, organisations and communities in order to rethink food. Prior to starting Greencuisine, Daphne was the co-owner and chef at Penrhos Court, the first restaurant to be certified organic by the Soil association.

Katie Lloyd-Nunn 2 years ago

Suggestions to explore. Daphne Lambert of Trill Farm; Touchstone Collaborations; incredible Edible

Ffion Storer Jones 2 years ago

It’s great to see an article celebrating women in sustainable food, thank you! It would be great to see this done across more fields of sustainability, and beyond! In this particular article, it would have been great to see more women who have championed the social aspect of sustainable food, for example Harriet Lamb who was central to the growth of the Fairtrade movement in the UK, and Elen Jones who has campaigned tirelessly for Fair Trade in Wales.

Donald Pike 2 years ago

Who needs men?

Reply to Donald Pike
hcarr 2 years ago

Hi Donald, we definitely need men too 🙂

Sadhbh Moore 2 years ago

It’s a great initiative, and other names I’d like to add to the list are; Abi Aspen Glencross, Fran Bernhardt, Jessica Mahler and Giorgia Lauri.

Tania Han 2 years ago

Triodos, fab article and great to see the comments here. An idea: how about putting on a community event of Women in Sustainable Food? So many women working for the critical cause of ensuring one of our key needs of survival are met in the most ethical and responsible way.

Reply to Tania Han
hcarr 2 years ago

Hi Tania, good idea. We’ll have a think about this. Thanks, Hannah

What Does A Sustainable Food Industry Look Like In 2020? – The Everyday RealThe Everyday Real 8 months ago

[…] Helen Browning OBE – organic farmer and chief executive, Soil Association (UK) […]

What Does A Sustainable Food Industry Look Like In 2020? – theeverydayreal 4 months ago

[…] Helen Browning OBE – organic farmer and chief executive, Soil Association (UK) […]

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