Sam and I set up Shrub for a plethora of reasons really, but mainly all spawning from our love of good food. We both grew up in rural areas, both ate home cooked meals without fail every night and both ended up working in one form of the food industry or another. What was plainly obvious at the end of last year was that high quality produce wasn’t getting where it needed to go. The demand for seasonal, traceable, responsibly grown produce has surged since covid hit (though it was on its way up anyway). Here was a perfect opportunity to create a service with zero compromises, complete transparency, unmatched quality and also facilitate further growth of the small scale farming future. We like to think we’re the perfect solution to the small to medium size farmer and chefs.
There have been lots of challenges along the way, and as a small and very logistically heavy business, challenges occur daily. Starting a business during a global pandemic was one challenge which we tried to turn into a positive. Chefs had time off, meaning we had a lot of engagement and time for discussions that normally are just too much of a luxury either side of a busy service. We were a solution for many people just at the time they needed one.
The nature of the farms we work with means that they are very susceptible to climatic and natural influences. Particularly this year for example, when the winter and spring was unprecedentedly dry followed by extremely late frosts well into April. This is already the “hunger gap” season and the late winter prolonged this by another six weeks which has a knock on effect for the whole year. On smaller scales, we may order something and it doesn’t arrive due to last minute pest invasions, hail damage or some other miscellaneous act. We’re grateful our customers are so understanding and we are always sure to rectify any issues as best we can but we don’t want to rest on our laurels and be satisfied with an “is what it is” approach, that would be too convenient. We still wish to find that balance between exceptional and consistent produce as well as customer satisfaction. If good produce is a pain for people, they won’t buy it.
Shrub takes an incredible amount of effort to function on a daily basis. However there are lots of positives to running a high quality veg business, mainly, all the veg! It’s a great get out of jail free card when you’ve forgotten a mate's birthday and haven’t got them a present, everyone loves a veg box! It’s also lovely to be a part of the restaurant system. The kitchen and front of house teams treat us with incredible kindness and generosity and we honestly do feel like an extension of the team in many cases. Those relationships are priceless and we look forward to nurturing them for many years to come. Likewise with the farmers. They’re an eclectic and vibrant mix of people and we enjoy as much of their company as we can get a hold of. We can’t wait to start introducing the farmers and the chefs when we all have more time.
We’re in a time of great change at the moment and we definitely want to be further instigators and protagonists for the betterment of our environment and culture. There is no better way to do that than through food, in our opinion. While there is a lot of attention on sustainability particularly when it comes to food at the moment, what we see mostly is either just a lot of talking, or just a lot of greenwashing. One finds the greater the marketing budget the less integrity that company probably has. The buzzwords of the time, “Sustainable”, “Regenerative”, “Zero-Waste” or “Carbon-Offset” fuel new industries that manipulate and try to over simplify what are in fact very complex and institutionalised issues in our food systems. This is not how lasting changes are made. We need to reinvent our culture and reestablish what we understand as real food, where it comes from and how.
We’re ready to have the hard discussions and be a real arbiter for real food. We want to represent trust and high standards of ethical commerce, not just be on trend or in fashion. If we can build a thriving business based on these principles uncompromisingly, we can hopefully set an example for future businesses. It will encourage people to scrutinise their supply chain more too, which we wholesomely encourage!
We are quite philosophical about every single one of the mistakes that happen or challenges we have to overcome. The main sharp learning curve has been with each other, we didn’t know one another that well when we started the business and work was the main thing we had in common. Since working together intensely for the past ten months we’ve had to learn very quickly more about how the other works. Luckily, we both bring different elements to be business but have a very cohesive vision for our future. We are both obsessed with food and get along swimmingly. It’s our partners who have lost out in this whole thing as we’re rarely home!