With the organic market continuing to grow, an Oxfordshire farmer with a background in programming is helping farmers take advantage of the opportunities on offer.

While the Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report 2024 revealed that the market is now in its 12th year of sustained growth and has reached £3.2 billion per annum, servicing the market is not always easy for smaller operators.

Organic veg boxes are increasingly popular, offering farmers an additional source of income and giving local people easy access to healthy sustainable food while supporting a local farm business, but setting up and running them takes expertise and time and can be hard to manage alongside vital farm work.

Oxfordshire-based business owner Steve Sidhu and organic grower and former engineer George Bennett found the process for setting up their own scheme was complicated, despite their backgrounds.

“We cobbled together a system with off-the-shelf software but found we had huge inefficiencies,” Steve said. “Given our experience, we were fairly confident that if we were having those issues then others would be, too.”

After looking at the cost of having an external website agency build something for them, they set up their own technology company called Growing Good in 2022 and developed a software platform which allows farmers to set up an online ordering system and get their business off the ground quickly and easily.

“The technology gap between big operators and small local growers is huge,” Steve said. “We’ve invested a lot of time and money into enabling anyone to use our software, regardless of whether they sell 10 or 10,000 veg boxes a week.”

He went on: “Farmers can build the site themselves. It’s really simple to use; they don’t have to be techy, pay developers or spend a huge amount of time on it and it provides a modern, online shopping experience for customers.”

Sandy Lane Farm, the Soil Association-certified organic farm in Oxford run by George, was the first to sign up, offering a variety of veg box sizes and options like fresh bread and eggs.

It exceeded George’s expectations. In the first year, his own veg box sales grew by 30%, without additional advertising and in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

The system allows George and his team to spend less time on admin and more time working on the farm – and he enjoys the added peace of mind of a regular income stream.

Now in their second year and having already attracted many clients through word of mouth, Growing Good is expanding and continuing to refine the product.

“We have been taking things slowly to truly understand the needs of our users and ensure they have the support required to get the most out of the platform.” Steve said. “With their help, the software is evolving to work for a wide range of users, which has resulted in us gaining interest from European growers ahead of schedule.

“That said, our focus for now is here in the UK, supporting local farmers – making healthy, organic food more accessible and affordable.

“Selling organic veg boxes might not change the world overnight, but it’s a great place to start.”

George Bennett and Steve Sidh

For more like this, sign up for the FREE South East Farmer e-newsletter here and receive all the latest farming news, reviews and insight straight to your inbox.