Transition Town Totnes

Amount Given:

£105,830 over three years (grant made in 2016)


Innovation in alternative approaches

Holly - oats in field

Laurence Scott,

Grants Manager, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Totnes is recognised as a town where sustainability is a local priority. However, the local population spends £30 million on groceries each year, 70% of which was spent in supermarket chains that source globally. The work by Transition Towns Totnes aims to stimulate a shift in this spend, to locally grown food, accessed via independent retailers, which would substantially stimulate the local rural economy, encourage crop production for human consumption and create jobs, whilst offering a model that could be replicated elsewhere.   

We supported the work because it responds well to our Food funding priority in promoting sustainable production and consumption, and increases public engagement with the food system. It also responds to the Foundation's wider interest in ‘place’, and the development of social and economic resilience.

Holly Tiffen,

Manager, The Food Link Project



Transition Town Totnes

Grown in Totnes is all about increasing the range of local food available in the Totnes area, a small market town in South Devon. Our local farmers mainly produce meat and dairy. A group of us from Transition Town Totnes were interested in seeing if we could create a healthier, more climate-sensitive diet, by broadening the range to include staple, plant-based sources of protein, such as grains, peas and beans.  We interviewed lots of farmers and discovered that the majority were already growing a range of grains, including rye, barley oats, wheat and various legumes (pulses) to feed to their animals.  This discovery set us on a quest to discover if we could process these ingredients on a small scale and create a local market for them.  We were unaware of anyone else growing, processing and selling grains and pulses locally. We wanted to illustrate exactly where these foods had come from and ensure the farmers we were working with were being paid a fair price.

Funding has allowed us to make this vision a reality. We are currently working with three farmers to sell wheat that has a rich genetic diversity and therefore a greater ability to adapt to unpredictable weather patterns, as well as spelt, einkorn wheat, naked (without the husk) barley, naked oats, peas, lupins, lentils.

Mike Rogers,



Over the last four generations of farming here at Higher Farm, Beeson, near the South Devon coast, we have always been too small to compete conventionally and instead have depended on diversification. My grandfather was a carrier for Great Western Railway as well as a farmer, and my father developed a milk and vegetable round serving the local villages. Today we run 50 beef suckler cows and sell the meat to a local box scheme. We have been involved in environmental stewardship schemes, hosting school visits. The farm has been organic for the last 20 years.  

To grow healthy, niche cereal and legume crops for the local market is a natural progression for us.

Currently all our cereals are fed to the cattle. Over the last four years we have developed a three acre forest garden and trialled a variety of cereals and legumes on a small scale. Working with Grown in Totnes will allow us to scale up to grow some of these commercially. 

We have bought a small combine harvester and are working on a small grain drier. During the autumn we planted winter wheat, spelt and maslin. This spring we will be planting naked oats and einkorn and hopefully lentils and peas.