Introducing our founder and director, Victoria Howe

“I had always wanted to run my own business, that in some small way made the world a better place, and that involved food,” Victoria Howe explains.

Victoria is the founder and director of The Farm Kitchen; sitting in The Farm Kitchen office, in the middle of Victoria’s family run farm in Ewerby Thorpe near Sleaford, we’re taking a moment to look back at how the business began and reflect on where we, as a business, are today.

“It was around the time Jamie Oliver was campaigning for better school meals, because they were so bad – remember turkey twizlers? The problem in Lincolnshire was made worse by the fact that many schools had lost their kitchens to IT suites.  This was my lightbulb moment,” she adds.

“I could pool all my skills, passion and food knowledge – cooking, food buying, nutrition – and cook healthy hot school meals for local children. I approached our first school in Ruskington and the business grew very quickly from there through word-of-mouth.”

That was back in 2006. The Farm Kitchen started with some 80 school meals and Victoria singlehandedly did all the cooking, ordering, delivering and washing. Luckily, things moved quite fast in that first year and within six months, she was supplying four schools with approximately 350 meals a day and was able to get some extra help.

Helping children thrive with healthy school meals

But while the business has grown – we now prepare, cook and deliver over 5500 school meals to 60 schools and nurseries fresh every day – the core belief has not changed.

“We set out with the driving force that good food has the power to change everything. And we stand by that as much today as we did then. We cook healthy hot school meals fresh every day because we know the difference this can make to a child’s health, development and ability to learn. We also want to encourage children to make good food choices now and in the future. It’s also important to us that our dishes are packed full of locally grown, locally sourced produce because we want to support our local economy and reduce our carbon footprint. These are all very conscious decisions for us.”

Victoria is very at home on her Lincolnshire farm, having grown up on her grandfather’s farm in Deeping St Nicholas. And it was those childhood days that very much paved the way for a life and career devoted to food, it fuelled her passion for everything to do with food, from farming to cooking. It was no surprise then, that Victoria studied Agricultural Economics at The University of Reading, alongside completing a Cordon Bleu Cookery Course. After this, she went on to work at Waitrose in their Meat and Dairy Buying department for four years before moving back to Lincolnshire.   

The joy of growing your own

Growing up on the family farm also meant Victoria enjoyed eating freshly cooked, family meals at home, often using vegetables her Mum had grown in the vegetable garden and that she and her sisters had helped grow and harvest.  

Because of this, she recognises the importance of having the chance to experience the joy of growing and then eating your own food. But understands that for many children that just hasn’t been possible. That’s why we send schools seeds and propagation packs, so that the children can then grow their own vegetables. We then buy back any produce they grow and add it to their school meals the next day.

“The children love seeing the journey from a tiny seed to a meal they can eat and it ignites that all important passion for good-for-you food. It also goes some way to help them reconnect with food and where it comes from – something I feel has been lost.”

And it’s this all important connection to food that makes the produce the Farm Kitchen use so important to Victoria and the team – we all really care about the ingredients we cook with. In season vegetables, for example, are more nutritious and taste better, so are much better for the children. But buying local also means supporting our local economy and is far more sustainable than flying something half way around the world. It’s a win win.

Sustainability: Their future in our hands

“Sustainability has to be core to the choices we all make personally and professionally – we have a duty to look after our planet for future generations. This is an ethos I feel very strongly about.”

Sustainability is one of the main drivers for our focus on local produce and as we supply only local schools our own delivery routes are kept short, keeping our carbon footprint down again. But we have a number of other ways in which we reduce our impact on the planet – our whole business model is based on reducing food waste, with parents ordering only the meals their children need. But we have also invested in reusable packaging and solar panels at our main kitchen and are constantly looking for ways to improve our approach.  

It is not enough for us to just prep and cook school meals. Everything we do is carefully thought about and each decision is a considered one. We feel that as a business we have an opportunity and responsibility to be the very best we can, so that we can inspire children to make good food choices for themselves and for the world around them, now and in the future.

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