How to turn a standard white van into a local veg shop on wheels? First, choose your van (see last week’s chronicle). Then, scour the country for someone who’s done it before and, if possible, done it brilliantly. Step forward Love Local Food in Exeter, who are arguably the trendsetters in contemporary mobile greengrocery.
Jo and Kevin of Love Local Food were kind enough to spend several days sharing their insights back in March as part of the original research for the VegVan. As well as visiting their suppliers Shillingford Organics and spending a day with Andy Bragg and volunteers at West Town Farm, every aspect of the LLF van was inspected in some detail, from fridge placement to flooring type. My photo collection from the trip consists mostly of close-ups of power invertors and plywood panels.
A shameless copy it certainly ain’t, but we do owe a great debt to LLF, and you will see a number of similarities in the setup of our respective vans, as well as a few differences based on their advice. One of the most significant differences is the placement of the cash desk – instead of placing the desk halfway down the van, we’ve created a larger work surface at the back with plenty of space for bagging and weighing. We’ve put in a glass-fronted fridge instead of a conventional one, and squeezed in a greater area of shelving. We’ve also accommodated some re-used apple crates from the 1950s as part of the decor.
However, the individual genius of the Cultivate van comes from our carpenters Peter and Martin, the Cheerful Chippies, who worked on it for 3 days solid from their workshop in a farmyard outside of Abingdon. Rather than drawing up precise plans before the job, they worked to a rough concept, with us on site to make decisions according to how the space was evolving. This allowed for some last minute additions and artistic flourishes of the jig saw that will make a big difference to the overall feel of the shop.
The glamorous grass green safety flooring is made of roll-end offcuts from Kennington Flooring, who were generous with their advice to novice DIY floor-layers. The vast majority of the plywood and timber battening for the project was sourced from Oxford Wood Recycling, a social enterprise that conserves resources by reusing wood that would otherwise go to landfill. Our wood had a whole previous life in a hospital building and a University! Check out OWR here.