The Yorkshire village which raised £50,000 to set up its own community-owned greengrocers

A motion in community ownership has grown over time to save treasured assets from post offices to pubs.

Now in the Upper Colne Valley it's a fruit and veg seller that's changing perceptions.

The village of Marsden lost its greengrocers in 2018, so residents sold shares raising £50,000 to set up their own.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Owned by villagers and run by villagers, their personal investment means it's used much more, creating a thriving local food scene.

Becky Longmore is pictured at The Village Green greengrocers

Sheila Bates is one of the founder board members of the Marsden Grocery Community Benefit Society, which runs The Village Green.

She said: "What I love is the way Marsden has come together to support the community.

"We've always had a greengrocers, but we saw there was a chance it was going to stop. We felt it could work, as a community benefit.”

The closure of Marsden's last greengrocers had signalled the end of a time when the village had been self-sufficient.

Read More

Read More
Meet the Yorkshire sheepdog trainer who gave up a career in the fashion industry...

With footfall falling on the high street, more than 100 villagers had gathered in the old Mechanics Hall to see what could be done.

Marsden is no stranger to community ownership, with the hall the first to be taken on by village trusts, then a charity shop. This was aimed at spearheading a revival of Peel Street.

Steering groups formed a Community Benefit Society (CBS), with a local developer SB Homes stepping up to offer prime premises with a specially built cold store.

A community share issue raised £50,000 within a month, with 400 people - almost a tenth of the entire population of Marsden - joining. Cooperatives UK invested a further £6,000.

Now, the greengrocers is run with community aims. There are voucher schemes, with Kirklees Household Support, and work-experience projects with local secondary schools.

Under lockdown, veg box deliveries took off. The CBS led resilience efforts, recruiting volunteer drivers. Marsden Help was launched with Mikron Theatre, setting up a foodbank.

It's been an "extraordinary two years", board members said, in which they weren't sure the project would survive. Margins are tight, it's not easy to make profits on fruit and veg.

Board member Jeff Dunn believes were it run any other way, it might have come and gone. But it has survived the 'bumpy road' over lockdown because of that care and attention.

"Simply put, we are there to benefit every single person who lives in Marsden and beyond," he said. "And who knows, we might inspire the greengrocers of tomorrow."

That sense of community is there. Volunteer deliveries are by former headteacher Carmel Brophy. Every Saturday, home-made samosas and bhajis from Dabbawala Meals have become a routine. Somebody posts £10 through the letterbox each week.

Fellow board member Kath Shackleton said it's an "eclectic mix" of visitors, looking to buy fresh, affordable, locally sourced with fewer food miles - and with less plastic.

"It's somewhere you can buy just one carrot and just one potato, and we have people that do just that," she said. "Every single person that uses it is a part of its story.”

The Village Green has a focus on ethically sourced, local food, with 68 lines in addition to its organic produce and selling 22 different cheeses from Hilltop Cheese.

They stock Edibles goodies from West Slaithwaite, bread from Roger's bakery in the village, while refugees provide fresh produce from Growing Communities and honey from the Buzz Project.

Hummus comes from Katie's Homemade Kitchen, and she is also to host a cooking inspiration event at The Village Green on February 7, using a veg box of ingredients to cook up a feast. Booking is essential.