A Food Made Good Success Story: Pythouse Kitchen Garden
Pythouse Kitchen Garden is an 18th century walled garden and restaurant located in South Wiltshire, England. The ethos here prioritises a sustainable approach to both gardening and cooking, combining produce from the Pythouse garden with ethically produced ingredients sourced from the wider community.
When Pythouse completed the Food Made Good Standard in 2023, this focus on sustainability was recognised with an outstanding three stars. We spoke to Piers Milburn, Director, about the work that earned them their stars, what the Food Made Good Standard means to their business and what’s next for Pythouse Kitchen Garden.
Building a sustainable operation
Sustainability lies at the core of how the team at Pythouse Kitchen Garden does business. The Pythouse Sustainability Statement 2023 states that they have made it their main objective since 2020 “to completely move away from food systems that damage the environment.” Piers Milburn, Director elaborates. “Everything we offer as a business is based on the notion that most of what we need can be found at our fingertips, without having to break fragile systems to get hold of them.” With a flourishing walled kitchen garden, this often means using what’s available and in season within the Pythouse grounds, and also includes careful sourcing from the wider locality.
“Having the garden is joy, but also a responsibility,” Piers tells us. “We feel that we have an opportunity and a duty to demonstrate what can be achieved when you put heart and soul into it.” The goal here is complete self-sufficiency, but this is a complex undertaking that requires much planning and forethought. Other considerable challenges, says Piers, include “choosing the right suppliers, maintaining standards, changing bad habits and getting into new ones that are better for people and planet.”
Embarking on the Food Made Good Standard
The team at Pythouse was inspired by the results of other businesses who had completed the Food Made Good Standard, and decided to sign up themselves. “We read about many likeminded businesses setting the Standard and wanted to join them to form a force for good.”
As Piers says, they were also eager to leverage the Standard as a way to share the good work being carried out not only by Pythouse, but throughout their supply chain. “Hospitality is a great platform from which to broadcast the importance of sustainability. The suppliers we use are making a real effort to do things right and that needs celebrating.”
They found the process to be both hard work and incredibly rewarding. Piers tells us, “It was rigorous to say the least, but that’s a good thing!” He goes on to advise other hospitality operators who are considering the process to get going. “Just make a start. It's daunting at first, but take small steps and you’ll learn a lot about your business… and even a small step towards sustainability is a fantastic thing!”
Piers tells us that undergoing the Standard has also provided more direction when it comes to each of three key areas of the Food Made Good framework. Whether looking at how they source sustainable seafood, working to minimise food waste or re-examining how the business interacts with the wider community, “we now have more clarity on our own guidelines.”
Gathering feedback and looking to the future
Front of house, the feedback from customers has been incredibly positive. “We now proudly display our three stars and customers are generally engaged,” Piers says. “They tell us it’s reassuring to know that our circular approach to food production is genuine and successful.” This closed food system is defined in their Sustainability Statement as “having as close to zero as possible for food waste by way of preservation in our root-to-fruit cooking style or by composting here on site. Nothing goes to waste.”
While it’s a little too soon for hard data on how the Food Made Good Standard has benefited operations at Pythouse, the team is already busy planning their next moves. “Our drinks brand, Sprigster, is a huge part of the customer experience here in the garden,” says Piers. “We plan to make it one of very few brands to source ingredients solely from our own garden and from local growers. We’ll be looking at packaging, distribution and ways in which we can contribute to a healthier planet through the sale of our drinks.”
Wherever Pythouse goes from here, with Sprigster and beyond, the FMG Standard will play a key role. “We hope to be able to use The SRA platform to make more noise across the industry,” Piers tells us, “sharing the sustainability initiatives that we are planning and our own journey into creating a regenerative food production system.” We look forward to seeing more impressive initiatives from Pythouse Kitchen Garden as their work towards sustainability continues to evolve.
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