Bottle it! Sell it! Growing Enterprise...

Made jams, chutneys, pickles from home grown produce and sold at a church fete? Generated funds for the church or community? This is a first step to starting a church food-based social enterprise. Grow something, make something from it and sell it via church members and community supporters. “But we can’t do that now!” Another option is Community Payback Teams.

The Community Payback Teams in the UK is the old community service scheme. The Diocese of Portsmouth provides over 5000 hours of Community Payback work in churches per year. Using Community Payback saves the church money, gives work experience and employability skills, and provides useful opportunity for those involved to widen their local community connections.

So the first step in setting up a social enterprise lmay be to find a way to engage  Community Payback. Details here.

Next step? It's turning a church fund-raising scheme into a church income-generating business. This can also be achieved by scaling up the partnership with Community Payback while at the same time creating structured pathways into paid employment for people successfully completing their Community Payback in the new commercial social enterprise.

One place to start is brewing ‘Worm Tea’. ‘Worm Tea’ - the organic liquid fertilizer and natural insect repellent that improves soil health. Gardeners love 'Worm Tea' – and will pay for it – and all you need to make it is a couple of handfuls of worm castings and a bucket of water. It’s also a great way to boost your church garden and boost your finances in the process by selling it bottled through garden centres, online shops, craft fairs and market stalls.

The same goes for juicing and bottling food produced in church and community gardens and all of it with additional marketing opportunities through health food shops and independent grocers.

Carrots, cucumbers, kale, broccoli, celery and spinach are just some of the vegetables that can be easily grown in church and community gardens. Juicing and bottling them adds considerable value and the burgeoning health food market will pay good money for them, all of which will boost income from your church and community garden.

But it doesn’t stop there. Homemade chutneys like my Mum’s can be turned into a niche craft food business using produce from church land and gardens. Churches with an entrepreneurial eye could take a leaf out of the book of ‘Rubies in the Rubble’ and use their own church-grown produce to produce similar condiments with a conscience – a range of award winning bottled relishes, ketchups and mayo produced sustainably from ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. Find them here.

Some churches have gone further – St Mary’s Primrose Hill has installed a bottling plant in the church crypt that bottles the craft beer they produce. Why not do the same with juiced fruit and veg from church and community gardens, community orchards etc?

St Mary’s is a serious commercial enterprise, generating enough revenue to support the church’s youth work with gangs and other young offenders.

What’s more there’s help available for this sort of ‘second stage social enterprise’ development.

The Co-operative’s ‘Apiary Incubator Programme’ is designed to search for, support and mentor innovative smaller scale values-based suppliers. The programme offers tailored and dedicated support including mentoring, advice on all aspects of the product journey, industry and consumer insight, workshops, technical hints and tips and access to the convenience retailer’s experienced and dedicated buying teams. No church businesses have yet been on the programme – but why not?

If St Mary’s can bottle their own beer, could your church bottle your own juice from fruit and veg grown on church land and community growing projects and orchards?

And if it did so in partnership with Community Payback there would be increased income streams for church community projects as well as the prospect of structured pathways to employment with the Co-op for people successfully completing their Payback by supplying the Co-op with these hyper local healthy niche food products.

For more information on the Apiary Incubator see here...

If your church wants to explore bottling it like this contact Dave Nicholson at