Category Archives: Local Food

The Benefits of Organic Food

Written by Joe Thomas*

enform-organic-food-box-image-by-jill111-cc0

Image by jill111 CC0

Surprisingly, considering information is widely available, a lot of the population is still confused about organic food and its benefits. Organic food, be it plant or animal based, is anything that conforms to organic farming standards. These vary worldwide of course, but in the United Kingdom they are set by organisations such as the Soil Association. A study conducted by this association shows that half of the people buying organic food do it for the health benefits and lack of chemical residues, while others do it to protect the environment and support animal welfare.

Organic = Flavour

Apart from all the potential health benefits and nutritional value, the first thing that springs to mind when talking about locally grown organic fruit and vegetables is flavour. Nothing tastes quite like strawberries bought at a Farmer’s market in June or Cox’s apples in October. When grown organically, fruit and vegetables are only available at certain times of the year due to their natural seasonal cycle. Eating seasonably ensures you get the most natural nutrient packed food that hasn’t required excess energy to grow, which also significantly improves the carbon footprint. The reason organic food tastes better might be down to lower crop yields and higher levels of antioxidants. There is more nitrogen available in the soil for fewer fruit and vegetables resulting in crops densely packed with flavour and nutrients.

Organic = Happy Farming

When it comes to choosing between a smaller free range chicken and a steroid fed monster I would choose the former every time. Organic meat comes from freely reared, stress and chemical free animals – all of which which has an impact on taste, texture and of course delivers various health benefits. Farmers let these animals develop naturally without the use of growth hormones – this cannot be said for large scale meat farms. The organic food standards cover meat quality, living conditions, use of antibiotics and hormones, transport and slaughter. By choosing to buy organic meat you are actively helping animal welfare and getting the best produce available.

Organic = Conservation

As well as helping the animals on the farm, you are also taking part in preserving British wildlife. Because of the restricted use of synthetic herbicides and pesticides, organic farms are safe havens for a variety of local species. Organic farmers go that extra mile in helping preserve the natural habitats by maintaining hedgerows, planting flowers and managing grasslands and ponds. By supporting these fragile ecosystems, they are ensuring that important species of bees, butterflies, birds and small animals are not driven to extinction.

Organic = Sustainability

Organic food is sustainably farmed. This means resources are recycled to minimize waste. This is becoming increasingly important in a world where finite resources are disappearing by the minute. There are a lot of problems associated with large scale industrial farming such as soil erosion, chemicals leaking into biosystems and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic farmers avoid all these issues by using natural fertilizers (like manure produced by farm animals) and choosing crop varieties with natural resistance to particular pests and diseases. They also rotate crops to keep the soil full of nutrients. Despite popular belief, soil is a non-renewable resource and preserving it for future generations is of paramount importance.

Organic = Ethical

There are other less obvious factors to consider when buying food. The amount of time required for your dinner to arrive at your table is often measured in “farm-to-fork” hours or food miles. A lot of fruit and vegetables, especially when out of season, are imported to the UK which is not surprising given the climatic conditions. The transportation required however, is what contributes to the carbon footprint. Think of all the miles bananas have to travel from countries like Africa and the Dominican Republic, and the emissions cargo vehicles produce. Although buying local seasonal fruit and vegetables is normally the answer to the food miles problem, certain fruit like bananas do not naturally grow in the UK. In cases like these look out for the Organic certification on the packaging. Not only will this food be nutritious and flavoursome, it will help the economy and environment in other countries. We are all in this together after all!

Joe is a writer from the UK, who creates articles on a range of subjects, including health and nutrition, sustainability and environmental issues. You can contact him on joe@allgreenpr.com

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

Organic Farming 

Organic agriculture is a safe, sustainable farming system, producing healthy crops and livestock without damage to the environment. It avoids the use of artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides on the land and the use of genetically modified organisms is prohibited. It relies instead on developing a healthy fertile soil and growing a mixture of crops. In this way the farm remains biologically balanced, with a wide variety of beneficial insects and other wildlife to act as natural predators for crop pests and a soil full of micro-organisms and earthworms to maintain its vitality. Animals are reared without the routine use of the array of drugs, antibiotics and wormers, which form the foundation of most conventional livestock farming.

Organic farming, now defined under European Union law, bans chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and uses crop rotations, mixed cropping and builds up soil fertility using pea crops rather than artificial fertilisers. Animals raised organically, without systematic use of antibiotics, have a strong immune system resistant to diseases and rarely need medicine. Organic yields are usually between 25% and 30% lower than in conventional farming, but the risk of disease is much lower.

Organic farming practices are better for the environment than practices used on conventional farms. A recent study of organic and conventional farms concluded that the organic farms held higher densities of birds than conventional farms, especially in winter. Breeding densities of skylarks were also strikingly higher on organic farms. Organic farming has clearly defined standards for the environment and conservation set down by the Soil Association and others.

Organic farms cover over 1.5% of the UK farmed area. In Sweden they cover 10% and in Italy 5%. The UK imports 70% of the organic food consumed and the demand is growing by 40% a year. In 1998 the Government spent £3,000 million on subsidies to farmers but only 3% of this was for agri-environmental schemes. Just 8% of the latter was allocated to help organic farmers (£6.2 million). More Government money was provided in 1999 through the Organic Farming Scheme, but this scheme was closed in August 1999 after the entire funding for 1999 and 2000 was used up in 4 months. In October a further £10 million was allocated but this was not expected to last for longer than 6 months.

The Soil Association commissioned a MORI survey in June 1999. One third of the public buy organic food perceiving it as:

  • Healthy/better for you 53%
  • Tasting better 43%
  • GM free 30%
  • Better for the Environment 28%
  • Higher animal welfare 24%

The clear advantage of organic farming in nearly all agricultural policy areas, the current level of demand and the current policy opportunities mean organic production should now be taken up as a mainstream policy option for UK agriculture.

 For further information please see:   Soil Association website: www.soilassociation.org 

A Brief Guide To “Going Green”

Check out these 18 easy to understand ways that you could make your life that bit greener – by Geoff.

  1. Encourage/support local “green” activities, clubs, societies, trades, buy food from local growers.
  2. Be informed about energy use,  eg can you read your meters and understand your bill?
    Know how much energy each appliance uses and costs, Turn off unnecessary lights and appliances especially heaters.
  3. Insulate, also make sure your thermostats are correctly set. Boiler serviced?
  4. Know a little about energy (see Ladybird books!) eg do you understand that for every unit of electricity generated power stations burn at least 2.5 units of fuel. On Shore wind generators are the cheapest source of electricity, Off Shore are the dearest – not counting the long term liability of nuclear waste.
  5. Have solar panels both Photo-voltaic & Water heating. (I’ve had solar water heating for 30years – it works).
  6. Know about ground source and air source heating systems and where they are/are not a good idea.
  7. DIY – all sorts, keep your eyes open and learn new skills as a matter of common sense.
    Plant Trees, Grow Veg …Potatoes, Carrots, Onions, Beans Broad/Runner/French, Lettuce,  Radishes, Tomatoes.
  8. Compost garden and household waste, think about having a greenhouse. Conserve water, Install water buts, what about Grey Water?
  9. Use up leftovers, Don’t throw food away.
  10. Keep chickens – last year my 3 hens laid 991 lovely eggs.  – app. £250 at shop prices.  Those birds cost £7 each and their feed totalled less than £40 p.a.
  11. Ride Bikes also Walk – for health, enjoyment, saving car use.  Excepting in bad weather, cycling can and should always be easy, comfortable and enjoyable if it isn’t get help.  (Research has shown that cycling can put off body ageing by many years)
  12. Driving sensibly reduces wear and improves mpg – Some cars have an mpg meter. They ought to be standard in every car.
  13. Think about disposing of anything – there is no such thing as throw away, somewhere someone has to do something with it!
  14. Recycle where possible,  put “it” on Ebay, Freegle, or offer to charity shops.
  15. Print (computer paper) on both sides when suitable.
  16. Complain about things that are wrong  eg  whenever food growing land is taken for any sort of development. Bad design eg new houses where living rooms don’t see the sun, attics don’t allow for use as storage, roofs unsuitable for solar panels, not well insulated, gas boiler fumes output below head height, garages with no person door no room for bicycles freezer or garden tools …. the list goes on and on
  17. Save Xmas card blank page eg for use as lists etc.
  18. Holiday less abroad and more in UK.

These are just a start.  You can probably think of many more opportunities. 

Why Eat Organic Local Food?

By Darren Lerigo*

In a study by The British Journal of Nutrition in October 2015, it was concluded that organic food is better for you than food grown with synthetic fertilisers and sprayed with toxins. Although common-sense could have told us that, it is fantastic to discover the nutritional benefits of eating organic food include your body receiving a higher level of anti-oxidants, which help reduce the risk of cancers, and a lower level of pesticides.

As someone who eats organic food everyday, I would suggest it also leaves you feeling fuller, quicker – which is great for people who want to diet, as you don’t eat as much!

So Why Buy Organic Food Locally?

Three major reasons stand out for buying local food:

  •  The fresher your food, the tastier it is.
  • You reduce carbon emissions by reducing the miles your food is transported.
  • If you buy your organic food locally, then you know the landscape near your home is being used in a way that benefits wildlife.

How heartwarming is it to know that you are helping the local landscape be used in such a positive way!

The Best Places To Buy Organic Vegetables In Essex

We have an ever-evolving list of local organic food schemes across East Anglia which features many suppliers in Essex, but to really whet your appetite for nutritious organic food we turned to a local eco-friendly initiative – Sarah Green’s Organics – to find out more about organic box schemes…

What Do Sarah Green’s Organics Do?

They provide local, fresh, tasty produce – all grown without chemicals on the Essex marshes. Sarah Green is the third generation of her family to farm in Tillingham and, having met her mother and father last year, we can tell you that this is a family who care about the land they farm on and the food they grow!

What Do Sarah Green’s Organics Deliver?

As with any organic vegetable box, the seasons and the weather dictate what you will receive. Amazing varieties of cabbage, cool climate loving cauliflowers and purple sprouting broccoli will be delivered to your door, fresh, in winter… while you can expect tomatoes, peppers, peas and squashes in summer.

Where Do Sarah Green’s Organics Deliver?

Originally around Tillingham, they have recently started delivering to the following places in Essex: Boreham, Broomfield, Chelmsford, Writtle and Springfield. Do check their website for deliveries in your area.Sarah Green’s Organics can also be found at Leigh Farmers Market on one Friday around the middle of the month. Check out their Website, Facebook or Twitter for more info.

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

Organic Box Schemes

Locally produced organic food delivered to your door? Yes please! Organic box schemes are great for the environment and for your health. (Find out why here). If you live in Essex here are some ones that may be local to you…

Bennison Farm – Bennison Farm Community Supported Agriculture. Local, seasonal, Organic veg bags for the Colchester area. Bennisons supply a weekly share of the vegetables harvested to members who can also get involved with growing food at work days and family friendly social events. Truly local food grown less than 10 miles away from most members. Pick up point available from Colchester Food Coop at en-form

Colchester Food Coop – based at en-form 15 Church Walk, Colchester, CO1 1NS. For £5 you can join and then share the bulk buying discount on organic food products at their shop. The Food Coop is also a pick up point for Organic veg bags from Bennison Farm and apple and other fruits from Crapes Fruit Farm.

Organics for All – North Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk areas (this includes Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich, Thetford, Diss, Bury St Edmunds)

Riverford Organic FarmersAcross UK from regional farms

Sarah Green’s Organics, Tillingham – South East Essex and London

 

If you are an Essex local supplier and would like to be featured on this list, please email us or use the contact form to submit your website details and delivery area!

 

Farmers’ Market Celebrates 10 years

The Colchester Farmers’ Market celebrates its 10th Birthday on Friday the 5th July.

Andrew Wilkinson of en-form who runs the Farmers’ Market said ‘At its peak we had 28 stalls and over 900 customers which coincided with the great interest in local food issues a few years ago. In common with the rest of the economy and other local companies the Farmers’ Market has not done quite so well in recent years as customers have had to tighten their belts. However there is still a wide range of locally produced food available, not only your basic fruit, veg, meat and fish but specialist and more unusual treats to try’.

There is still a lot of interest in buying quality locally produced food particularly in the wake of the Horsemeat scandal. Although our local Farmers have had a tough time recently with challenging weather conditions and many well loved local traders have had to give up recently, the Farmers’ Market has every intention of being here for another 10 years.

The Farmers’ Market will be held on Friday the 5th July at the Colchester Arts Centre from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm.

Squirrel on the Menu

Fancy trying something a bit different this weekend then pop along to the Colchester Farmers’ Market this Friday for a Squirrel pie.

Jess Noy, 23 of East Bergholt started selling the unusual pasties and samosas at the Colchester Farmers’ market last month and they sold like hot cakes. She combines the meat with caramelised pears, apples and hazelnuts to make the snack.

She has been selling a range of unusual dishes featuring pheasant, pigeon, rabbit and now squirrel under the brand name The Gamekeepers Daughter.

Miss Noy’s father is a Gamekeeper and supplies the meats from the Estate where he works.

Jess said ” Squirrel is a really tasty meat and is proving very popular. It is an ethical meat to eat as it is free range and the meat is sourced locally so it is low in food miles. I can get six samosas or ten small pasties out of one squirrel. I like to produce things which are a bit different.

Rowly Castiglione of en-form who organises the Colchester Farmers’ Market said ” As an Environment Centre we are very glad that Jessica has decided to make use of meats that would otherwise go to waste. Not only does it use local meat but is in a way a form of Recycling” .

It is illegal to catch or kill wild grey squirrels without a license and all red squirrels are protected by law.

The Colchester Farmers’ Market is held at the Colchester Arts Centre on Friday, the 7th December from 9.30am till 1pm and will have available a whole range of Christmas Treats from local stallholders.