A visit to Spitalfields City Farm

We’ve written about all the urban farms in London, but we realised that we hadn’t visited enough of them! So we headed to east London, snuck behind Shoreditch High Street station, took a left, took a right and there we were! At Spitalfields City Farm…it sounds cliché, but it really is a little oasis in the middle of chaotic east London. If you fancy a coffee and cake, or you want to say hello to some chickens and donkeys, or you’d like to volunteer, go check it out! In the meantime, here’s a little video we made about our visit. Enjoy!

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3 Favourite Farm-to-Table Restaurants in London

In terms of trends, I think this is one of the best food trends out there- Farm-to-Table.  Originally taking off in California- this concept that has now turned into a movement.  Its basic concept is what it literally means- a farm’s most fresh and seasonal products that is closest to your ‘table’.  One word: LOCAL.

At its essence- it is a picture of community supported farming and also taking the restaurant experience to a new level. It has taken off in England in recent years with new restaurants popping up showcasing our local farmers as well as world-class culinary talents.

Some use the trendy term as a marketing tool while others just simply live it out.  Regardless – its one that we warmly welcome to our foodie city. Here are 3 of my personal favourites.

1- Daylesford Farms

Courtesy Homes and Property

Daylesford Farms in Gloucestershire now has 5 locations in London.  Their concept is a perfect example of what some people call Farm-to-Fork.  All of their food comes from their farm- even their creamery. They boast on being sustainable and an organic farm and have developed into a true success story.  The most recent store in Marylebone just opened!  Check it out or find the one closest to you.  And don’t forget to read our post on cooking up savoury organic Lamb Burgers from their Farm Shop!

2- The Shed

The Shed in Notting Hill Gate is owned and run by two brothers from Nutbourne, West Sussex.  One focuses on the farming side of things while the other runs the restaurant.  Their menu changes daily sourcing their own produce as well as neighbouring suppliers.  They’re menu is wildly diverse and also using creative methods to waste nothing in terms of meat… if you know what I mean!

3- The Grain Store

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I’ve been hearing about The Grain Store in King’s Cross by a foodie friend for months before I finally visited.  The space is buzzing and nearly impossible to get in during brunch on Sundays.  This restaurant is large and therefore sources their menu from local suppliers such as Daily Fish and Lake District Farms among many others.  They also have a few outside suppliers but in general the menu steers to local and fresh.  The cocktails are legendary in themselves.

Chronicles of the Chelsea Flower Show

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Last Saturday, we took a camera, an umbrella and a bit of luck to the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show.  Despite the usual London weather patterns, there was only one real challenge- no ticket and sold out.  Prepared for rejection at the gate, it still seemed a worthy effort to jump on the tube and give it a shot. Sure enough… after a little old fashion networking magic- a ticket was being ripped from the man’s roll of printed entry tokens.  Victory!

As a newcomer to this famous British flower tradition- I was blown away at the level of artistry, creativity, and the amount of flowers is still hard for me grasp.  Small gardens, big gardens, exotic gardens, artisan gardens– it was a feast for the eyes, nose and especially the soul.  There were reports of over 100,000 people expected to visit the show. If you didn’t get to go this year- BBC had beautiful coverage with all 15 episodes still available on BBC iPlayer.

And just In case you missed tracking us live on twitter – here are a few of favourite images I took with my DSLR. You can check out more from our live feed via Twitter – @urbanfarmerLDN.  We do have one tip for next year- take your best totes with you for the mass exodus of flowers on the last day.  The exhibits sell off or even GIVE AWAY FLOWERS.  My arms are still sore from the tube ride home with hands full of very LARGE red tulips.

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Experience London’s ONLY ‘English Wine Shop’

England’s wine business is booming yet interestingly, there is only one store in the entire capitol that exclusively showcases English Wine. Most people don’t think of England as being a grape growing- or you could call it grape farming region.  But the story is true and for us Londonites – it’s developing right under our nose.  So we thought to go check out what this little store with a big mission is all about.

Here is a short video of our trip down to The Wine Pantry at Borough Market and the lovely girls that make it come alive.   Next stop will be our visit with Julia to her new store. Be on the lookout!

The Wine Pantry is a wine store and tasting room situated in London’s Borough Market.  One of the founders- Julia Stafford -could also be considered an ambassador of sorts for English wine.  Several years ago she was taken back at the fact that a city as big as London and as close to a fine grape growing region had no exclusive English Wine Store. She then was inspired to do something about it.  And so the Wine Pantry opened its doors, strategically in Borough Market. (See our Blog on ‘Borough Market‘)  Building the business was one thing, but more so was her desire to promote and support our local vineyards by connecting them directly to the consumer in the city.

The business has grown so much and received loads of community enthusiasm that they opened a second store- English Wine and Spirits Co.  just last year. The team felt it was also important to expand from wine into various other spirits made here in the UK while providing a larger and full service tasting room.  But Julia’s inspiration came from the wine- grapes grown just outside of London that are now winning global competitions with not enough people knowing it.  (See our blog for more about the story- ‘A growing trend… Grapes‘)

This is another story of how important these human links are in bringing value to our city life- connecting farmers to urban dwellers, boosting local sales and expanding local pride. And in this case for what seems to be a hidden secret- English Wine. But not for long…

How to make the best local ORGANIC Lamb Burger in town… at home.

A new local ORGANIC favourite from Kate’s Kitchen

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It starts with a trip to Daylesford Farms in Notting Hill.  This Organic Farm located in Gloucestershire has now 5 stores in London- selling and serving top quality organic meat and produce straight from their farm.   I heard about this organic cafe and grocery near my neighbourhood and had to go check it out.  Expecting high price tags on beautiful food- I was pleasantly surprised at the options I took home- one of which is a favourite… Lamb Burgers.

Many are always on the hunt for local organic food at affordable prices which can be challenging.  For this single girl in London- 4 already ORGANIC Lamb burgers for less than £8 was a find!   OK- so the burgers were already in patties – even better in my book!  And to find a locally farmed lamb this close with a good price- SOLD.  Anyway- it’s not a perfect burger without everything else on top.  For our Urban Farmer London Cooks – here is the best locally farmed lamb burgers to make at home.

Step 1- Buy these at the Daylesford Farm Store closest to you

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Step 2- Have these ingredients ready

Bread of choice, sliced onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, spinach, gruyere cheese, Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil

Step 3- Time to cook

Slice mushrooms and onions.

Warm Olive Oil up in a med-hot skillet, add sliced onions and sauté for about 10 minutes.

Get Grill ready and hot for the burger as the onions are cooking

Add Mushrooms and turn heat up slightly for about 3-5 minutes. (careful NOT to overcook the mushrooms!) 

Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

Step 4- Grill up the burgers on med-high heat

Make sure to get those lovely grill marks!

Have the sliced gruyere cheese ready and the bun sliced and for toasting. Timing is everything. 

Step 5- Serve it up with your choice of sauce.

Step 6- Don’t forget the red wine

Favourite wine pairing for lamb would be either a Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo from Italy

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A growing trend… English grapes!

Courtesy Getty

English grapes are making a splash on the global scene- especially the bubbles!  And some of them are being cultivated only about an hour outside the city.   At a recent local wine tasting, we heard the rumour yet again about French growers buying up land in areas like Sussex and Kent. Interestingly, our English vineyards share similar soil types and climate conditions to those in Champagne, France.  And with warming climate trends – the future for English Wine is pointing in a favourable direction. The numbers alone tell the story- it’s simply growing fast.   Raise a glass to English Wine!

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To find out more about this research, follow these links:

Gov.Uk

English Wine Producers 

Food Standards Agency UK

What is urban farming?

We asked nine people about urban farming.

We spoke to:
Ben (24) who has been to a number of urban farms.
Lauren (22) who is intrigued about urban farming.
Ross (23) who recently became aware about urban farming.
Judy (50+) who has been to several urban farms and recognises the community importance of them.
Hannah (23) who is unsure about what urban farming is but thinks that there is equality amongst male and female workers.
Lorna (22) who needs a better understanding about urban farming.
Heidi (22) who has never been to an urban farm and is unsure about what it is.
Chloe (24) who believes there are more men than women who work in urban farming.
Saskia (22) who does not know what an urban farm is.

We put the information we received into an infogram.

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Follow us @urbanfarmerLDN for more updates and please contact us if you have any comments about the data we compiled!

A trip to Columbia Road Flower Market

Earlier this month we took a visit to the Columbia Road Flower Market on a pristine Sunday.  We toured our friend through London’s iconic market that was started in the mid-1800s and flourishing today is an understatement.  This East London market is quite possibly one of our urban favourites in the capitol.  Nestled next to the trendy Shoreditch area, Columbia Road is a little cobblestone street that transports you to another era of the city’s past- even on a normal day. Over 60 shops and art galleries that are independently owned line the streets.  Then there’s the vintage markets that have found their own nook in the surrounding side streets.

The history of this market is deep and like any good story- has loads of characters and many ups and downs in its evolution to becoming what is today.  It is believed that Charles Dickens hung out here and was a friend with the woman who we can thank for this legendary market- Angela Burdett-Coutts.  In case you want to read more about her and the rich history behind the famous market- a recent book by Linda Wilkinson called Columbia Road- A Strange Kind of Paradise is now on my summer reading list.  It takes us back into the dark and delightful past of this famous market.

However it’s not the history that drew us on this visit- but to see the flowers and the many urbanites that visit it.  And of course take a bundle home for the flat.  The market usually opens around 8am until late afternoon-rain or shine- and apparently even on Easter Sunday.  These flower enthusiasts are serious. 

Along with the colourful market auctioneers selling their goods-  talented musicians line up to get their busking spot and there is certainly no shortage of people.  It’s VERY crowded so prepare to get close to many humans- or have your iPhone ready for the eclectic local characters that will fill your frame.  For someone who loves to people watch- this is a goldmine! Here is our podcast with some our own images that caught our eye- flowers, garden herbs and of course some beautiful humans that came to partake as well. Enjoy and Happy Sunday!

26% of boroughs have no animal welfare.

We have included data from The Good Food for London 2012, 2013 and 2014 report which provides specifics from local authorities about initiatives on animal welfare.

Since 2007 the Food Business Team have worked to improve London’s welfare of animals on city farms.

Data courtesy of Good For Food.
Data courtesy of Good For Food, 2013.
Data courtesy of Good for Food.
Data courtesy of Good for Food., 2014

The data identifies the improvements in animal welfare from 2012 to 2014.

We have pulled out that there has been a 60% increase in London boroughs achieving a Good Egg Award for buying cage-free eggs over the past two years.

We also learnt that Islington is the only borough in London to have achieved a Good Chicken Award and a Good Egg Award for buying higher welfare chicken and cage-free eggs between 2012 and 2014.

However a large proportion of areas in West, East and Central London have failed to improve their rating and have not achieved a Good Farm Animals Welfare Award.

These include Richmond upon Thames, Kingston upon Thames, Sutton, Kensington & Chelsea, Bromley and Greenwich.

74% of boroughs have improved their rating from not achieving a Good Farm Animal Welfare Award to achieving a Good Egg Award for buying cage-free eggs from 2013 to 2014. These are Newham, Hackney, Lewisham, Bexley and Barking & Dagenham.

This is great news for Urban Farmer London as it shows that there has been a rise in animal welfare.

We spoke to Hannah (23), Hannah (22), Natalie (22), Lorna (22), Ben (24), Denise (22), Olivia (21), Heidi (23), Judy (50+), Corneille (50+), Lauren (22), Chloe (24), Elizabeth (22), Saskia (22) and Eleanor (25) about this.

We asked them which borough they found most surprising to not have received the award in 2012 and 2013:

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Data from speaking to members of the public by Sandy Tabalo.

35% believed that Hackney would have had an Animal Welfare Award in 2013, with Bexley coming in at a close second at 29%.

However luckily no borough has lost an award which is fantastic news, as this reflects the improvement in animal farms across the city year on year.

We look forward to analysing the 2015 results as we hope for a continued increase in animal welfare across London’s boroughs!

Remember to keep on urban farming!