Organic Food on the Rise in the UK?

THIS VIDEO has gone viral on social media over the last several weeks.  It is a 90 second video that takes a look into what ‘going organic’ actually DOES for our bodies.

The film was based on a study by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL- you can read more about it here:  https://www.coop.se/organiceffect

This prompted us to look into how the UK is doing with their organic table fare.

GOOD NEWS.

THE TREND appears to be up for sales in the organic food sector.  According to the Soil Association, the public spent £1.4m more per week on organic food in 2014 and overall sales were up by 4%. This is great news and gets even more interesting when you compare it to the fact that there was an overall drop of 1.9% in food sales in 2014. So, organic is up even when food sales are down? Hmm..

Courtesy Wikiwand

Ok- so maybe we were spending more on eating out which makes it a bit harder to know the true picture of our organic eating habits, but this still seems a victory for organic vs pesticide pumped food.  Maybe the importance of avoiding these pesticides and chemicals from our bodies is finally catching on.

BUT…there is still a ways to go towards a true upward trend in terms of going locally organic.  We decided to dig a bit deeper on how the UK organic farms and producer side of the story is doing.

NOT so good news. 

The latest UK Government figures (2013 report) show the opposite when it comes to Organic Farms in the United Kingdom. Organic farm land – including those converting to organic- is on the decline.  Together the number of organic farms is decreasing by over 28%.  And as for organic producers and processors- that number fell for the 5th year in a row.  (- 6.4%)

BETTER NEWS for urban dwellers.. 

But, for our Urban Farm London readers and fellow urbanites- we’ve got the best news to report! Though we’re not sure what the 2014 government data is just yet- 2013 showed that the urban organic numbers are actually increasing.

The South East- including London– is the ONLY PART OF THE UK that saw a rise in organic producers and processors at 0.7%. This may not be significant climb- but the stats are going up and not down. We’ll count that as a small and important victory for our organic health.  Let’s just hope these numbers keep going in the right direction.

The UK Government report for 2014 is set to be published next month. Be on the lookout as we’ll be watching and writing about it on our blog here.  Let’s hope the stats show more upswings but for now-  we applaud the growing number of urban dwellers helping lead the UK towards healthier tables!

Grow, buy and eat… MORE organic.  

Food Farming nominations. 

Yesterday five businesses were nominated for the 15th anniversary of the BBC Food and Farming Awards. 1:3 Londoners have been nominated in the Best Food Market category.

Further nominees include a variety of food and drink producers.

For London are: E5 bakehouse for the best food producer, Square Root London nominated for drinks producer, Crystal Palace Food Market is up for the best food market and What The Dickens! is nominated for street food.

Nominees and fans hurried to Twitter to tweet their excitement about the nominations:

The day celebrates British foods and those who grow and supply the produce, with contestants and entries from all-around the United Kingdom.

Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme, Sheila Dillon, reported that ‘[…] I’ve never before felt so strongly that food and farming are changing the UK.’

A number of broadcasters have gathered to highlight these awards which demonstrates the importance of urban farming in 2015.

Despite not being a tremendously farming capital, many Londoner’s have jumped on the Urban Farming bandwagon to promote the importance of eating and growing your own food.

Winners are announced on 30th April and they will feature on ‘Meet The Finalists’ on The Food Programme and we cannot wait to find out the result!

Allotments, markets and farms: the definitive list

Alight, this is it, we’re going to give you the definitive list of what websites to check out for all your food growing needs. We’ll update it as we find new resources, so make sure to bookmark this page!

Allotment Information

Getting an allotment is tough and usually depends on what borough you live in. Most council websites will have information on allotments and they should be your first port of call, so you can put yourself on a waiting list or bag an available one straightaway.

  • This handy page from the government website allows you to check how best to apply for an allotment in your area.
  • The National Allotment Society – general information on allotments as well as a pretty comprehensive section on how to care for your allotment and other valuable advice on growing produce
  • This page collects all Guardian articles referring to allotments, which includes news, guides, photos and more.
  • Allotment & Gardens is another useful website with a ton of resources to help you manage your allotment.

Beekeepers and Honey

There are plenty of rooftops in London, which means there are plenty of places to keep hives! Whether you’re just curious about this hobby, or you’re looking to start keeping bees, check out these handy sites first.

  • The London Beekeepers’ Association provides “education and advice, promoting responsible bee keeping and raising awareness of the issues affecting bees”. Your first port of call for all your urban beekeeping needs.
  • Similar to the LBKA, the Urban Bees website offers general information on beekeeping in London, from courses to maps, books to honey.
  • The London Honey Company sells honey form the hives they manage in central London and beyond.
  • The North London Beekeepers is a growing network and a great place to start if you need advice or want to chat to likeminded honey-lovers.
  • Capital Bee is based in South East London and sells honey as well as running courses on beekeeping. They also sell bee colonies.
  • The Golden Company makes honey, among other things. It’s a social enterprise, meaning it specifically works towards doing something that gives back to the community. In their own words: “we work with young people to improve wellbeing and employability through engagement with nature and enterprise”. You can also find them at Borough Market every Saturday.

London Markets

There’s nothing better than heading off to a market on a Saturday morning to get some nice vegetables and something delicious for breakfast. There are so many markets in London that there is sure to be one close to you. Here are our favourites:

  • Borough Market has been going for at least 1000 years and has been in that specific spot in London Bridge since 1756. The full market is open from Wednesday-Saturday. It’s also open for lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, from 10am-5pm (no traders, just cooked food stalls for a yummy lunch).
  • Blackheath Farmers Market is on every Sunday from 10am-2pm, in the station car park. It’s great if you want to stock up on free range eggs and organic vegetables from local farmers.
  • Lewisham holds a number of farmers’ markets in different locations and on rotation, so check their Facebook page to see where the next one will be held.
  • Brockley Market, which is actually held in South Lewisham College, is on every Saturday, 10am-2pm. If you fancy a gluten-free French crêpe while you stock up on your organic purple kale, this is the place to go!
  • If you fancy a market where you have to constantly negotiate hipsters and their fixie bikes, then head on down to Broadway Market, which is on every Saturday from 9am-5pm. Have a Vietnamese coffee and some delicious olives, or if it all gets too much, grab a cocktail from Off Broadway.
  • Bermondsey is increasingly up and coming and has had its own Farmers Market for a few years now. Head to Bermondsey Square on Saturdays, 10am-2pm.
  • The Southbank Centre is now hosting its very own market from April 2015. It had previously been home to the The Real Food Market, which has not relocated to Kings Cross.

To find other markets in London, check out London Farmers’ Markets map or Time Out’s review of the best markets in the capital.

London Farms

London might be a crammed capital, but thankfully there is always space for a spot of urban farming. These farms sell their produce and some even serve breakfast, so be sure to check them out!

  • On your way to Broadway Market, stop by Hackney City Farm and say hello to its many animals. They also offer school visits, volunteering opportunities and pottery classes. They’re open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-4:30pm.
  • Head to Vauxhall City Farm if you fancy watching Fred, Barney, Betty and Wilma, the farm’s resident goats, jump around and be generally cute and cheeky. They’ve even got horses! Visit the farm Wednesday to Sunday, 10:30am-4pm.
  • Lee Valley Park Farm has got animals, food and lots of attractions for kids…and you can even hitch a ride on a tractor!
  • Spitalfields City Farm is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm…and the perfect spot to get away from it all during your lunch break.
  • Kentish Town City Farm has got loads of activities on for children, both during term time and school holidays.
  • Hounslow Urban Farm also caters to children’s activities, including themed events like sleigh rides at Christmas and “Spooky Animal Encounters” at Halloween!
  • Surrey Docks Farm offers activities for children, but also workshops for adults, such as a course on making jams and chutneys, courses on pruning and growing fruit and more. Check out their courses here.
  • Stepney City Farm hosts a farmers’ market on Saturdays and brunch on Sundays, but you can visit the farm from Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30am-4pm.

Organised Foraging Walks

Believe it or not, you can go for a walk through Hampstead Heath and come back with a basket full of food you’ve picked! But it’s best to know what exactly you can pick. These walks are a great way to learn which bits of London’s flora can be picked and safely eaten:

  • Forage London organise walks in different parks around London, but their courses fill up fast, so be sure to sign up early. Courses cost between £30-£35.
  • Forage Wild Food also run similar courses. Check their listings here.
  • This site has some useful resources on what foods are safe to eat.
  • If mushrooms are your thing, then check out Fungi’s workshops and resources.

London might be busy, noisy and polluted, but thankfully it also offers a lot for nature and food lovers!

 

Let’s go underground.

Ever wondered what’s underground? Well, underneath the Northern Line by Clapham North Tube Station, a subterranean farm will be growing. Construction work is currently underway for underground farm, Zero Carbon Food.

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Image Courtesy of Zero Carbon Food.

In what used to be shelter from air raids in World War II, Richard Ballard and Steven Dring are working alongside Chef Michel Roux Jr to create a working farm, underground.

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Image Courtesy of Zero Carbon Food.

There will be 2.5 acres of growing space for miniature vegetables, shoots, and micro-herbs. All the products will be sold at supermarkets.

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Image Courtesy of Zero Carbon Food.
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Image Courtesy of Zero Carbon Food.

The farm will be carbon neutral, will have low LED bulbs and will have an integrated hydroponics system.

Being underground at 100 feet, the produce will be kept at 16 degrees centigrade throughout the year.

This exciting new project will open later this year.

Tuesday’s @ South Ken.

Photo 4 Located near the Science Museum, South Kensington’s farmers market is one for students, teachers, locals and Londoners to enjoy every Tuesday from 9am to 2pm. Around 23 producers, who provide local sourced products, come to the market each Tuesday. There are artisan breads, fresh fruit and veg, meat, eggs poultry and fresh fish. Photo 2 Situated on a green oasis near a number of London’s attractions, it is surely a place to pick up a spot of lunch this spring.