With the advent of industrialised agriculture, farmers are now able to produce an enormous amount of fresh produce at a fast speed, but at what cost?
Small scale farmers are seemingly becoming more and more redundant, yet they are often the ones who utilise the most sustainable practices, with minimal pesticides and less energy-intensive equipment. The lack of ‘food sovereignty’ in the world due to industrial, upscaled agriculture means farmers lack control over the way their goods are produced, traded and consumed and as a result, they receive a less than fair share of the profit-driving many farmers towards poverty.
Growing Communities is here to help farmers reclaim power over large-scale producers and create a more ethical and sustainable food system in doing so.
Who are Growing Communities?
Growing Communities is a community-led non-profit organisation based in Hackney, London that has been running a veg bag scheme since 1996. Customers can sign up to collect a veg bag on a weekly basis, with multiple collection points in North and East London. There are different veg bag sizes to suit every need and customers can choose the number of vegetable varieties they wish to have. The varieties of produce in the bag will vary on a weekly and seasonal basis which also encourages customers to be more creative with their cooking and try new veg.
All the produce is organic and comes from sustainable small-scale farms, thus leaving a much smaller carbon footprint compared to commercially grown veg from large retailers. Growing Communities gives a fairer deal to farmers by shortening the supply chain. In fact, farmers who trade through Growing Communities get 50% of the sale price which is five times more than if they sold their products through the global supermarket system. A shorter supply chain also means fewer greenhouse gases are emitted from transportation and refrigeration as the veg comes from sources that are as local as possible.
How does Growing Communities work?
Growing Communities aims to strike a balance between supporting the farmers’ livelihoods whilst also being affordable for the average citizen. They also take into account that organic vegetables inherently cost more to produce because they are more labour-intensive and require more land to produce. However, the reduced negative impact on the environment arguably makes this small price increase worthwhile.
The organisation is not-for-profit so any surplus funds go towards furthering the aims of the organisation. Growing Communities has opened up farms in various locations in North and East London in order to make fresh, sustainably grown veg more accessible to urban communities. Through these farms, they create job opportunities for the local residents and teach young people about cooking and growing veg. Customers can rest assured that any money that is collected from the veg scheme that doesn’t go directly to the farmers, goes straight back into supporting the local community.
What are the benefits of Growing Communities?
- The veg is all seasonal and fresh: Eating seasonally is better for the environment because the food doesn’t have to be imported from far away or produced in an energy-intensive greenhouse. Sustainability is all about working with the natural availability of crops throughout the year.
- Food is grown as locally as possible: Eating locally is important for sustainable development as buying produce that requires long-distance transportation incurs a high energy cost. If we become more self-sufficient with our food production rather than relying on other countries’ produce, a huge chunk of our greenhouse gas emissions could be cut.
- Veg is organically grown: This means the farmers avoid the use of artificial pesticides which is beneficial from a health perspective as some studies show that pesticides could increase risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, ADHD, and even birth defects. Pesticides are also harmful to the environment as they can infiltrate the water cycle through runoff and harm local ecosystems.
- Supports small farms: In the present day where large-scale industrial farming practices are leeching money off of farmers and driving them towards poverty, it is vital that we give back control to the farmers by giving them a fair share of their work. Supporting small farms means supporting more ethical and sustainable practices.
- Veg schemes encourage people to discover new veg and eat more of it which improves overall health and wellbeing. Improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture is all part of SDG 2 – the second of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – which you can learn more about in our short video here.
As consumers, we have a responsibility to invest our money in the most ethical and sustainable way possible. So, if you want to put your money towards a great cause whilst getting back some tasty, fresh veg, Growing Communities is your answer! To find out more about the work that they do, visit their website.