When journalist Amandine Alexandre became tired of all the plastic cartons piling up in her kitchen from prepackaged supermarket produce she decided it was time to act. “I arrived from Paris to London five years ago. At the start, my boyfriend and I used to go shopping to the supermarket by car on Sunday afternoons. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience. It was very busy, people were stressed because it was the end of the weekend and we felt uninspired by the vegetables on offer. I remember our sad faces gazing at mounds of vegetables wrapped in plastic. We didn’t know what was in season and we didn’t feel like buying anything.”
When a friend told Alexandre he wanted to create his own vegetable box scheme – which in the United Kingdom are similar to community supported agriculture models – she decided to join him.
Together with a small group of local residents, Alexandre helped launch the Field to Fork Organics Co-operative, which began trading in North West London in July. The weekly vegetable box scheme, delivers fresh (often picked that very day) organic produce to various pick-up points, such as schools, cafes and local businesses, where members than fetch them. A small bag of produce, grown as close to the city as possible starts at UK£8.50 (approximately US$13). The business model provides cost-effective healthy food, as well as encourages members to engage with the local community and support independent businesses. And it builds community ties along with a more resilient food system and environment.
According to the Soil Association there are a number of environmental benefits to this type of agricultural model including: less packaging, more ecologically sensitive farming practices, better animal welfare and a positive influence over the local landscape. This comes at a time when consumers are increasingly concerned with the impact of their food on the environment. In a recent report published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), 34 percent of shoppers gave reducing food miles as a main reason to buy local food.
In order to address this concern, Field-to-Fork plans to develop their own “patchwork city farm at various sites at allotments, parks and schools. We will then be able to supplement our Veg Bags with a variety of salads and herbs and be able to count food miles on one hand.”
The CPRE report goes on to illustrate other benefits of local agricultural schemes, for example, “short supply chains also mean closer connections to where food comes from and support an awareness of seasonality and the realities of food production”. In bringing customers closer to their food supply, Field to Fork aids people in becoming active members of a food system that requires less energy and keeps them in tune with what is in season. These agricultural business models are also helpful to farmers as they receive a more secure income in addition to fairer and higher returns on their food according to the Soil Association.
Field to Fork Organics Co-operative hopes to “reinvigorate community and strengthen links between people living in our neighbourhood,” all while creating a more sustainable food system. Taking charge of where our food comes from and supporting local community does not get any easier or more delicious than this! Find out more here: Field to Fork Organics Co-operative