This Could Be It!

This could be it! The beginning of the return of our wildlife! This week, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, announced the first agri-environment scheme directly funded by the UK – not Europe – as part of the preparation for post-Brexit farmland funding. It’s called ‘Payment by Results’ and rewards farmers for delivering environmental benefits to their land. It’s already being trialled in Suffolk and Norfolk as well as the Yorkshire Dales. DEFRA has now committed an extra £540,000 to extend the project, which is brilliant news for our wildlife, our environment and for our farmers, as this scheme will allow them to regain control over their land.

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In Suffolk and Norfolk, farmers are benefiting from planting nectar plots for bees and other pollinators as well as providing winter food for farmland birds during the ‘hungry gap’, while those in Wensleydale are focused on managing species-rich meadows. Sheep and cattle farmers managing grassland in the area have been rewarded for producing habitat suitable for breeding waders or managing species-rich meadows.

At a time where 40% of bird species worldwide are in decline and that one in eight species of birds is threatened with extinction as a direct result of intensive farming, this scheme is extremely important, and may well be the first step towards rebuilding our damaged farmland environment.  The aim of the scheme is to carry out further trials to find a model where “profitable farm businesses and environmental land management can co-exist and complement one another”.

“The Payment by Results pilot marks a shift in how we think about rewarding farmers for their work. This approach signals how we see the future of farm payments, where farmers deliver public goods for the environment which we all enjoy,” Gove has said.

Let’s hope that this scheme remains in place for the foreseeable future, as it could well mark the beginning of the rise in our bird & insect population.

 

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“I Can Get This Cheaper at Sainsbury’s”

This weekend two things happened – firstly, Tesco announced that it was going to merge with French supermarket chain Carrefour as part of a ‘strategic alliance’ to cut prices and become more of a force when buying from global producers. Secondly, the French organisation The Food Assembly sent an email to its UK members to let us know that they were pulling out of the United Kingdom to focus on their more successful assemblies across Europe.

These two occurrences are on entirely separate scales in terms of size – and for that reason the connection between the two may not be all that obvious. But the connection is there, and it is becoming increasingly common to hear of the big businesses and corporations going from strength to strength whilst small independents and high streets seem to be operating at an ever-worsening decline.

In July 2014  The Food Assembly launched in the UK, enabling the general public to purchase high-quality food while supporting small-scale producers who create jobs and foster social well-being.  Each Food Assembly is an independent and local project while remaining part of The Food Assembly collective. It is the local farmers and foodmakers and a unique community spirit that keeps the network alive.

Unfortunately, The Food Assembly business model that works so well across the rest of Europe just doesn’t work here. In fact, when the UK opened more Food Assemblies we actually bought down the average business volume per collection. Basically, we just didn’t have enough public interest in our Food Assemblies.
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There are many contributing factors to this. The main one is that small businesses just can’t compete with the cheap prices that supermarkets can offer. Small independent businesses like Greener Greens buy their ingredients, produce and stock at a fair price from reliable and ethical growers whilst supermarkets can squeeze farmers and suppliers as much as they like to get their prices lower and lower. Despite the fact that these prices cripple growers and producers, customers still buy into the lie of cheap food. As a small independent business who sell fresh produce that has been bought at a fair price, we see this first hand. All too often at markets we are asked “why is this so expensive?” or told that “I can get this cheaper at Sainsbury’s”.   Supermarkets are all too happy to sacrifice their growers and suppliers to ensure that people still buy their products – all too often compromising quality for cost. For as long as this happens, organisations that focus on community will never be able to thrive. The reason why the Food Assembly works so well in the rest of Europe is because many European countries recognise the importance of their local farmers and their community. Even supermarkets in Europe tend to sell local produce in each of their stores – because that’s what the consumers want.

 

So, as Tesco and Carrefour try to use their joint buying power to cut costs and offer lower prices to customers (as a reaction to Sainsbury’s and Asda merging to do the same thing to their suppliers), please remember that there are consequences to these actions.  Growers will continue to suffer, organisations like the Food Assembly will continue to disappear. Without local businesses and organisations there isn’t a community, and without community we really don’t have very much at all.

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We’d like to thank Jane of Woking & Guildford Food Assemblies for all of the enthusiasm and passion, not to mention the hard work, that she has put into organising and running both events. We at Greener Greens have had a wonderful experience with the Food Assembly, and hope to be able to keep providing their members with organic fresh produce in the future.

Pea Moth, Turnip Fly…Find the Link!

We hope that you had a weekend filled with bug-related activities! Even though National Insect Week is over, we’ve got one more post for you.  Last week’s blog was heavy on insects and a bit light on vegetables, so we’ve combined the two! Here are a few insects that share their names with vegetables & fruit:

Turnip Fly

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Adult cabbage root flies resemble house flies. The larvae are white, legless and headless maggots that feed on the roots and can kill seedling and recently transplanted brassicas. There are three generations of cabbage root fly during the summer but it is the first generation in late spring-early summer that is often the most damaging to crops and garden vegetables.

Adult cabbage root flies resemble house flies in size and appearance. Later generations are less damaging to cabbages and other leafy brassicas, as older plants have larger root systems and are better able to tolerate the damage. Host plants where the root is the edible part, such as radish, turnip and swede, are damaged by any of the generations.

When fully fed, the larvae go into a brown pupal stage in the soil, either emerging as adult flies a few weeks later or remaining in that state overwinter.

 

Lesser Pumpkin Fly

It is similar to a fruit fly but, as its name suggests, it parasitises members of the pumpkin family. Its larvae can be found living in the flesh of pumpkins, courgettes and squash.

Dacus ciliatus is a pest of a wide range of crops in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. 

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Apple Maggot Fly

The adult form of this insect is about 5 mm long and is slightly smaller than a house fly, with a white dot on its thorax and a characteristic black banding shaped like an “F” on its wings. When threatened it turns its wings 90 degrees and moves them up and down whilst walking sideways; the combination mimics the appearance of it being a spider due to the wing pattern in the new position appearing as additional legs!

The apple maggot fly is native to North America.

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Pea Moth

Adult pea moths are plain grey/ brown in colour with small pale yellow markings on their sides. They are tent-shaped, have a 15mm wingspan and long antennae.  Larvae are small yellow/ white, dark headed caterpillars up to 6mm long.

Caterpillars wander the host plant for a day before entering a developing seed pod in which they feed for up to a month. Caterpillars emerge from the pods by eating their way out and over-winter in the soil as pupae in silken cocoons. You may find some of these in your garden if you grow vegetables as they’re native to the UK.

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National Insect Week – It’s Finally Here!

 

I’m sure that many of us remember standing in a field when we were younger and feeling overwhelmed by the buzzing of insects. Even if you don’t, you may well have noticed a distinct lack of insect remains on your windscreen after a drive in the dark. Crudely put I know, but there is a good reason for this.

Over the last 25 years there has been a 75% decrease in flying insects in the countryside. Any landscape dominated by agriculture will have noticed the distinct lack of life amongst the crops. This is due to the intensification of agriculture, the use of pesticides and the increase in land value to farmers (mostly due to the dangerously low produce prices dictated by supermarkets.)  Once, farmland had hedgerows and wildflower borders, but now as a general rule, this is no longer the case. The farmers just can’t afford the space. Many farmers have no option but to see their land as an asset rather than a piece of nature.

There are things we can do to help though. Becoming attuned to our tiny little friends is an incredibly rewarding thing.  Since I’ve become interested in insects my walks have become infinitely more interesting. For example, here is a Cardinal beetle. I found him on an early morning birdwatching walk in Kent.

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And here is an incredibly rare caterpillar – he becomes the Heath Fritillary butterfly. I found this one on a walk in Blean Woods near Canterbury.

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The RSPB website is an incredible resource – offering advice on everything from how to encourage wildlife to your garden using flowers and grasses, to how to build a ‘bug hotel’ from dead wood.

The National Insect Week website is a brilliant hub of information and has some incredible learning resources. This week there are events being run all over the country  designed to educate and encourage people to get involved with the wildlife around them.

It’s amazing what you can find around you – and it’s even more amazing when you know what you’re looking at!  Education is a really important way of ensuring that we care for the natural world – once people know what is out there, they’ll really begin to care for it.

Here’s an inspirational video, in case you weren’t quite swayed enough.

Uh Oh! There’s Meat in your Veggie Meal!

Last Friday it was revealed that traces of meat have been discovered in supermarket ready meals. Ready meals by both Sainsbury’s and Tesco have been caught out – and the presence of whole animal DNA indicates that the meals contain either meat or animal skin.

This is disturbing as every consumer has the right to know what is in their food.  In our society, it is fast becoming the norm to expect supermarkets to ‘lead the way’ when it comes to environmental issues. We’re expected to applaud them for voluntarily pledging to cut plastic waste by 2025, yet there are small businesses that have existed for years that have been built on environmentally friendly foundations from day one.  Finding meat traces in independently approved ready meals made by the supermarket giants themselves is just another scandal in a long, long line of them. And it’s not going to be the last either.

And yet, they still want us to feel dependent on them. Maybe it’s time we stopped waiting for the giants to decide when it’s time to start caring about the environment. After all – they only decide to change their ways when the consumers start to object to their practices – it’s rarely done for the good of the planet or because it’s simply the right thing to do.

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Big supermarkets work purely for profit – at the expense of the environment, the people who supply them and even their own customers. There are thousands of small, independent businesses out there which have been created out of love and passion for the way things should be done to ensure that everybody along the supply chain – along with the land itself – is treated fairly and with respect.

We keep saying it: The consumers are the ones with the power. We control where our money goes and who we give it to. Choosing where we buy is a powerful form of direct action. Let’s not leave the important decisions to the giants anymore – if we want to ensure that there’s no meat in our veggie meals, let’s make our own! If we don’t want to throw away plastic packaging every day, let’s not buy it in the first place. If we don’t buy it, they won’t put it on the shelves.

Most importantly – as a powerful consumer with the luxury of choice – let’s share that power with the small, independent and ethical business owners rather than the businesses that show us, time and time again, where their real priorities lie. We should make more of a conscious effort to buy from the people that really care, rather than the people that just pretend to.

 

We’re Happy Campers!

I’ve spent all of this week camping in the New Forest, fairly near Beaulieu. Whilst this blog isn’t strictly about organic farming – or even food – it’s nice to share the amazing things that I saw whilst there.

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We predominantly went to find birds, of which we found many out on the heaths within the forest.  Amongst the birds we saw were stonechats, wood larks, meadow pipits, goldfinch, cuckoos, buzzards and – the most beautiful bird in the world in my opinion – lapwings.   We were very lucky to be camping in a nightjar spot. Nightjars are nocturnal birds and can be seen hawking for food at dusk and dawn. With pointed wings and a long tails their shape is similar to a kestrel or cuckoo. Their grey-brown plumage provides ideal camouflage in the daytime which is important – as they nest on the ground. To be able to hear, let alone see a nightjar is a pretty magical thing. We were lucky enough to do both!  You can listen to a recording I made of the male churring on the video below.  I find it quite haunting – especially when you’re standing in the middle of an open heath alone at night!

We also saw plenty of common spotted orchids, which are really lovely and were growing in abundance all over the heath.

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We ventured out to Brownsea Island for a day where we were delighted to find this guy, we called him Helix:

We saw black-tailed godwits, redshank, sandwich terns, great tits, wrens and many other little delights on the island, as well as these baby black-headed gulls. I took the photograph through the binoculars, it’s not some fancy filter:

The mesh is there to stop deer wading into the water and eating the plants on the islands where the gulls and terns are nesting – crushing the nests underfoot as they do so.

And then of course we saw the baby horses and donkeys which are everywhere in the New Forest. They were an absolute delight.

Having just started birdwatching, I can tell you that it’s one of my favouritest things to do. It’s good for your mind, and being outside and interacting with our wildlife really makes you appreciate what we have, and what Greener Greens as a business are trying to protect. The Wildlife Trust are currently running a ‘30 Days Wild‘ campaign designed to encourage people to go outside and interact with nature every day for a month – any thing that you can do in an average working day to bring a little nature into your life. It can take a few seconds, a few minutes, or if you lose yourself completely, a few hours. Give it a go!

 

National Vegetarian Week: A Rather Special Recipe

To celebrate National Vegetarian Week, over the next four weeks we will be collating recipes from a variety of talented cooks and chefs. All of the recipes have been inspired and created by the produce that we have provided. Our aim is to prove that – whether you’re a Michelin starred chef, a baker or simply somebody that enjoys cooking, organic and vegetarian food is for everybody.  We’re really curious to see the different ways that our selection of produce is going to be used!

This week, we have teamed up with Javier Lopez – Chief Food Evangelist for the Winton Group. By combining our beautiful, independently grown produce and his exquisite culinary technique, a truly stunning recipe has been created. This recipe is perfect for special events and dinner parties, or for somebody who just wants to try something different. Read on to find out how to make this fabulous starter – and remember – all of this produce can be sourced locally by us, which will make it taste even better!

 

 

Chard, Spinach and Wild Garlic Millefeuille

 

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Ingredients for 4 portions, as starter:

2 duck eggs

50g Maldon salt

30g coconut sugar

25g fennel pollen

100g goat’s butter

50g fermented wild garlic

50g chard

50g perpetual spinach

40g wild garlic

Flowering shoots to garnish

 

Method:

  • You will need to cure your eggs a day in advance; combine 50g of salt, 30g of sugar and 25g of fennel pollen in a bowl, place half of it on a flat tray or container and make a small well with the back of a spoon, place the duck egg yolk (ensuring no egg white remains) in the well and cover with the rest of the cure mixture. Refrigerate for 24hours.

 

  • Clarify (skim the surface of the liquid as it is heated to remove impurities) 100g of goat’s butter, saving the milk solids for other use, add 200g of fermented wild garlic leaves, buds and flowers and a leaf of raw wild garlic. Puree until very smooth and add a little fennel salt.

 

  • Blanch (scald in boiling water and remove after a brief  interval) the fresh chard, spinach and wild garlic leaves in salted water and immediately refresh in iced water, quickly drain and dry.

 

  • Layer the leaves one by one brushing a little fermented wild garlic butter in between each layer, build it up until is around 3cm tall and refrigerate. Once cold, portion it by timing into rectangular pieces.

 

To Serve:

  • Get the yolks out of their cure and lightly rinse in cold water. Set aside.

 

  • Place the vegetable millefeuille onto a plate and wrap it with clingfilm, place the plate on top of a simmering pan with water and let it warm for 5-6 minutes.

 

  • Gently remove the millefeuille of the plate and place onto your serving plate or bowl, cut the egg yolks in half and place half of it on top on the millefeuille. Garnish with a raw shoot and its flower (you can use peas, wild garlic, nasturtium, chickweed, etc)

 

Recipe by Javier Lopez, Chief Food Evangelist.

 

Keep checking back for our follow up recipe posts! In the meantime – enjoy this one!

Our Growers: Michael Hall School

The 2 ½ acre walled garden at Michael Hall School unites many activities.  Within the garden, they grow about a hundred varieties of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and top fruit, all to Demeter standards – the largest certification organisation for biodynamic agriculture. Compost is important to biodynamic gardening and Michael Hall maintain a variety of compost heaps around the garden.  They have two old fashioned wooden greenhouses, three polytunnels, and the original Victorian propagation houses.  They’ve also just recently installed a new flow form which is used to improve the irrigation water for the seedlings, and to make nettle, comfrey and compost teas.

Because Michael Hall School, as well as supplying us with some of our wonderful produce, is also a Steiner school, part of the garden is entirely set aside for gardening teaching. There is a gardening classroom, the children’s propagation house, a bread baking oven, and tools for garden and woodland crafts.   Children have their garden beds there and it is where their gardening lessons take place.  In winter, they roam beyond the garden into the rest of the Michael Hall estate to learn about woodland management. What a fabulous way of learning!

The aim of Michael Hall School is to combine beauty in the garden with growing an abundance of good biodynamic vegetables for the school canteen, the garden shop and the local community.

We’d like to thank Laurie, the gardner responsible for providing us with beautiful produce that we can then pass on to you. At the moment, we have perpetual spinach, rainbow chard and lettuces from them. You can buy them online and have them delivered to you for free here.

 

Our New Website & Online Ordering are Here!

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

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We’ve just launched our new website – complete with online ordering! It’s never been easier to get organic, fresh produce grown by local independent farmers delivered directly to your door!  With this in mind, it’s time to talk about your overall health and wellbeing….

It can sometimes feel quite overwhelming to really invest in your own health and adopt positive life changes, especially when it comes to changing your eating habits. It’s an investment well worth taking though – what you eat directly impacts how you feel, both in your body and in your mind. You wouldn’t fill a car with dirty petrol, so why fuel your own body with anything other than the cleanest and most natural of foods? Up until the beginning of the 20th century, good diet and physical well-being was the foundation of all medical treatment. Unfortunately, overtime, this basic knowledge that our ancestors had acquired about the importance of the nutritional benefits in the foods that were available to them.

We at Greener Greens think that it’s about time that we rediscover what our ancestors once knew and reconnected with our food. Our seasonal boxes contain the fresh produce that your body needs to maintain its health and vitality and is free from chemicals. Trust in nature! It knows best when it comes to growing our food. According to the changing seasons, our bodies need different nutrients to maintain great health. Nature has provided a range of produce that contains exactly what we need to ensure that we’re at our best all year round – both in our bodies and our minds.

Greener Greens offers a quality organic range of fruit and vegetables, grown by certified organic, independent growers, delivered to your door every week. Your first steps towards being healthy and making a positive lifestyle choice starts here!

Visit our website and make your first order today!