Wilde & Greene at Longwood Farm

We have just opened our very own Farm Shop at Longwood Farm in Tuddenham! Just 15 minutes from Bury St Edmunds, we’ve carried on the legacy of the shop that came before us by selling locally grown, organic fresh vegetables, fruit and meat as well as dairy and whole foods. We also sell local bread and eggs, so you can get everything you need in one place.

For many years and in conjunction with a team in Suffolk, we have been running an organic delivery business in East Anglia – known as Wilde & Greene. We buy from growers in Suffolk and surrounding areas so it makes sense for us to sell their wonderful produce to those living nearby.

Our latest project in Suffolk is the opening of a Farm Shop – which we have just opened at Longwood Farm in Tuddenham! Just 15 minutes from Bury St Edmunds, we’ve carried on the legacy of the shop that came before us by selling locally grown, organic fresh vegetables, fruit and meat as well as dairy and whole foods. We also sell local bread and eggs, so you can get everything you need in one place. Longwood Farm owners, Matthew and Louise, continue to produce wonderful meat and dairy, including beautifully creamy Jersey raw milk and kefir.  And with the stunning veg from Our Growers plus local bread, cheeses, wholefoods and loads more the Wilde & Greene Farm Shop in Tuddenham St Mary is a project that we’re all very excited about.

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Read the article here.

In time we’ll be turning the remaining space into a cafe – a hub for birdwatchers, cyclists and the local community to come and spend time on the farm with a coffee and a cream tea. We already have a lino cutting workshop and a Christmas makers market lined up!

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Please pop in if you’re ever in the area – come and view the sightings board to see the wildlife that lives in the surrounding area and on the adjoining reserve, do your weekly shop with a takeaway coffee, or just come and learn more about what we do. Alternatively, take a look at our website!

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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Potatoes – Where on Earth do They Come From?

The boycotting of products is a very popular way for consumers to punish or protest against a person, company or place. There are countless lists of things that we shouldn’t be buying, each list punishing a different organisation or opposing a different cause.

One particular item on a particular list that I read recently was Israeli potatoes. Apparently our supermarkets in the UK sell them.  I find this to be a bit bewildering, since there are thousands of tonnes of potatoes sitting in stores on farms across the UK. Why on earth do we need to be buying potatoes from the other side of the planet?

I have recently started taking part in gleans. They involve going to farms at which the harvests have already taken place and ‘gleaning’ the remaining crops. These are then taken to charities and organisations that distribute the produce to those that need it. I personally have spent hours and hours sifting through huge crates of potatoes which have been rejected by supermarkets for being too small or the wrong shape. All of these potatoes are perfectly edible, they just don’t look the part.

The reason that there is a call for the boycott of Israeli potatoes is almost irrelevant when  you realise that there are plenty of potatoes right here, probably within mere miles of nearly every house in the UK. The reason we should be boycotting the potatoes grown in Israel is because of the excessive food miles and the lack of support for our local farms, which depend so heavily on their communities supporting the local economy.

At the moment, Sainsbury’s are selling Maris Piper potatoes as well as ‘everyday’ organic potatoes from Israel, whilst Waitrose and even Asda are selling potatoes grown in the UK at similar or cheaper prices, proving that importing the produce is wholly unnecessary. To really support UK producers though, it’s worth buying from your local independent businesses and growers to ensure that the money you’re spending ends up in the right hands.

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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.

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.

 

Gleaner Greens: The Day I Went Gleaning

Last Saturday I spent the day gleaning on a lovely farm in Kent.

It was a last minute thing – a post came up on my social media from Feedback calling for volunteers for the next day. Feedback is an environmental organisation that campaigns to end food waste at every level of the food system. They fight for change – from local communities to governments and global organisations. Their aim is to change society’s attitude toward wasting food. As we at Greener Greens do, Feedback understand that food waste is a symptom of our broken food system.  By scaling back farming intensity and by eliminating the significant inputs that go into crop growing we can drastically reduce the amount of food that we waste.

The purpose of the glean on Saturday was to rescue as much as possible of the 1000’s of potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli and spring greens which could not make it to the market and would otherwise have been wasted.  These particular greens were potentially going to waste because of the recent weather speeding up the growth cycle. The farm would not have been able to harvest and sell them in time before they flowered and spoilt. The potatoes were going to waste because they were cosmetic outgrades- too big or too small for commercial market.

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We started by picking purple sprouting broccoli from a field that was due to be ploughed over the following day.  This particular field had already been harvested by the farm, but there was plenty left for us.

We then did a stint with some potatoes dividing them into sacks.  The best bit for me though was being given a bushcraft knife and the task of cutting the remaining spring green cabbages from the fields. I saw a red-legged pheasant for the first time too!

 

 

The veg will be passed on to various organisations, including The Felix Project, UK Harvest as well as various other local organisations, where they will be put to good use: feeding people who need them the most. Many projects such as homeless hostels, breakfast clubs, womens’ refuge centres, and services for the elderly will be flooded with delicious food.

Do have a look at Feedback  and the work that they do. They’re a brilliant organisation who have the same core values as we do.  They do have organised gleans that you can help with too – see their website for more information and to sign up. I’d recommend it – it was a brilliant thing to do, and I got to spend the day on a farm!

 

 

Trollburger – Organic & Ethical Fast Food

On a night out in Brighton, I recently stopped to get food at a hut under the station that sold burgers. Whilst waiting for my burger, (vegetarian – plenty of veggie options available) I noticed a few familiar friends on the shelves and quickly  realised that this wasn’t an ordinary late night burger bar –  the Biona ketchup and the bags of Cavolo Nero gave away the fact that this place belonged to someone who wasn’t just buying in cheap – this was an ORGANIC fast food place! So a few days later I went back and spoke to Paul Clark, the owner of Trollburger in Brighton.

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Paul is passionate about good, ethically grown food. All of his ingredients are organic or are locally grown and all of his produce is purchased from independent growers. He started out as street food stand in April 2012, serving burgers from a trailer in a car park as The Troll’s Pantry, before taking to a pub kitchen. In October 2016 he went back to his roots and created Trollburger. He says ‘I’m now done with pubs and feel the street is where I should have been all along.’ Part of the reason for this is that there is opportunity to engage with his customers which is an important part of what he does.   He feels (rightly) that there is a real problem with organic and ethical food – in that it is often seen as pretentious, and reserved for fine dining in expensive places.  A lot of people feel that eating responsibly is something that is not available to them, whether it’s unaffordable or just out of reach through location.

One of Paul’s reasonings about burgers is that they cross class boundaries – everybody loves a burger! This takes any pretentiousness away, as they are being cooked and eaten in such a relaxed and fun environment that it’s impossible to argue that this organic and ethically sourced food is not for everybody. Being face to face with his customers also allows Paul to talk to them about his passion for food (which is infectious) and to encourage people to do their bit for the ethical food movement.  As he said to me, he ‘feels part of a movement that’s swept across Brighton’, and it’s really good to see street food take such a strong stance on sustainable food, championing local produce, animal welfare and zero food waste.

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The beef in Troll burgers is sourced from Sheffield Farms, and the home-made seasonal sauces, pickles and veggie patties are all topped with High Weald Dairy cheese and served in a Flint Owl bun. Trollburger is about creating affordable mouth watering dirty burgers, made using the finest local and seasonal ingredients. If you’re ever in Brighton, you should definitely take a stroll under the arches and go grab yourself one. And in the meantime, remember that ethically sourced food is not for someone else, it’s for everybody. Organic and locally sourced is the way that food should be, even if you’re drunk and stumbling home at three in the morning.

Greener Greens ‘Unwrapped’ Scheme – Update

This Christmas, as we have for the past ten years, Greener Greens organised a charitable scheme which got our fantastic produce out to as many families and individuals who would benefit from it as possible. Using our contacts across Sussex & Surrey, we identified organisations who help people in their communities that need that extra bit of support, and came up with bags & boxes of fresh produce that would help these charities and organisations to help them over the festive season. Our team supplied the produce at cost, filled the bags and passed them on to the charities or Childrens’ Centres for distribution. We couldn’t have done it without our customers – it was their donations that made this year such a successful one!

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The contents of one of our bags from the ‘Unwrapped’ scheme.

Because of everybody’s hard work and generosity, over 450kg of fruit and veg was sent to Crawley in our family bags – feeding over 200 people. Twelve senior citizen bags went out to those who needed them, and over 115kg of fresh produce was sent to Redhill for the VARB Festive Feast – an event aimed at providing a place to go for people who might not have anywhere else to go on Christmas Day. Our produce fed over 140 people including volunteers at this event. The guests were mostly elderly people who would have otherwise been on their own at Christmas.

We are so, so proud to be able to have helped so many people this Christmas, and are so grateful to our amazing customers who supported this scheme and made it happen for us.  Here’s to a wonderful 2018!

Our Growers: Tablehurst Farm

Chris has been volunteering and working with Tablehurst farm for twenty years. We’ve spoken to him about how the farm has developed since he first fell in love with it back in 1997.  If you’re ever near Forest Row in Sussex, be sure to stop by and visit their farm shop. (I KNOW that I shouldn’t tell you about it, but the farm is just so beautiful!)

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When did you get involved with Tablehurst Farm? What was your role then and how has that role developed?

In 1997 (approx.) I attended an open day at Tablehurst with my wife and two toddlers, and fell in love with the farm. What struck me was that this big event felt more like a gift to the community than an attempt to extract money (despite the fact that there was a cost to enter). It made it stand apart from other rural fairs and the like, and after that, I just stayed. I have been a member of the Co-op committee which owns the farm; chair of the Co-op committee for four years; a volunteer member of the Tablehurst management team for a couple of years; one of the organisers of a later open day, frequent participant in volunteer work days, walks, talks and a study group about biodynamic farming; newsletter editor for about ten years; and a customer throughout! I became a volunteer non-executive director of Tablehurst at the beginning of 2016, and then took a job at the farm in February of this year.

 

How would you describe Biodynamic in your own words, being around it all the time?

Tablehurst Farm strives to meet biodynamic standards in all of our farming and gardening. A biodynamic farm is viewed as a single, self-supporting organism. We seek to create and nurture a diverse farm ecosystem, to build long term soil fertility, to use our own manure and compost, to grow all our own animal feeds, and to minimise external inputs to the farm. Special preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm. In the long term, we hope to work towards self-sufficiency in energy supply as well.

Biodynamic farms recognise that a sustainable farm organism cannot be created and maintained without a strong focus on the social aspect as well as the agriculture. It is for this reason that biodynamic farms have been at the forefront of the community supported agriculture movement, which is of such central importance to both our farms. We aim to create healthy communities of workers on the farms, and to engage with the wider community of visitors, supporters, shareholders and customers who make a connection with the farms. For the same reason, we work hard to explain what we are doing, and why we are doing it, to as many people as possible.

 

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Do you see any evidence that customers and visitors’ attitudes have changed towards organic, locally grown food? 

Up to a point. Over the last five to ten years, we have seen huge growth in demand, but that has now levelled off, and in a way, we never meet anyone who isn’t committed to organic food, because they don’t come to Tablehurst! It is therefore quite hard for us to assess this.  My impression is that interest in organics has wandered up and down a bit – most people don’t actually know what it is anyway – but that interest in provenance and local supply is really strengthening.

 

I know that community is really important to you, what is the community at Tablehurst like?

We’ve been a community farm for over 20 years, so yes, quite important! The first community we attend to is the team who live and/orwork on the farm. We have several farming families living on site (and three now raising young children here) and we offer a free communal lunch to all staff every day to bring everyone together. We have three care home residents who live on site and work on the farm, in the garden and in our kitchens during the day. They are an integral part of Tablehurst. Connection with the wider community is a constant focus for us, and in fact it’s something I’m particularly focused on building in my new role. We had our Harvest Celebration last weekend which was focused on community engagement, and particularly in creating opportunities for people to connect with the farm by volunteering their time and/or by becoming shareholders in our Co-op. We also want to substantially extend our engagement with children and schools.

 

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We’re hearing a lot about how people should buy local to support their local farmers and farmland. Your local community must be really important to you – could you survive without their custom, and is it an equal relationship in that you both help each other?

We have customers who travel from London and the south coast to shop at Tablehurst, but our customer base is very predominantly local, and we couldn’t possibly survive without our local customers. We are constantly working to build community through mutually beneficial events and activities such as our lambing days, open days, farm walks and barn dances. We do have to charge for some events, but even then they aren’t particularly profit-focused, and quite a number of events at Tablehurst are free. We also offer open access to the farm at all times and encourage people to wander around and see what they can learn.

We recently set aside some land for community allotments, which are now all being actively cultivated. We have a kids club at Tablehurst where (mostly home-schooled) local children spend a regular day on the farm doing supervised practical work. We have also supported other local farmers and growers and have been instrumental in the birth of two other biodynamic farms in our local area.

 

How have the values of organic and animal welfare on Tablehurst farm developed over that time, and have their been any dramatic changes over the way your produce is grown over that time?  

Our farming is constantly changing and developing, but the biodynamic ideal has always been the central goal, so animal welfare was, and remains, a top priority. A particular challenge of biodynamic farming is the aim that the farm should be self-sustaining, with as few external inputs as possible. This means that we should, ideally, be growing all our own animal feed. We don’t manage this yet, but are right now involved in some important experiments to dramatically alter the balance. An even more important theme, because it is fundamental to all farming, is caring for the soil so as to create a living, balanced, healthy soil with high humus content. This is a very complex subject, but one that David, our farm director is (rightly) obsessed with. Soil humus sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, so increasing humus levels not only creates a healthy, fertile growing medium, it also combats climate change. Vegetable growing at Tablehurst has come and gone, then come again over the years, but now I think it is definitely with us to stay, and we hope to continue growing a wide range of vegetable for the foreseeable future.

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You can find out more about Tablehurst on their video below, or by visiting their website.

This week our produce from them includes beautiful Oakleaf lettuces, kale, Red Kuri squash (perfect for soup), spaghetti squash and a variety of gorgeous red peppers.