Monday, 15 October 2007

Blog Action Day: Local Veggie Boxes

As you may or may not know, today is Blog Action Day. (thanks earthchick!) The 15 of October is a day for bloggers to all write about a very important topic: our environment.

A fair chunk of posts on Exeterra are already about the environment, but it's time for another :)

This Saturday I went with some fellow members of the Green Society to Shillingford Organics, a local organic farm on 200-something acres. We had a great time getting a tour of their low-impact methods and trying our hands at farm work. We pulled dock, harvested more winter squash than I will eat in a hundred lifetimes, and planted garlic further than the eye can see. Here are some pictures:

Martyn shows us which yummy veggies to harvest.

We planted rows of garlic (one clove every six inches) on this strip of land, which was a few hundred metres long.

At the end, Martyn gave us as many free vegetables as we could carry. I have never seen people so ecstatic over carrots.

At the end of the day, I signed up for a weekly vegetable box. Shillingford delivers to a few hundred local households and restaurants, providing them with weekly vegetables that have been harvested no more than a day or two before arriving. You really have to taste this stuff to believe it -- there are lush flavours and sweet smells that I didn't know existed. The one bad thing I will say about their veg is that once you try it, you will never be able to eat supermarket vegetables again.

Although it is not as high-profile as automobiles, electricity use, or recycling, how our food is produced is just as environmentally important. With a local veggie box program -- or some other system of community supported agriculture -- you reach a win-win-win situation.

You win because you get the best vegetables ever delivered to you. Because there is no middle-man, the prices are comparable to supermarket prices. You actually know who grows your food, and have a connection with that person.

Your community wins because you are employing local small-scale farmers. You can also meet other like-minded people if you pick up your box from a neighbourhood delivery point. In some systems, the members spend a small portion of time working at the farm -- and believe it or not, this can be quite a lot of fun.

The environment wins because organic community supported agriculture can be very low-impact. Shillingford is within walking distance from my house, so not many food miles there. The vegetables are fertilized naturally through crop rotation (no petrochemicals in this food chain), pests are controlled biologically, and the harvest is gathered by hand. The farm supports us, but not at the expense of wildlife -- ponds, hedges, and woodland are integrated into the farm design to allow for co-existence rather than compartmentalization.

Most places in the US and UK have several organic vegetables box systems available -- try Googling it; you may be surprised at what you find. Most allow a trial veggie box so you can see if you like it -- so go ahead, give it a try! If you live in Exeter, I've already put a list together.

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