Veg Box People has recently updated its purchasing policy in order to sell non-certified-organic produce.
“Why, isn’t that a step backwards…?” you might ask? Well, nope! It’s a strategic move designed to help get more local land into organic production, by supporting farmers who have started growing using organic practices but aren’t yet eligible for the Soil Association’s “in conversion” label. And it's already benefiting two sets of growers right here in Greater Manchester.
We are passionate about selling organic food. But more than that, as part of the Kindling Trust's 'family' of initiatives we are committed to changing the food system – and a crucial part of our shared mission is to get more local land into organic production.
Last year, Kindling was able to help transform a partly derelict and under-utilised growing space in Stockport, creating a home for a second FarmStart site as well as giving Glebelands City Growers a unique opportunity to double their production of veg for sale in local outlets.
Although FarmStart trainees and Glebelands have always grown according to Soil Association practices, regulations require a period of one year’s monitored growing on new land before produce can be certified as officially "in conversion” to organic. This period is a really tough time for growers. They’re putting all the extra time and effort into growing without chemical inputs or pesticides, and starting to set in motion the resulting chain of benefits to soil, water and wildlife, but reaping none of the rewards that come with the organic label. Providing a market for their produce at this stage makes a huge difference to their ability to undergo the conversion process.
Although it only applies to these growers at the moment, our decision has been made with a long-term aim of encouraging other farmers in the North West to undergo the conversion process, offering a fair, transparent and supportive trading relationship from the moment a farmer starts using organic methods. We are making a strategic investment in the future of organic production in our region.
It's certainly a move that relies on trust - between our customers and us, and between us and our growers. But that's the beauty of Veg Box People, it's been founded on building relationships along the food chain and creating mutual trust and understanding. We know our growers really well and work with them closely, and all the produce will be clearly labelled as to whether it's non-certified, certified 'in-conversion' or certified organic, so customers will know exactly what's what. And through Kindling's Land Army, they can even visit and work with the growers themselves.
So, a step backwards?? Quite the opposite!