Kindling’s focus on supporting local organic growers - and our relationship with Veg Box People - has always played an invaluable role in our mission to challenge the food inequalities resulting from the dominant model of profit-driven industrial production. We recently caught up with Aoife, Lead Grower at Kindling’s market garden and FarmStart training site in Stockport. Aoife told us why she feels so passionately about becoming and organic grower and about the importance of getting fresh, seasonal veg out through the lovely bunch at Veg Box People.
To grow fruit and veg organically is to minimise our negative impact on the environment. As Aoife puts it, it is “a way in which we as humans can live a little bit lighter on the land without the damage caused by using things like pesticides on the local pollinators, or without using inputs that come from the fossil fuel industry. It allows us to have a little more control over what we’re doing, which means that we are producing a more robust farming system.”
Aoife and the other growers at Woodbank see the positive effects of this approach first hand: “we’ve spotted lots of different moths - I saw an elephant-hawk moth the other week in the cucumbers - and we’ve got loads of green finches on site and solitary bees.” It’s evident from our conversation that growing organically involves consciously creating a habitat in order to live a bit more symbiotically with the other natural inhabitants in the area.
“The fact that it’s all seasonal means it’s all very local, so the veg that you get in your Veg Box People bags on a Tuesday, for example, is picked here on a Monday and packed that afternoon. It means you’re getting a better quality product - we can grow different varieties for their taste rather than for their longevity in transit.” Aoife thinks there’s also a very simple ethos for buying and eating in a more seasonal way: “I think it’s kind of what your body wants isn’t it? In the summer you want to be eating salads, and in winter you want lots of root vegetables and stews!”
Veg Box People play a huge role in this local food system, and Aoife feels that Woodbank are very “lucky” to have them right there on their doorstep: “What they’re doing is creating a market so that enables us and other growers in the area to get our produce to the people in Manchester.” As well as for the growers, there are of course benefits for everyone who gets to eat the veg too. Customers can reduce their food miles by picking up their weekly veg from one of the collection points close to their work or home, safe in the knowledge that it has travelled far less than most of their supermarket counterparts. They can also get more creative in the kitchen, with exciting seasonal goodies and veg produced for its quality and taste rather than for its longevity in transit. Great news for the foodies out there!
On the subject of being a foodie, that’s how Aoife has felt this year when it came to growing her favourite produce this past season: “we’ve started growing mixed salad, which is really exciting because it’s quite a complex product. We’re growing so many different varieties of lettuces, endives, chicories and brassicas. It’s been a real challenge for us to learn about it, but it’s really exciting because you’re not just growing a single product. What we’re doing is creating a recipe here on site with the different leaves that we use to create the textures, colours and flavours. So we get to be little foodies about it all!”
Veg Box People deliver to collection points around Greater Manchester and offer a range of bag sizes depending on you and your household’s needs! You can learn more about Veg Box People and sign up through their website: https://vegboxpeople.org.uk/ You can also come and see where some of the veg is grown - and even chat to Aoife about it in person! - by coming along to one of Kindling’s volunteering days.