News

Pick your lunch at our market gardens

August 2014

We have now held two "pick your lunch" sessions at our market gardens in Clissold Park (right) and Springfield Park (below). We've got one more coming up on Wednesday 3rd September at Allens Gardens. It will run from 12 till 2pm.

Everyone is very welcome to join us for a simple lunch - we've been making a rough houmous, then visitors have been harvesting fresh salad leaves, cucumbers, herbs and tomatoes from the site then putting everything together in a wrap.

At the last one, our head grower Paul Bradbury came up with an impressive list of ingredients that could be used to make up the lunches and a range of herbs to make into fresh tea. He used raspberries grown on the site to make a delicious salad dressing too.

Allens Gardens is one of Hackney's best-kept secrets. It's a lovely park with a playground and woodland walks tucked behind Manor Road, with an entrance where Manor Road meets Bethune Road. Our organically certified urban market garden is at the southern end of the park. If you go in through the big black gates the site is on your right.

Also at the session there on 3rd September, you'll be able to have a look round our growing site, meet Fi from the GC box scheme team, pick up tips on organic veg growing from Paul and see what other secret ingredients he has growing there. (At Springfield, Paul is experimenting with growing chick peas, which taste "sweet and delicious - just like garden peas", according to Fi.)

   

 

 

 

The lunches were inspired by box scheme member David Latto, who is involved with community cooking project the People's Kitchen. They use surplus food (including any uncollected box scheme bags left at Chat's Palace each week) to make delicious communal meals at Passing Clouds in Dalston every Sunday.

 

Dagenham Open Day, Sunday 20th July

July 2014

It’s been two years since the Dagenham Starter Farm got going – two years of clearing concrete, skinning polytunnels, building raised beds, planting, watering, harvesting (5 tonnes of produce in the first 18 months!), training apprentices, welcoming volunteers and introducing school and community groups to urban organic growing.

Susanna, our community outreach worker, has been running a Grow Wild project on the site - working with children from local primary schools to plant native wild flowers to attract beneficial insects to the site (and look pretty too, of course).

To celebrate, we're having an Open Day at the farm on Sunday 20th July from 11am till 4pm. There will be lots to see and buy – we're hoping the first tomatoes will be ready to try, as well as beans, salad and more.

Everyone is welcome to bring a picnic and come along to see all the amazing work that has been going on at the farm – and spot the produce that will end up in your fruit and veg bags in the coming months!

The directions for how to get there are on our website.

 

Growing Communities offers a taste of summer

June 2014

Growing Communities is offering Hackney residents the chance to try free nibbles and snacks made with seasonal vegetables – and learn how to prepare them at home.

Visitors will be able to sample dips, cakes and other dishes made with organic ingredients produced on our urban market gardens around Hackney and the Starter Farm in Dagenham. Dishes will also feature fruit and veg from the community-led box scheme and from Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market.

“We want to show people how to make delicious affordable meals with local, seasonal produce – and we’ll give away recipe sheets to inspire them to try making the dishes for themselves,” said Fiona McAllister, who is running the events and also works at Hackney Growers’ Kitchen, a partnership that sells seasonal bakes and cakes at the farmers’ market.

The series of free “seasonal tasters” begins on Wednesday 11 June, from 4pm till 8pm, at Chats Palace on Brooksby's Walk, E9 – one of the collection points for Growing Communities’ organic box scheme. Further events will take place on Thursday 19 June, 3pm till 7pm, at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and Thursday 3 July, 3pm till 7pm, at The Russet, Hackney Downs.

There will also be a special open day at Growing Communities’ market garden in Clissold Park, during the park’s 125th birthday celebrations on Saturday 21 June. As well as trying seasonal nibbles, visitors to the garden will be able to buy a bag of just-picked organic Hackney salad leaves, look round the garden and get growing tips from the experts who work there. Last year Hackney Salad took the top prize in the fruit and veg category at the Organic Food Awards run by the Soil Association. The garden will be open from 11am till 4pm.

“Growing delicious local food really close to where it will be eaten is a key part of Growing Communities’ aim to change the food system into one that’s more sustainable,” said grower Paul Bradbury. “It’s great to have a chance to show more people what we do and how good this ultra-fresh food tastes!”

 

Thanks so much for your nominations - now please vote for us

April 2014

Thank you to everyone who nominated us for this year’s Observer Ethical Awards – your support has been brilliant and has won us a place on the final shortlist for retailer of the year.

The ulimate winner will be chosen based on how many people vote for them, so if you get a minute to click on the website and vote for us, we'd be eternally grateful! (You need an account with The Guardian to vote - but it's free and quick to set one up.) Voting closes on Thursday 22 May.
Being a finalist is a great endorsement of what we are striving to do, in terms of thinking hard about the “best” way to do things. We measure ourselves against 12 key principles, covering everything from supporting low-carbon, small-scale farming to promoting knowledge, transparency and trust.

We pay the farmers a fair price for their veg – often more than supermarkets or wholesalers (or some other box schemes) pay them. And we pay our staff at least the London Living Wage, with the highest paid person in GC getting just under twice that (by way of contrast, the CEO of Tesco's gets 900 times the average Tesco worker's salary....)

Also, as a not-for-profit company, we ensure that any surplus is ploughed back into our efforts to change the food system through community-led trade, working out how to make urban growing viable and helping other groups to set up their own community-led box schemes. We want to increase the number of people eating fresh, seasonal food and make sure more money is directed towards those local, small-scale farmers who we believe are the basis of a sustainable food system.

While it’s very gratifying to have been shortlisted for the Observer award, it would of course be even more gratifying to win it! If you support our efforts to bring about change and like how we’re trying to do it, it would be great if you could vote for us.


Plant sale and seed swap

Sunday 4 May 2014

Get your gardening off to a great start with the Growing Communities Annual Plant Sale and Seed Swap, which takes place on Sunday 4 May from 11am till 3pm next to our Springfield Park market garden.

  • Swap your spare seeds, seedlings and plants.
  • Get a head start to the season by buying seedlings of food plants, raised organically under glass at our Dagenham Starter Farm and ready to plant out, including beans, cucs, tomatoes, peppers and more.
  • Explore our organic market garden and get advice on fruit and vegetable growing from our head grower.


How to find us: We will be situated under a brightly coloured gazebo on the grassed area in front of our Springfield site.  This is situated next to the Greenhouses and 100 metres to the north of the park cafe (The White Lodge).  We’ll put some signs up on the day to help you find us.  See map below.

Seasonal taster at Kick Studio

Thursday 3 April 2014

On Thursday 3 April, we’ll be running one of our ever-popular seasonal taster events when we invite people to try free samples of tasty dishes made with produce from our organic community-led box scheme.

The event will be taking place from 5pm till 7pm just north of London Fields on Richmond Road, which is on the bike path that runs from the City through London Fields, Clapton and Walthamstow to Epping (London cycle route number 9). See map below.

Cycle commuters and other passers-by will be able to try nibbles and snacks made with local, seasonal produce and then take away recipe sheets so they can try making the low-cost meals for themselves at home.

Kick Studio, just along Richmond Road from the bike path, is the latest addition to the list of pick-up points for Growing Communities’ organic veg box scheme. It runs a selection of courses including kick boxing, yoga and personal training – and has a great café and chill-out area too.

Growing Communities has been running its award-winning box scheme for 20 years, bringing together the community to support local farmers and ensure people in Hackney can enjoy great, affordable organic food. It has 13 pick-up points across the borough, many of which are on or near cycle routes.

 

Please vote for us as ethical retailer

March 2014

We're very pleased to be in the running for Best Retailer in the Observer Ethical Awards. Winners are chosen based on how many people vote for them, so if you get a minute to click on the website and nominate Growing Communities as Retailer of the Year, we'd be eternally grateful! (You need an account with The Guardian to vote - but it's free and quick to set one up.) Voting closes on Friday 21 March.

New pick-up at Kick Studio in London Fields

January 2014

We're very pleased to announce that we've started the new year by opening a new pick-up, and are now back in London Fields for the first time in a while. Kick Studio is in the railway arches at 274 Richmond Road, E8, very near the main cycle route that runs from Clapton to Shoreditch through London Fields and along Goldsmiths Row. The pick-up is open from Thursday mornings till Saturdays mornings, including a late pick-up on Thursday. Full details of opening times are here. The studio has four areas: a high-energy workout area including a professional-sized boxing ring; a studio for lower-intensity workouts; a great café for socialising and a relaxing reflective space. Sophie Pittaway and her team aim to help you balance your physical fitness and emotional wellbeing through a combination of ancient martial arts, contemporary fitness techniques and sports science. And Sophie is offering new box scheme joiners the chance to go along for a free session or coffee! Have a look at the Kick Studio blog here.

Now is a good time to visit as they have some special offers running this month: four yoga sessions for £30 or 10 for £50; seven days' unlimited classes for £20; or five sessions with a personal trainer for £250.

If you would like to join the box scheme and collect from Kick Studio, please fill in our joining form. If you're already on the scheme and would like to change your pick-up to Kick, please email and let Fi or Nicole know. And if you have any friends in that area who might like to join the scheme - or visit the studio - please spread the word.

Having community pick-up points is central to our model of community-led trade, allowing members to meet each other and support local enterprises as well as helping us to keep our costs down and pass more money directly to the farmers that produce our food. The scheme really wouldn't be the same without the tireless support of all the fantastic people who work at our collection points, so a big thank you to all of them.


Christmas move for farmers' market

December 2013

Delight and inspire your family and friends with local, organic gifts. Take a look at our Christmas shopping guide.

Stoke Newington Farmers' Market is moving to its usual December spot in West Hackney Recreation Ground on Evering Road - just round the corner from its usual site in front of St Paul's Church - for the three Saturdays leading up to Christmas, the 7th, 14th and 21st December.

Stallholders will be selling everything you need for a perfect roast, including organic turkeys and geese from Longwood Farm in Suffolk, spuds, sprouts and all the trimmings, plus mince pies, tiramisu, cakes and cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

The market is a great place to buy unusual, local presents too: London Glider cider, chutneys and preserves, honey from Tottenham and Walthamstow, Klapton Ketchup, oyster-mushroom growing kits, hand-made chocolates, award-winning cheeses, lavender beauty products, ceramics, knitted blankets and more. See our shopping guide above.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the market cafe will be serving mulled cider alongside its organic fairtrade coffee. Not only that, the bacon sandwiches, egg rolls and burger buns will be back! What better way to celebrate getting your shopping finished?

Order your turkey now: Matthew at Longwood Farm is asking customers to put in Christmas orders in advance - not just for turkeys and geese but for all the meat you'd like to collect on Saturday 21st. This will help him know how much to bring to the market that day and speed up the queues. There's an order form on his website or you can pick one up at the market.


Growing Communities' AGM

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Annual General Meeting of Growing Communities for 2013 will be held at The Old Fire Station, 61 Leswin Road, Stoke Newington, London N16 7NX on Wednesday 11th December 2013 at 7.30pm. Please click here to download the agenda. Please note that nominations for the management committee are now closed. (.pdf)

 

New meat producer starting at market

November 2013

Our new organic livestock farmer, Matthew Unwin from Longwood Farm, will be starting at Stoke Newington Farmers' Market on Saturday 2nd November. Matthew will be there himself on Saturday and he will have organic pork and sausages, chickens, beef and lamb all from his 180-acre farm in Tuddenham St Mary, Suffolk.

Matthew and his wife Louise are exactly the sort of small family farmers that we want to support at the market and we're really grateful that Matthew has worked so hard to make sure he can make it to the market - with very little lead-in time. As Matthew is just working out how much meat he is likely to sell, there may be a little bit of trial and error in terms of the quantities that he brings each week - so if you know that you definitely want something for the following week it might be worth mentioning it to him the week before. 

He also has a flock of organic turkeys and geese - and his organic beef is really amazing - so I think we are going to be OK for Christmas! Matthew will be taking Christmas orders soon. The last market before Christmas this year is Saturday 21st December.

We'll be visiting the farm very soon, so we should have more pictures and details about the farm then.

By the way, if the stall looks familiar it's because Iain of Stocks Farm sold it to Matthew so he'd be able to do our market as quickly as possible.

Longwood Farm's website

 

Pete Brown helps market celebrate Apple Day

October 2013

Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market will be celebrating Apple Day in style this year with a guest appearance from the always entertaining local beer and cider writer Pete Brown, and lots of seasonal entertainment including local cider to taste and buy.

Stoke Newington’s best-loved author will be reading from his latest, just-published book, World’s Best Cider, a global tour of the drink and the people who make it.

At the market’s Apple Day celebration on Saturday 19th October, there will also be plenty of apple-related games for adults and children, including traditional apple bobbing and The Great Apple Peel-Off. There will be freshly pressed juice and London Glider cider to drink at the market or take home – cider made from unwanted fruit “from the orchards of suburbia”.

“This year’s apple harvest has been really good, with much more fruit than last year, so there is definitely cause to celebrate apples and orchards,” said market manager Kerry Rankine. “It’s important to keep old varieties and traditions alive – and with the great apple peel-off, we’re also inventing new ones.”

Customers who shop at the market will be able to pick up free raffle tickets with every purchase, giving them the chance to win cider, apple juice, apple cake… and maybe some other items that have nothing to do with apples.

In an eclectic mix of entertainment on the day, there will also be live music and knitting demonstrations – and, of course, chocolate-coated apples from Niko B.

Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market is at St Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington High Street, N16 7UY every Saturday from 10am till 2.30pm. Apple Day is on 19th October 2013. Pete will be speaking at 1pm.

To sign up for the Great Apple Peel-Off, please email us.

Hackney salad wins top national food award

September 2013

Hackney salad logoGrowing Communities' Hackney salad has been named best fruit and veg product in the Soil Association Organic Food Awards – beating competition from organic producers across the UK.

The judges described it as “fresh and diverse, crunchy, summery” saying it had the best appearance and a great mix of leaves.

The award-winning salad – made up of some 123 different varieties of leaves and edible flowers over the year – is available to members of Growing Communities’ community-led organic box scheme, which has 12 pick-up points across Hackney, including Castle Climbing Centre on Green Lanes, Hackney City Farm and Organic & Natural in Clapton and Dalston Eastern Curve Garden.

Several local restaurants, such as Pizza Sodo in Clapton, Frizzante at Hackney City Farm, the Red Route Cafe and The Russet, serve the mixed leaves to customers and it is also sold through some shops.

“Box scheme customers have been telling us for years how much they love our Hackney salad; it’s great that the judges of these national awards loved it too,” said grower Paul Bradbury. “We are really proud of the huge numbers of leaves we manage to grow using organic methods, and because we are harvesting our salad so close to where it will be eaten, it’s always really fresh.”

Growing Communities started growing salad on a site in Clissold Park in 1997. Since then it has set up two more urban market gardens – in Springfield Park and in Allens Gardens on Manor Road. It has also created a Patchwork Farm across Hackney, where salad is grown by graduates from Growing Communities’ urban apprentice scheme on nine small sites on church land, estates and private gardens. All the sites are organically certified and last year they produced more than a tonne of salad.

This Sunday [22nd Sept] Growing Communities is holding open days at two of its market gardens – Clissold Park and Allens Gardens, where visitors can see where the salad is grown, pick up tips from the expert growers and taste low-cost dishes made with food from the sites and other local veg from Growing Communities’ community-led box scheme and Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market.

The Soil Association awards are presented as part of “Organic September”, during which the association asks everyone to make “one small change” to organic food – to act against climate change, increase biodiversity and improve animal welfare. This is also Urban Food Fortnight, a celebration of city food.

You can read more about the win on the Soil Association website.

 

A feast of local food at our September open day

September 2013

On Sunday 22nd September, we'll be opening up two of our Hackney market gardens and offering visitors a taste of the local food grown there.

The open days coincide with Urban Food Fortnight, architectural programme Open House weekend and the Soil Association's Organic September.

Visitors to the urban market gardens in Clissold Park and Allens Gardens will be able to see where Growing Communities produces its “zero-food miles” Hackney Salad and get expert tips on organic food growing.

At Clissold Park, there will also be a feast of local organic food to sample, made with ingredients grown on the site as well as other local veg from our community-led box scheme and Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market. 

“Growing delicious local food in the heart of the city, really close to where it will be consumed, is a key part of Growing Communities’ aim to change the food system into one that’s more sustainable,” said grower Paul Bradbury. “It’s great to have this opportunity to show more people what we do and how good this food tastes!”

The open day at Allens Gardens is part of the annual architectural programme Open House weekend; as well as enjoying tours of the growing area, visitors will be able to look round the site’s eco classroom, with its composting toilet, rainwater harvesting and insect-attracting sedum roof. 

The events also coincide with Organic September, organised by the Soil Association – which celebrates organic food production.

During the month, the Soil Association is asking everyone to make one small change to organic to support a “kinder, greener and better climate”. Organic farms support 50% more wildlife, with 30% more species – that’s more birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, bats and wildflowers – and make a big difference to the lives of farm animals.

Clissold Park will be open from 11am till 5pm on Sunday 22 September and Allens Gardens will be open from 10am till 5pm. Entrance to both sites is free.

 

A seasonal taste of fresh, local veg

May 2013

Growing Communities is running a series of “Seasonal Tasters” across Hackney to inspire residents to make delicious, affordable meals out of locally grown, seasonal vegetables.

The Old Fire Station off Brooke Road - Wednesday 22nd from 4.30pm until 6.30pm

The Russet off Hackney Downs - Thursday 23rd from 6-8pm

Chats Palace on Brooksby’s Walk - Wednesday 5th June, 5-7pm

Castle Climbing Centre - Thursday 6th June, 5-7pm

Dalston Eastern Curve Garden - Sunday 9th June, 2-5pm

The free events, which start on 15th May at Hackney City Farm and run for a month, are taking place at some of the pick-up points for Growing Communities’ organic fruit and veg box scheme. Visitors can try dips, cakes and other dishes made with vegetables from the award-winning box scheme, then take recipe sheets home to try themselves.

The events come at the time of year known as the “hungry gap”, when last year’s main-crop vegetables – potatoes, carrot and the like – have run out and the new season’s veg are not yet ready for harvesting.

“It sometimes feels challenging to make tasty meals with the local veg on offer at this time of year, so we’re giving people the chance to try dishes they may not have thought of – all of which are simple to make and use fresh ingredients,” said Fiona McAllister, who is running the events and also works at Hackney Growers’ Kitchen, a partnership that sells seasonal bakes and cakes at Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market every Saturday.

Some of the ingredients will have been grown on Growing Communities’ urban market gardens in Clissold and Springfield Park and Allens Gardens in Hackney, and its new Starter Farm in Dagenham – just 12 miles from Hackney.  Others will come from the local farms in Kent and Essex that supply the box scheme.

“Everything we do is designed to create a  more resilient and sustainable food system and support local farms and farmers, who need our help more than ever after the tough winter we’ve had,” said Fiona. “When vegetables are grown thousands of miles away, they have far greater transport costs, they have to be picked before they are ripe and they are less fresh when they get to us.”

The first Seasonal Taster will be at Hackney City Farm on Wednesday 15th May, followed by The Old Fire Station off Brooke Road on Wednesday 22nd from 4.30pm until 6.30pm, the Russet off Hackney Downs on Thursday 23rd from 6-8pm, Chats Palace on Brooksby’s Walk on Wednesday 5th June, 5-7pm, the Castle Climbing Centre on Thursday 6th June, 5-7pm, and Dalston Eastern Curve Garden on Sunday 9th June, 2-5pm.

 

Happy birthday to the farmers’ market!

May 2013

Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market will be celebrating its tenth anniversary this summer with a programme of events for families.

The celebrations will kick off on Saturday 11th May with children’s activities and an exhibition of photographs of the very first market at the Old Fire Station on Leswin Road in May 2003. Customers who spot themselves in one of the pictures will be invited to claim a prize. Events through the summer will include family activities, taster sessions and recipe competitions, culminating with a trip to visit Stocks Farm on Monday 26th August and Apple Day in October.

The market started with just six stalls and now brings more than 20 farmers, growers and food producers to St Paul’s Church on Stoke Newington High Street every Saturday. The original stalls included two that have come to the market ever since: Kent-based vegetable grower Ripple Farm and mixed livestock producer Stocks Farm from Essex. Market organiser Growing Communities ran the cafe – as it still does – as well as selling Hackney salad, grown on its urban market gardens across the borough.

Joining the market on 11th May will be a stall selling produce and plants from Growing Communities’ new Starter Farm in Dagenham. There will be leafy greens such as spinach, salad and herbs for sale, as well as tomato, cucumber, pepper and bean plants to for keen growers to take home.

The famous and well-loved bacon sandwiches are now back at the market too. Gregor’s Grill sells bacon, egg and sausage sandwiches made with meat and eggs from Stocks Farm and bread from Syd Aston.

“We want to thank everyone who has supported the market over the years and encourage more people to see what’s on offer and buy produce directly from the people who grow it,” said market manager Kerry Rankine. “Life has been very tough in the past couple of years for the small, organic producers who come to the market, with appalling weather and rising feed and fuel costs taking their toll. It is more important than ever that we support them.”

Growing Communities Annual Plant Sale and Seed Swap 2013

Springfield Park – Sunday, May 5th -  11am to 5pm

Now that spring seems to have come at last, you can get your gardening off to a great start with the Growing Communities Annual Plant Sale and Seed Swap.  We’ve planned a few extra activities this year, so hopefully there’s something for everyone:
  • Swap your spare seeds, seedlings and plants.
  • Get a head start to the season by buying seedlings of food plants, raised organically under glass and ready to plant out, including beans, cucs, tomatoes, peppers and more.
  • Take the whole family along to our parent and child activities from 11am til 2pm.  Activities include seed sowing, transplanting seedlings, preparing the perfect potting compost plus “pick and taste” tours where you get to explore our garden and taste the different leaves we have growing there.
  • Get advice on fruit and vegetable growing from our Head Grower.

How to find us: We will be situated under a brightly coloured gazebo on the grassed area in front of our Springfield site.  This is situated next to the Greenhouses and 100 metres to the North of the Cafe (The White Lodge).  We’ll put some signs up on the day to help you find us.  See map below.

 

Stocks Farm update

March 2013

Chris and Iain from Stocks Farm have been totally overwhelmed by the amount of support and loyalty people have shown for them by coming to the market and buying more of their produce to help them stay in business. It has all helped to keep the business going and renewed their enthusiasm for sustainable farming in very tough conditions, but they are not out of the woods yet. Fuel and animal feed are still claiming a large proportion of the money they make at the market - and until temperatures start to climb, there won't be much grass in the pastures.

On the plus side, Iain's pork and leek sausage has reached the final of Jellied Eel magazine's competition to find London's best banger.

Chris and Iain, along with many small producers and butchers, have obviously been helped by the horsemeat fiasco concentrating people' minds on the need for shorter, fairer, more transparent food chains. You can listen to our director Julie on Radio 4's You & Yours programme talking about this, and there was a good article in Hackney Citizen about it earlier int he month.

They have also been thinking more about ways to reduce the queues at their stall. They are planning to set up an online ordering system and to offer a text ordering service at the market, training up Joe to cut meat and prepare orders. Their website is worth a look for the great short films featuring Iain making his favourite recipes. And we're keeping the Save Stocks Farm Facebook page updated too.

Wholesome Food Association

Chris and Iain have decided that while they will continue to farm using organic methods, they are no longer going to be certified by the Soil Association. Instead they are going to become members of the Wholesome Food Association. This is a producer-run organisation catering for small, local farmers. Its members agree to farm organically and operate an open-gate policy where customers can come and look at the farm to see how their food is produced.

Growing Communities will allow Stocks Farm to continue selling at the market as we are happy that Chris and Iain are continuing to produce food in a sustainable way that is good for the environment and animal welfare.

 

Growing Communities launches campaign to save Stocks Farm

February 2013

Save Stocks Farm on Facebook

iain with chickenGrowing Communities’ launches a campaign this week to save Stocks Farm, run by brothers Chris and Iain Learmonth, from going out of business.  Stocks Farm is a small organic livestock and apple farm in Wiston, Essex, that supplies apples to our box scheme and sells meat at Stoke Newington’s Farmers’ Market. High feed and fuel prices combined with a poor apple harvest last year mean that Chris and Iain are facing the prospect having to give up farming in the next two months unless they can increase sales.

This campaign isn’t just about saving one family farm but it’s also about the future of farming and food production in the UK. Do we really want meat production to be done only on an industrial scale – with the hazards that brings – and for farming just to be the preserve of giant corporations, millionaires and ex-pop stars?” said Kerry Rankine, Growing Communities’ assistant director. “Stocks Farm is the epitome of a small family farm, where animals are reared and meat is produced in a sustainable way – but last year was very difficult and increasing feed prices mean they are really struggling. So people who want meat they can trust and want to support small family farms need to come to the market and buy from Stocks.”

We all know we need to eat less meat but for those of us who do choose to eat meat, it’s even more important that it comes from farmers that are farming in a sustainable way. Stocks Farm has been called “everything a typical industrial farm is not.” Chris and Iain’s farm in North Essex is a very small farm indeed by UK livestock farming standards. But for Chris and Iain small is both beautiful and more sustainable. The animals graze outside all year round – the sheep and beef cattle are grass fed. Iain prepares all the sausages and bacon himself using nothing but natural ingredients. Last year he built a smoker so he can make his own smoked meats and bacon on the farm.sheep in orchard

We’ve cut all the costs we can and we now have to put our prices up as we weren’t even covering our costs and we can’t survive like that for much longer,” said Chris Learmonth, one of the Stocks Farm brothers. “We just want to carry on farming in the small-scale way we’ve been doing – but as tenant farmers with no money backing us we need to be able to support ourselves and our families. People in Hackney helped us get started now we need them to help save our farm”.

Chris and Iain are at Stoke Newington Farmers' market every Saturday in front of St Paul's Church, Stoke Newington High Street, London 7UY from 10am till 2.30pm.  Read more about Chris and Iain's farm here.

For more information about the importance of eating meat that is produced in a sustainable way have a look at a recent report by WWF and the Food Ethics Council Prime Cuts.

GC offers apprenticeships in food growing

January 2013

We are looking for enthusiastic people who are keen to learn about sustainable food growing to become this year’s volunteer Apprentice Growers.

The apprenticeships run from April to October, one and a half days a week. Apprentices will work with a grower and assistant grower, learning all aspects of running our organic Urban Market Gardens. At the end, graduates from the programme may have the chance to run their own site as part of our Patchwork Farm, growing salad for the box scheme, like former graduates Jo Wilson and Julie Porter.

Jo and Julie are growing salad on part of the Landfield housing estate in Clapton after residents asked Growing Communities to make use of a neglected and overgrown space. Mavis McGee from the estate’s Tenants and Residents Association said: “It’s great the way Jo and Julie are transforming this old piece of ground. It was just full of weeds and rubbish before, and now look at it! The estate residents are excited about it, and quite a few are getting involved and helping out.”  

The Patchwork Farm is run by Growing Communities with funding from the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund. It is currently made up of five sites across Hackney. The aim is to produce sustainable, fresh local food that travels only a few metres from the plot to your plate.

Growing Communities is creating another two plots for the Patchwork Farm: one in a back garden behind a bank on Stoke Newington High Street and one behind St Matthew’s church in Upper Clapton. These two sites will be run by 2012 apprentices Hannah Leigh Mackie, James Cabbett, Sarah Bentley and Sean Gifford, who expect to produce their first crops in the spring.

See our jobs page for more details of how to apply.

Growing Communities wins BBC Food and Farming Award - Big Food Idea category

November 2012

Growing Communities has won the ‘Big Food Idea’ category of the BBC Food & Farming Awards 2012 for its “game-changing” efforts to change our current damaging food system into one that is more sustainable and resilient.

It’s fantastic that the judges of the Food & Farming Awards have recognised how Growing Communities’ model of community-led trade can help build a food system that is fairer, more resilient and less dependent on fossil fuels,” said Growing Communities director Julie Brown, shown above getting her award from Raymond Blanc. “We now want to help other communities set up their own veg box schemes based on our model, through our Start-up Programme.  There are already six other communities from across the UK who’ve taken part in the programme and who now run box schemes, creating local jobs and supporting local sustainable farmers – but we’d like more!

Growing Communities has spent nearly 18 years developing our model of community-led trade, which harnesses the collective buying power of the local community to support small-scale, sustainable farmers through its organic veg box scheme and farmers’ market  – creating 27 part-time jobs along the way and supporting 25 small organic farmers and growers, mostly from South-East England.  Growing Communities is looking for more groups to join the Start-up Programme over the next year to help them create the alternatives that make direct links between those communities and the people producing their food.

Community groups on the Start-up Programme receive 18 months of training, mentoring and support to enable them to launch their own local schemes, including online tools and detailed financial models. The first five groups to take part – from Herne Hill in south London, Margate, Burnley, Manchester and Scotland – reached the end of their first year of trading in spring 2012. Between them, they are now packing 305 bags of fruit and vegetables a week, working with  13 sustainable farmers and producers and have paid almost £30,000 directly to them. They had also created six part-time jobs. The latest Start-up, Vegbox in Kentish Town, launched this autumn and is already thriving.

Jenny Slaughter from Burnley Cropshare said: “Being part of the Start-Up scheme has been invaluable in giving us the confidence to launch our own local veg box scheme.  By having a tried and tested model to follow, we have saved time and effort in reinventing the wheel and have avoided many pitfalls. Ongoing support for problems and queries has definitely smoothed our path.

In Hackney, Growing Communities packs more than 1,100 bags of fruit and veg every week, supplying around 2,500 people in east London with organic, locally produced food.  Last year, 86% of the vegetables and 32% of the fruit supplied by the Hackney box scheme were grown in the UK. This compares with Defra figures showing that UK producers accounted for just 23% of the fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK in 2009.

Over the years, Growing Communities has generated the income to allow it to start other projects – including setting up the weekly Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market, training apprentices in urban food growing and producing over a tonne of salad leaves annually on its small Urban Market Gardens and Patchwork Farm in Hackney.  This year it opened its Starter Farm in Dagenham – where growers and apprentices are growing a greater variety of organic vegetable crops, which will be sold through the box scheme and farmers’ market as well as other local retailers and restaurants.

Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market moves to one of Hackney’s hidden green spaces for Christmas

November 2012

Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market will be moving a few metres from its usual home to its Christmas location in the West Hackney Recreation Ground, on Evering Road, for four weeks from Saturday 1 December.

Xmas market location“The West Hackney Rec is one of Hackney’s hidden green spaces – it’s a just few steps from the busy Stoke Newington High Street , but almost nobody knows about it,” said market manager Kerry Rankine. “It’s bigger than our usual site in front of St Paul’s so we’ll have room for extra stalls in the run-up to Christmas, including a range of craft producers selling textiles, knitted shawls, baby clothes and ceramics, and beauty products from the Stour Valley Organic Lavender Company.”

The market is run by Hackney-based social enterprise Growing Communities, which was recently named the UK’s Best Independent Local Retailer by Observer Food Monthly magazine.

The market, which is the only all-organic weekly farmers’ market in the UK, stocks everything you need for a sustainable, seasonal feast  with a great range of local food from small organic farmers and producers. 

Stocks Farm have organic turkeys and geese as well as hams, sausages, bacon, pies and pâtés – customers can order these ahead of time for collection at the last market of the year on Saturday 22 December. There’s lots of lovely organic veg too – not just Brussels sprouts, but potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets and loads of other greens. For those preferring a less traditional spread, the market has a fantastic range of wild and cultivated mushrooms, salads and cheeses, as well as fresh and smoked seafish caught off the Sussex coast.

The market is also a great place to buy presents. Foodie friends will enjoy the amazing cakes, chutneys, jams, cheeses and beers. Sheila Poole sells beautiful mixed herb pots in unusual containers and makes aromatic Christmas wreaths out of herbs and spices. And customers can warm themselves up with a coffee and a hot snack when they’ve finished shopping.

The last market before Christmas will be S

aturday 22nd December. The market will re-open in its normal space in front of St Paul's Church, Stoke Newington High Street on January 5th 2013.

OFFICIAL NOTICE OF MEETING

November 2012

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Annual General Meeting of the Company for 2012 will be held at The Old Fire Station, 61 Leswin Road, Stoke Newington, London N16 7NX on Wednesday 12th December 2012 at 7.30pm.

AGENDA

1.    Welcome, introductions and apologies for absence


2.    Financial Report for the period ended 31 March 2012.


3.    Election of Management Committee for the year 2012 to 2013

See below.  Nominations are invited on the form.


4.    Chair’s report


5.    Any Other Business


There will also be local, organic food from Hackney Growers’ Kitchen and drinks as well as copies of the Annual Report and Annual Accounts to view or take away.


Please find details of the Management Committee elections and nomination form here. We are looking for a new treasurer, please see our jobs page for more details.

Growing Communities scoops Observer award

Growing Communities has won Observer Food Monthly’s Best Independent Retailer award for our community-led organic box scheme and Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market.

22 October 2012

The award was announced at a ceremony on 18 October at Victoria House in Bloomsbury and was published in the box scheme packingObserver Food Monthly on 21 October.

“We’re particularly proud to have won the Observer award as it is voted for by readers – the people that buy and eat our food,” said Growing Communities director Julie Brown. “It’s sometimes hard when you’re slogging away day in day out, harvesting salad in the rain and packing over a thousand bags of  fruit and veg every week to remember why we’re doing what we do. It’s a real vote of confidence that box scheme members and  farmers’ market customers not only appreciate the great, fresh, organic food we supply every week but also support our efforts to change the food system into one that is fairer and more sustainable.”

Growing Communities’ annual surveys also underline how much members value the box scheme, with 96% of people in this year’s survey describing the quality of the veg bags as excellent or good. They particularly enjoy the Hackney salad, grown on urban market gardens and Patchwork Farm sites around the borough.

Hackney berries tart“We’d like to thank everyone who voted for us and everyone who supports our efforts by joining the box scheme, coming to Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market and volunteering on our growing sites, and, of course, all of our staff and the farmers and growers who produce the food,” added Julie. “We couldn’t have won this without them.”

Growing Communities has spent the past 18 years building up the box scheme, market and growing sites, and now has 26 part-time members of staff. It has recently launched a Start-up Programme to enable other groups to set up similar community-led box schemes based on the successful model created in Hackney, supporting local farmers and creating jobs elsewhere in the UK. The organisation has also recently set up a Starter Farm in Dagenham which is producing organic vegetables for sale in Hackney and Dagenham.


Local to the core: Stoke Newington Farmers' Market celebrates Apple Day

October 2012

Guy eating appleStoke Newington Farmers’ Market will be celebrating Apple Day in style this year with lots of seasonal entertainment including a raffle to win apple products from the market.

Lucky raffle winners will be able to take home cider from Stocks Farm in Essex, apple syrup from Marina O’Connell, freshly pressed juice, lots of different varieties of apples – and maybe a special treat from Pear Necessities too.

The raffle will be just one of a series of special events happening at the market on Saturday 20th October, including traditional games such as apple bobbing, peel the longest apple peel competition,  live music from Beskydy, a film show about sustainable food – and, of course, toffee apples. Stoke Newington Women’s Institute will also be at the market for the first time, with a stall demonstrating apple-related crafts.

"After the real problems our fruit growers have had this year with horrendous weather conditions and lost crops, it feels more important than ever to celebrate apples and orchards,” said market manager Kerry Rankine.

choc appleEveryone who shops at any stall at the market on Apple Day will be given a ticket to enter them for the raffle and the winner will be drawn at 2pm on the day.

The market will also be showing a selection of films about sustainable food, including Best Before, a film about alternative food sources in London, some of which was filmed at the market, Starting Something Bigger, Olivia Fiddes’s short about Growing Communities’ work in Hackney and its new market garden in Dagenham, and Seeds of Freedom, a Gaia Foundation film exploring the history of the corporate takeover of seed and the impact that this is having on biodiversity and communities across the
world. There will also be a chance for younger viewers to enjoy a reprise of Store Wars, a vegetable version of Star Wars.

Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market is at St Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington High Street, every Saturday from 10am till 2.30pm. Apple Day is on 20th October 2012.

 

Growing Communities a finalist in BBC Food & Farming Awards 2012

1 October 2012

Growing Communities has been selected as one of three finalists in the Big Food Idea category of the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2012. Our Director, Julie Brown said "We are very happy to have been nominated for the BBC Food and Farming awards – it’s wonderful to get recognition for the hard work that our farmers and staff put in week in, week out and for how they and our local community are helping to create a fairer and more sustainable food system. We also want to thank everyone who nominated us for the BBC awards - wish us luck for the final judging!".

 

A (graphic) novel way to depict farmers’ lives

September 2012

Growing Communities has found a novel way to explain how hard life is for small organic farmers by commissioning a comic book about the ups and downs of a farmer’s life.Comic cover

Super Stocks Bros, drawn by artist Michael Georgiou, shows typical scenes from the life of tenant farmers Chris and Iain Learmonth of Stocks Farm in Essex, who sell meat, eggs and apples at Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market, as well as supplying apples for Growing Communities’ community-led veg box scheme.

“We want people to understand the day-to-day reality of producing food in a sustainable way,” said Kerry Rankine, Growing Communities assistant director. “Over the years we’ve produced lots of leaflets, posters and press releases but we wanted something a bit different so we commissioned Mike Georgiou to draw Super Stocks Bros – A Farmer’s Life for us.

“Comic books are probably associated more with an urban landscape – not with farming – but we hope this format conveys some of the sheer hard work, ingenuity and grind that goes into producing the food we eat."

The publication of the comic comes at a time when small-scale sustainable farmers are under pressure from raised feed and fuel prices, the economic downturn and the erratic weather over the past few seasons. Small UK farms are being driven out of business at a rate of more than one a day.

For the artist, Mike Georgiou, drawing Super Stocks Bros presented its own challenges: “I had no idea how much went into bringing those vans to Stoke Newington every week, but the work is relentless and time is precious,” he said. “The thing I loved most about this project was working on the details, in particular drawing the hanging pigs. I relish drawing intricate details that would be unnoticeable unless you actually explored the image. But whatever you do, don’t do a search for ‘pigs’ in my hard drive!”

Chris and Iain Learmonth have been selling at Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market since the day it opened in 2003. The money they have earned there and the income from the apples they sell to Growing Communities’ box scheme has enabled them to expand their 150-acre farm in Wiston, Essex, convert more land to organic, plant new orchards and take on pigs, beef cattle and sheep – as well as creating the equivalent of ten full-time jobs in their local area.

See the whole comic by clicking here.

 

Starting something bigger - a film about GC

August 2012

We got a call in July from the lovely Olivia Fiddes, who was doing an internship at film company Nice & Serious and asked if she could make a film about us. We suggested she went to our Starter Farm in Dagenham to see the amazing things being done by grower Alice Holden and her team. The resulting film is lovely. Take a look at it here.

Alice video screenshot

As the film shows, the growing team in Dagenham are producing a fantastic array of veg, including delicious aubergines, tomatoes, courgettes and cucumbers. The site doesn’t yet have organic certification, so we can’t put the produce into the box scheme bags, but next summer we should all be able to start enjoying the fruits of their labours, eating fresh, seasonal organic veg grown sustainably within 15 miles of where it will be consumed.

Olivia also interviewed box scheme supremo Nicki East and Growing Communities director Julie Brown, who talks about our Start-up Programme to enable groups around the UK to set up community-led box schemes modelled on Growing Communities' own.

Hackney enjoys its salad days

July 2012

Hackney residents can now buy award-winning salad grown right here in the borough by Growing Communities.

Four shops in Hackney have started selling organic salad bags full of leaves, herbs and flowers grown on Growing Communities’ urban market gardens in Clissold and Springfield parks and Allens Gardens, as well as the Patchwork Farm, which is made up of small sites in gardens across the borough. The salad is delivered by bicycle, meaning that virtually zero food miles are used to get it to customers’ plates.

The organic salad is now sold in Londis on the corner of Fountayne Road and Northwold Road, Costcutter on Greenwood Road, Healthy Stuff on Dalston Lane and Organic and Natural on Lower Clapton Road.

“We source as much English veg as possible and we like to support local growers,” said Mayank Patel, right, who runs the Londis on Fountayne Road. “Some of this salad is grown at the church across the road, so it couldn’t have a lower carbon footprint. It is really fresh and lasts a long time and the locals really enjoy that. We sell out every week.”

Most of the Hackney-grown salad, which was highly commended in the Soil Association’s Organic Food Awards last year, goes into the veg bags for Growing Communities’ community-led, organic box scheme, which has 12 pick-up points across Hackney. But the growing sites have been so successful that Growing Communities has enough leaves for other people in the borough to enjoy.

“The cold, dry spring and the rainy summer – as well as hungry squirrels – have made it a difficult season so far, but we’re still very happy with the quality of the salad we’re producing,” said grower Paul Bradbury. “Salad is highly perishable and its production is labour-intensive. It makes sense for us to grow it right here in Hackney so it’s really fresh when it gets to the shops.”

Several local restaurants and cafes are also serving the salad, including the Mother Earth shops on Newington Green Road and Albion Parade, the E5 Bakehouse in London Fields, Frizzante at Hackney City Farm and The Russet on Amhurst Terrace, near the junction between Amhurst Road and Rectory Road.  From August, The Russet will also be a pick-up point for Growing Communities’ box scheme.

The bags contain a mixture of leaves, herbs and flowers including red salad bowl lettuce, Paris Island lettuce, red orache, mustard leaf, parsley, coriander, mint, chives, fennel leaf and borage and nasturtium flowers. They are grown by Growing Communities growers and volunteers as well as its team of patchwork farmers, who are all graduates from Growing Communities’ apprentice scheme, where they learn about organic food growing.

Seasonal taster event at Castle Climbing Centre - Sunday 5 August

July 2012

Come along and sample local, organic food and find inspiration for cooking seasonal vegetables at the Castle Climbing Centre on Green Lanes on Sunday 5 August from 12-7pm.  The Castle is one of Growing Communities’ pick-up points for its organic fruit and veg box scheme.
The tasting event will be part of the Castle’s Garden Party, which runs from midday till 7pm. There’ll be food, stalls and climbing competitions – and of course, a chance to try lovely food made using fresh, seasonal ingredients from the box scheme. You can also take away recipe sheets explaining how to make great, affordable meals at home using seasonal food.

The event follows from the successful tasters held at Chat’s Palace, Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and Hackney City Farm (left). At previous seasonal tasters, one of the biggest hits has been beetroot hummus, made with beetroot from Ripple Farm in Kent. Other unusual dishes have included kale pesto, swede and potato pasties and orange and carrot cake. And all washed down with chocolate mint tea, made with mint grown on one of Growing Communities’ Patchwork Farm sites at the Hackney Tree Nursery.

Cooking seasonal food can seem especially challenging at this time of year, which is known as the ‘hungry gap’, as vegetables harvested last autumn are beginning to run out and the new-season veg aren’t ready yet. The idea of the seasonal tasters is to demonstrate just how versatile seasonal veg can be and give people ideas of delicious and affordable ways to prepare great, healthy meals with those roots and greens that are so plentiful at the moment.

The unpredictable weather this year means that it’s more vital than ever for communities to gather together to support those small local farmers who are growing food in sustainable ways.

Lucky Helen wins a basket of seasonal produce from Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market

July 2012

In a short respite from the downpours on Saturday 14 July, Niall Weir, the rector of St Paul's, drew out the winning ticket in the Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market free draw. Regular market customer Helen was delighted to win a basket of seasonal produce filled with goodies from almost every stall at the market.

Her winning ticket, 68 yellow, won her raw milk from Hook & Son, biodynamic flour from Perry Court Farm, eggs from Stocks Farm, salad from Kate's Feast,  flowers - both edible and decorative, from Wild Country Organics and Marina O'Connell, respectively, salad from Ripple Farm, raspberries from Alison Bond, cheeses from Bath Soft Cheese and Higher Alham Farm, mushrooms from The Mushroom Table, bread from Astons, a bay plant from Say it with Herbs, frersh pesto from Primo e Ultimo. The draw was run to thank customers for their loyalty during their hungry gap - the time of year when UK main-crop vegetables have just about run out and the new season’s crops aren’t quite ready, challenging all of us to be increasingly inventive with greens.

“The hot dry spell early in the year followed by the cool, soggy April has made this the hungriest hungry gap ever,” says Kerry Rankine, who runs the market. “And we’ll be feeling the repercussions for the rest of the year – as the low temperatures and constant downpours in April and early May have made bees reluctant to venture out and about, so pollination rates are low for apples trees.  It’s more important than ever that we support small farmers through these difficult times by buying direct from them at the market.”

 

Seasonal Tasting event at Hackney City Farm: Wednesday 13th June 6pm-9-pm

June 2012

Come along and sample local, organic food and find inspiration for cooking seasonal vegetables at Hackney City Farm on Wednesday 13 June at 6pm-9pm.  Hackney City Farm is one of Growing Communities’ pick-up points for its organic fruit and veg box scheme.

The seasonal taster will give local residents and box scheme members a chance to try food made using fresh, seasonal ingredients from the box scheme and to take away recipe sheets explaining how to make great, affordable meals at home using seasonal food.

At previous seasonal tasters, one of the biggest hits has been beetroot hummus, made with beetroot from Ripple Farm in Kent. beetroot hummousOther unusual dishes have included kale pesto, swede and potato pasties and orange and carrot cake. And all washed down with chocolate mint tea, made with mint grown on one of Growing Communities’ Patchwork Farm sites at the Hackney Tree Nursery.

 “Cooking seasonal food can seem especially challenging at this time of year, which is known as the ‘hungry gap’, as vegetables harvested last autumn are beginning to run out and the new-season veg aren’t ready yet,” explained Fiona McAllister of Growing Communities, who is organising the events. “We want to demonstrate just how versatile seasonal veg can be and give people ideas of delicious and affordable ways to prepare great, healthy meals with those roots and greens that are so plentiful at the moment.

Food that has been flown in from halfway across the world is less fresh and much more damaging to the environment than local, seasonal fruit and veg. We believe it’s vital for communities to gather together to support those small local farmers who are growing food in sustainable ways.”

New opportunity to begin volunteering

May 2012

We are introducting a new volunteer induction session at our Clissold Park site from next Thursday - 24th May.  From now until November, there will be an induction day at Clissold on the fourth Thursday of the month.    

Allens GardensThe new Clissold induction day will hopefully give people more flexibiltiy should they wish to start volunteering at our growing sites.  We will still be running our current induction days (1st Sunday of the month at Springfield and 3rd Monday of the month at Allens Gardens). If you would like to work outside for the day, learn about growing organic veg and meet other like minded members of the community, please come along.  Our induction sessions begin at 9.30am and last for about an hour and a half.  After completing the induction, you are free to volunteer at any of our sites on the various volunteering days we hold - for full details, go to our volunteering page here

 

 

Growing Communities launches UK-wide search for new box scheme entrepreneurs

Growing Communities is looking for other groups or individuals from across the UK to set up community-led box schemes based on Growing Communities' model.

local greens van and saladLast year, Growing Communities’ pilot Start-up Programme helped five groups from South London, Margate, Burnley, Manchester and Scotland to set up their own box schemes. These are now thriving and supplying sustainably and locally produced fruit and veg to their local communities – as well as generating new jobs and income. 

Growing Communities’ community-led model is part of the wider movement for creating environmental and social change that includes social enterprises and cooperatives, community-supported agriculture and crowd funding.   

We believe that community-led box schemes are key to making our food system more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change and resource depletion,” said Growing Communities’ director Julie Brown. “We set up our box scheme over 18 years ago to provide our community with a way of sourcing local organic food and to direct money from this community to the small farmers and growers who are farming in a more sustainable way. Along the way we’ve also created jobs here in Hackney and generated the income to allow us to start other projects to change our food system – including our urban food growing and our farmers’ market.  We are now looking for other people who are passionate about providing their communities with real alternatives that make a direct link between those communities and the people producing their food.”

This year Growing Communities aims to take on six groups and is hosting a free introductory workshop on 4 July from which groups will be selected for the Start-up Programme.  Individuals and local groups who are interested in setting up a community-led box scheme in their area and who would like to apply to join Growing Communities’ Start-up Programme should sign up for the workshop here.

Growing Communities now packs more than 1,100 bags of fruit and veg every week, supplying around 2,500 people in East London with organic, locally produced food.  The scheme helps support 25 small organic farmers and growers, mostly from Kent, Essex and East Anglia, as well as employing 22 people part-time in Hackney. Growing Communities also grows almost a tonne of salad leaves every year on its own small market gardens in Hackney to supply the box scheme.

Five community groups from Margate, Burnley, Herne Hill in London, Moffat in Scotland and Hulme in Manchester launched their own box schemes in summer 2011 after taking part in Growing Communities’ pilot Start-Up scheme last year. Jenny Slaughter from Burnley Cropshare said: “Being part of the Growing Communities Start-Up scheme has been invaluable in giving us the confidence to launch our own local veg box scheme in Burnley.  By having a tried and tested model to follow, we have saved time and effort in reinventing the wheel and have avoided many pitfalls.  Ongoing support for problems and queries has definitely smoothed our path. Despite Burnley being demographically very different from Hackney, we have learned that the same principles for success apply.

Therese Stowell from Local Greens in Herne Hill said: “Being a part of the Growing Communities Start-up Programme has been brilliant, and key to our success. As well as providing us with a proven business model to follow, it gave us the confidence and support we needed to undertake such a daunting project.

* According to Defra, the combined market share of food and non-alcoholic drinks of the largest four food and drink retailers (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons) was 62% in 2009.
* Small farms find it increasingly hard to make a living from agriculture. In 1939, there were 500,000 farms in the UK, employing 15% of the population. In 2010, according to Defra, there were just 114,000 farms, employing less than 1% of the population.
* Organic farming in the UK provides 32% more jobs per farm than equivalent non-organic farms. (Source: Organic Works report. Soil Association 2006).
* Defra figures show that UK producers accounted for just 23% of the fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK in 2009. Last year, 85% of the veg and 34% of the fruit supplied by Growing Communities’ Hackney box scheme was grown in the UK.
* The five new box schemes from Growing Communities’ pilot programme are supporting at least eight more local organic farms and two wholesalers in their local areas.

The Annual Growing Communities Plant Swap 2012

Want to give your vegetable garden a kick start this spring?

plant saleOur Annual Plant and Seed Swap will be taking place at our Springfield Park site on Sunday 6th May, from 2pm til 5pm. We will have plants to swap or to buy (by donation) as well as seeds.  Seedlings on offer this year will include tomatoes, squashes, herbs, soft fruit, salads and more. Please bring along any plants or seeds you want to swap.

There will also be tours of the growing space, so this a chance for you to come and see where your box scheme salad comes from! 

 

Seasonal Taster event at Dalston Eastern Curve

Our second Seasonal Taster event of the year will be taking place at our Dalston Eastern Curve Garden pick-up this Thursday 29th March from 4pm till 7pm. The free event will allow GC box scheme members who collect from the garden to...

  • Sample some seasonal dishes prepared with delicious produce from the box scheme (including veg quiches, one-pot veg stew & veg cake)
  • Meet some of the GC team and find out more about our various projects
  • Take away some great recipe ideas
  • Celebrate the beginning of Spring!

We'll be running more seasonal taster events at our other pick-ups over the next few weeks, so watch this space!

Seasonal Taster event at Chat's Palace

Our first Seasonal Taster event will be taking place at the Chat's Palace pick-up next Wednesday 21st March from 4pm till 8pm. The free event will allow GC box scheme members who collect from Chat's to...

  • Sample some seasonal dishes prepared with delicious produce from the box scheme (including veg quiches, one-pot veg stew & veg cake)
  • Meet some of the GC team and find out more about our various projects
  • Take away some great recipe ideas
  • Have a sneak preview of Claudia Moroni’s photography exhibition (based on different aspects of GC’s work)
  • Celebrate the beginning of Spring!

We'll be running more seasonal taster events at our other pick-ups over the next few weeks, so watch this space!

 

A green Christmas at Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market

December 2011 - It was an even greener Christmas than usual at the Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market last December when the market temporarily moved to the West Hackney Recreation Ground on Evering Road, N16 (immediately behind St Paul’s Church on Stoke Newington High Street, where the market normally runs). 

We had a great range of sustainable, local food from small organic farmers and producers and the seasonal mood was enhanced by mulled wine, roast chestnuts and fairy lights in the trees. The market is the only all-organic weekly farmers’ market in the UK and was one of only three finalists in the BBC Food & Farming Awards 2010 in the Best Food Market category.

We have a fantastic new cheese maker at the market. The Bath Soft Cheese Company have been farming at the 300-acre Park Farm in Somerset for three generations, raising cattle and making a range of soft, hard and blue organic, pastuerised cheeses that have won awards up and down the country. Bath soft cheeses have a long and impressive heritage – Admiral Nelson’s father even wrote letters to him commending them more than 200 years ago!

Stocks Farm have organic turkeys and geese as well as hams, sausages and bacon – they also have a new range of pies, steak and kidney puddings and pâtés. Lots of lovely organic veg at the market too – potatoes perfect for roasting as well as parsnips, carrots and, of course, Brussels sprouts. For those preferring a less traditional spread, the market has a fantastic range of wild and cultivated mushrooms, salads and seasonal veg, as well as fresh and smoked seafish caught off the Sussex coast.

Move over Westfield; hello West Hackney

The market is also a great place to buy presents. Foodie friends enjoy the selection of amazing cakes, cheeses, chutneys, jams and beers. Niko B sells a range of fantastic chocolates made with seasonal ingredients. We think pies make perfect presents too! And Sheila Poole makes beautiful, aromatic Christmas wreaths out of herbs and spices.

In the run-up to Christmas the market was home to a range of craft producers, including Ruth Cadeby, who knits lovely shawls and baby clothes from reused wool, Natural and Organic Soaps and the Stour Valley Organic Lavender Company.

OFFICIAL NOTICE OF MEETING - AGM


NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Annual General Meeting of the Company for 2011 will be held at The Old Fire Station, 61 Leswin Road, Stoke Newington, London N16 7NX on Wednesday 7th December 2011 at 7.30pm.

AGENDA


1.    Welcome, introductions and apologies for absence


2.    Financial Report for the period ended 31 March 2011.


3.    Election of Management Committee for the year 2011 to 2012

Please download the Management Committee Election form and information (pdf).


4.    Chair’s report


5.    Any Other Business


There will also be seasonal celebratory food and drinks and copies of the Annual Report and Annual Accounts to view or take away.

 

Making a buzz on Apple Day

Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market celebrated Apple Day on Saturday 15th October with lots of apples as well as local honey and bee experts on hand to explain the importance of bees to fruit growing. Growing Communities’ assistant grower, Pip Bromley, talked about our natural bee-keeping project at St Mary’s Church on Stoke Newington Church Street.

Apple day 2010 juicing

“There were plenty of the usual fun activities for adults and children, including the chance to get soaking wet bobbing for apples or have a go at pressing your own apple juice,” said market manager Kerry Rankine. “And we had some of the more unusual apple varieties on show, such as Ellison’s Orange and Court Pendu Plat, which is one of Britain’s oldest apples as well as bee inspired art from artist Julian Beere”.

Alongside the apple display we played a radio programme about apple wassailing in Hackney and showed some short films about sustainable food. A local charity sold vintage clothing and offered visitors the chance to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea in a proper china cup.

Apples have always been important to the market: Stocks Farm brought apples to our very first market back in 2003 from the small orchard they rented from a local landowner in Essex - which was also where Chris and Iain kept their chickens and later grazed their sheep under the apple trees.  Since then they've planted up new orchards with a mixture of old and new varieties including Court Plat Pendu - which dates back to the 1600s, James Grieve, Egremont Russett and Charles Ross. Marina O'Connell has planted up her 4 acre smallholding in Essex with hundreds of fruit trees including hardy apple varietiessheep grazing under apple trees such as Saturn and Red Devil which she sells at the market.  And recently Ripple Farm, who sell organic veg at the market, were able to bring along some the Spartans they'd harvested from some old trees they'd rescued on their land.

 

 

 

 

Growing Communities' Open Day - Sunday September 18th

bee on flowerGrowing Communities welcomed dozens of visitors to its three urban market gardens in Clissold Park, Springfield Park and Allens Gardens on Sunday 18th September.  At our Clissold site, visitors had a chance to taste the leaves for themselves - and vote for their favourite.

Growers, apprentice growers and graduates from the urban apprentice scheme were at the sites to talk about how we produce organic salad leaves for the box scheme on the market gardens and on our smaller sites that make up its Patchwork Farm in Hackney.

The Allens Gardens site also has an eco-classroom that was featured as part of this year's architectural programme Open House London. The sustainable building has a green roof to attract insects, a composting toilet and sustainable insulation.

 

Growing Communities' Hackney-grown salad is "highly commended" in national organic awards

Sophie with saladGrowing Communities’ salad leaves, grown on our market gardens and Patchwork Farm in Hackney, have been “highly commended” in this year’s Soil Association Organic Food Awards.  These awards are open to organic farmers and producers across the UK.
 
“We are really pleased that our salad has done so well in the Organic Food Awards – it’s a bit of a triumph for urban growing and for our hardworking growers, apprentices and volunteers” said Sara Davies, Growing Communities’ grower, “ It makes sense to grow produce like salad as close as possible to where we live – this award shows that urban produce is delicious as well as sustainable!”
 
The majority of Growing Communities’ salad bags go into our community-led organic box scheme but over the last year the Growing Communities sites have become so productive that the salad leaves are now being sold to over ten local restaurants, cafes and shops in and around Hackney as well as going into the box scheme – giving even more people access to locally grown organic produce.  Outlets include the E5 Bakehouse, the Three Crowns in Stoke Newington, Organic and Natural in Clapton, Happy Kitchen in London Fields and the Duke of Cambridge pub in Clerkenwell.  Ben Mackinnon of the E5 Bakehouse said “We are delighted to be able to receive such great quality salad leaves grown right here in Hackney and delivered in a sustainable way. Our customers love the freshness and diversity of the leaves.”
 
As one of the pioneers of urban food growing in the UK, Growing Communities also runs an Urban Apprentice programme to help get more people into growing for a living.  The Apprentice scheme currently trains four apprentices a year.   Growing Communities’ Patchwork Farm, which recently received Big Lottery funding, offers graduate Apprentices, micro-sites in Hackney where they can grow salad leaves, sell them into the box scheme and generate income for themselves.  

Stoke Newington Farmers' market opens on High Street

Stoke Newington Farmers' market launched in its new location at St Paul's Church on Stoke Newington High Street on Saturday 9th July.  Niall Weir, vicar of St Paul's cut the official ribbon and welcomed customers to the market. Niall Weir opening market Hundreds of local people turned out to shop for locally produced organic food and enjoy the cucumber sandwiches and live music from Beskydy. There was a fine selection of produce for sale - in particular lots of soft fruit and summer salad vegetables as well as artisan chocolates from local chocolatier Niko B and sourdough breads from Syd Aston.
 
"Stoke Newington Farmers' market has made a huge difference to the fortunes of over 20 small organic family farms around London as well as helping lots of local people set up their own sustainable food businesses" said Kerry Rankine, farmers' market organiser for Growing Communities "We hope our new location at St Pauls on the High Street will allow more people across Hackney to buy food directly from the local farmers and growers who produced it."
 
Last year, BBC Radio 4's selected the Stoke Newington Farmers' market as one of three finalists from across the UK in its Food and Farming awards in the Best Food Market category.

The Ecologist magazine recently listed the Stoke Newington Farmers' market as one of the top ten farmers' market in the UK - the magazine particularly liked "the way it encourages and fosters urban organic farming and consumption, via the inspirational produce."
 
The market continues to attract a strong local following with over 1,900 people from across Hackney and surrounding boroughs visiting the market every Saturday. Growing Communities has also worked with several local food producers from in and around Hackney to help them set up and develop their products to sell at the market. Producers from our immediate area include Hatice Trugrul, who makes traditional Turkish borek from ingredients at the market, Niko B Organics Chocolates and Global Fusion, who bake Creole-style vegan cakes and breads.

Farmers' market makes Ecologist's top ten

Those lovely people at The Ecologist magazine have listed Stoke Newington Farmers’ Market as one of the top ten farmers’ markets in the UK, saying: “The true beauty of this hidden gem is the way it encourages and fosters urban organic farming and consumption, via the inspirational produce.” They singled out Niko B for a special mention – “an organic chocolatier whose offerings include chocolates containing some unusual ingredients such as fresh herbs and sea salt. Best of the bunch are the ganache-stuffed figs soaked in amaretto”.  

Stoke Newington Farmers' Market - supporting small dairy farmers

Higher Alham farmWith the arrival of Hook and Son, the farmers' market now has two organic dairy producers selling raw milk, yoghurt, cheese and for the first time - butter and cream.

It's never been more important to support small dairy producers and to know how your milk is produced.  Rising costs and low milk prices have meant that over the last decade two-thirds of small dairy farmers in England and Wales have gone out of business. At the same time cows reared on conventional farms now produce thousands of litres more milk every year than they did twenty years ago which has implications for their welfare.

The industrialisationof UK food production - in particular - dairy and meat - continues:an application in Lincolnshire for a giant dairy unit housing more than 3,000 cows inside has just been withdrawn after thousands of objections; the next application may not be.

The market is an important outlet for small mixed farms that produce food in a truly sustainable way, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and without routine use of antibiotics and vaccines.  These farms also make a real contribution to rural economies; Hook and Son's farm now employs 17 local people in processing, packaging and distributing their dairy produce.

Hook and Son and Higher Alham farm sell raw (unpasteurised) milk and dairy and attend the market every week.

 

On Saturday 19 March, Iain Learmonth of Stocks Farm chatted to Growing Communities' Nick Perry about how he makes the sausages and showed us how it is all done. Some brave market customers had a go at making their own sausages and discovered just how tricky it is.

iain stuffing sausagesIain explained how he and his brother Chris rear the pigs, a mixture of Gloucester Old Spot and Large Black, on their small mixed organic farm at Wiston in Essex, where they also keep sheep and chickens as well as growing apples in their organic orchards. Chris and Iain were the first farmers to agree to come to the Stoke Newington Farmers' Market when it started in May 2003.  Iain makes all the sausages himself - using his pork and local ingredients. When he started making sausages, Iain discovered an old recipe belonging to his grandfather, who was a butcher - and tried it out. Since then it has become one of their most popular sausages: the "Granddad". Iain also makes his own organic black pudding - which is some of the best you'll ever taste. The black pudding has become so popular that Iain has now invented a "Breakfast sausage"which combines pork and black pudding for the ultimate breakfast fry-up. Iain is continually thinking of new sausage recipes: his latest invention is a pork, mustard, beer and honey sausage.

We also welcomed a new stallholder to the market this week. Kate Hopkins, who livkate's salades in Sussex, makes a selection of delicious salads using seasonal, organic ingredients bought from Ripple and Perrycourt farms, which are both neighbours of hers, as well as Sarah Green Organics in Essex. This week she had several beautifully coloured and very tasty salads including beetroot and pear, potato, carrot and squash, and purple-sprouting broccoli and bacon. You can eat them on the spot or take them home to enjoy later.

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