If you are already a member of the veg scheme and need to contact us, email us

Admin and payment questions

What's in the bags and where it comes from


About Growing Communities


Admin and payment questions

What if I’m going away and don’t need a veg bag?

If you’re going to be away for a week or more and would like to cancel your bags, simply log in to your account, go to the person icon in the top right, go to holidays, and tick the weeks you want to take off. Don't empty your basket as this will cancel your subscription completely.

Make any changes for the following week by Wednesday lunchtime (as this is when we confirm the next week's order with our farmers. Late changes mean we risk having too much produce).

Alternatively, you can donate your bag value to our Food Credit Scheme. Toggle the button on the holiday page and click save. Your donations will buy organic produce for the people who need it most, usually Hackney foodbankBounds Green Food Bank or other local food poverty initiatives in Haringey and Hackney. This blog post explains the scheme in more detail. We also donate leftover produce and uncollected bags to other local partners such as North London Action for the Homeless, the Claudia Jones organisation and the Hackney Migrant Centre, who put your fruit and veg to really good use. 

Or you can ask a friend to collect your bags while you're away, in which case you don't need to tell us, but make sure your friend knows which bags to collect and any codes they need.

If you have trouble logging in, email (preferred) or call us on 020 7502 7588.

How do I leave the scheme?

If you would like to leave the scheme permanently and want us to delete your account, email and let us know

Help! I don't know my password

If you haven't logged in before, you will need to set up a password. Just write in the email address associated with your account, then click Forgot password. We'll send you a link to set your password. The link also works if you have forgotten your password or want to change it. 

What happens at Christmas?

We usually pack double-value bags in the last week before the holidays, then the farmers have a well-deserved break the following week. 

How do payments work?

We charge upfront for the week ahead, so we can support our small-scale tenant farmers by paying them promptly.

How do I change my bank card to pay for my fruit and veg?

We don’t have access to your card details, so please go into your account, click payment methods and choose a new card to add. 

Can I change my order?

You can change your order at any time, but if it is after the deadline for next week (in the system, this is Thursday 11pm), the changes will apply from the week after that. Make any changes for the following week by lunchtime on Wednesday (as this is when we confirm the order with our farmers). If you have trouble changing your order, just email or call us on 020 7502 7588. 

Why are the order change and holiday deadlines so far in advance?

We work with a group of local, small-scale farmers who rely on the regular orders and guaranteed income they get from supplying the veg scheme. We ask you to make all order changes for the following week by lunchtime on Wednesday, as we send our order to the farmers on Wednesday afternoon. That way, they know exactly how much produce to harvest for you. If we book holidays after we have put in the order, then we end up with too much produce on packing day. 

This produce is never wasted - see What if I’m going away...? above. But it makes sense to get the numbers as accurate as possible when we're ordering from our farmers, so we (and ultimately you) don't end up shouldering the cost of over-ordered produce. 

Can I buy one bag before I commit?

Subscriptions help us and the farmers plan. We recommend new members try the scheme for a minimum of four weeks. There's so much variation that just one bag will not give you an accurate picture of the GC experience. But of course, if it's not working out for you, you can leave at any time.

Can I claim a discount or use vouchers to pay for my order?

Yes, we offer a pensioners' discount of 20% off the price of your bags for those who need it. Contact us if you would like to apply. And we accept Healthy Start or Rose Vouchers as full or part payment for veg or fruit bags and to pay for fruit and vegetables at the farmers' market. Just email or call us and we can set that up for you.

What should I do if there's a problem or my bag is missing?

If you can't find your bag at the collection point, don't take a different one, as this will cause problems for members collecting later on. Contact us as soon as possible (call 020 7502 7588 or email) and we'll do our best to get a replacement bag to you. Let us know if there's a problem with any of the produce - missing or bruised items, for example - and we'll credit your account for them. 

We aim to respond to queries during these hours: Tuesday to Friday: 9.30am - 4pm.

Where are your collection points?

Choose the most convenient location and make sure the collection times suit you, by checking the available collection points. Any changes you make to your collection point after the deadline won't apply until the following week. Check your order confirmation from the Thursday before for a reminder of where to collect.

Why can't I see my local collection point on the list?

If a collection point is full, we temporarily remove it from the list of available collection points. 


What's in the bags and where it comes from

Can I find out in advance what will be in my bags?

We put a list of next week's provisional bag contents on our website usually by Friday afternoon. Some people like the surprise but if you want to plan ahead you can find out here 

Can I ask not to have a certain item in the bag?

We don’t offer bespoke bags as it would add extra costs for admin, labour and produce, which we avoid to keep prices low for you. But most collection points have swap boxes, where you can exchange an item of fruit or veg for something you prefer. Swap the entire portion (all the apples from your bag, or all the onions, say) for another entire portion.

Allergen information: GC and other mixed salad bags contain a mixture of seasonal leaves including mustard and celery.

How much produce do I get in the bag each week?

Click the links on What can I order? for an explanation of each of the bag sizes, how many people they feed and what you might find in them.

What’s the weight of the bag each week?

The weight of the bag really depends on the produce we include and its relative cost. So for example £1 worth of salad weighs far less than £1 worth of potatoes. The other factor to bear in mind is the season. At the beginning of the season the cost of new potatoes, carrots, peaches etc is greater, so you get a bit less for your money, whereas in the autumn and winter, the produce is larger (cabbages, roots) and heavier.

Where do you get your produce?

We’re committed to ordering as locally as practicable. Our salad is grown on our own Soil Association-certified market gardens in Hackney and our Dagenham Farm; our potatoes and apples come from small farms in Kent and Essex; and our oranges come from cooperatives in Italy and Spain. In 2022/23, 86% of the veg we packed was grown in the UK and 32% of the fruit. This substantially beats government figures which show that just 55% of the veg and 17% of the fruit eaten across the UK is grown in this country. And the amount of fruit and veg we bought direct from UK farmers (rather than via wholesalers) was over 75%. We never buy air-freighted produce and we avoid fruit and veg grown in heated greenhouses. Only our Fairtrade organic bananas come from outside Europe. 

There are certain times of the year when UK produce isn’t so readily available. This is particularly the case in the UK ‘hungry gap’ – a regular time each year where the stores of last season’s vegetables (potatoes, onions, apples etc) have run out and the new-season produce isn’t ready. At that time we buy in produce shipped from Europe via our wholesaler. At other times of the year farmers may experience freak weather conditions (prolonged droughts or frosts) that have depleted their harvests, meaning we have to source extra produce from further away (in the UK or Europe). See our Buying Policy for more about how we choose your bag contents and Meet your growers to meet the farmers who grow your food.

Why is there European fruit in the bag?

The UK fruit season is much shorter than the vegetable season. For example the apple season is generally mid-August to March; the pear season is a bit shorter. In the summer we can usually source organic UK plums and some cherries but a lot of other organic UK fruit isn’t produced in large enough quantities or is too delicate for the bags (such as strawberries and raspberries). 

Where we can't source UK fruit, we choose fruit shipped from farms in Europe to supplement your bags. Kiwis, for example, are relatively inexpensive and plentiful. The only exception is the Fairtrade bananas, which are shipped from the Dominican Republic or Peru. Between March and July there is hardly any UK fruit available, so we rely on produce from elsewhere. We never buy air-freighted produce and avoid fruit and veg grown in heated greenhouses. 

We generally do far better than supermarkets and local shops on sourcing local organic fruit. We believe there is an argument for continuing to provide access to organic European fruit and all-year-round bags for those that want it. However, some people on the scheme choose to get the fruit bag only at certain times of the year (when the UK apples and pears are around) and go without fruit for the rest of the year.

Do you have to use plastic packaging?

We appreciate that many of you don't like to use plastic and we’re not keen on the oil extraction and waste implications of plastic either. We use plastic as minimally as possible and ask all our suppliers to do the same. Whenever possible, they bunch veg or leave it loose rather than bagging it. We have less control over produce bought through wholesalers, so it sometimes arrives with packaging that we - and you - would consider unnecessary.

We have done loads of research into the alternatives to plastic. Read our director Julie's investigation of different materials and conclusions about the packaging we use for the veg scheme.

Unfortunately, there’s currently no substitute for plastic in terms of keeping greens fresh: paper and compostable plastics actually absorb moisture from leafy greens and make them go limp more quickly. 

The carrier bags we use to pack your fruit and vegetables are made from recycled plastic and we reuse them as much as possible, so leave them at your collection point and we'll take them back and reuse them - along with any other spare carrier bags or cotton totes you'd like to bring us. Many large supermarkets have recycling bins for the clear polythene bags used for Hackney salad and other individual veg.

The alternatives are tricky, complex and rely heavily on individual responsibility. However, the long-term damage of plastic waste is a serious concern and one that we're committed to taking on, but it requires systemic change at all levels, from government to industry to individuals. Until then we will continue to encourage plastic reuse and recycling and monitor the alternatives coming out, while doing our best to minimise packaging and maximise reuse throughout the supply chain. See this annual report for some of the ways we do this.



Why does organic food cost more?

It is true that sustainable, organic produce (like Fairtrade) tends to cost more than conventional produce. Cheaper conventional produce is everywhere and it’s very difficult to resist. However ‘cheap’ food simply means that the ‘cost’ is passed further down the system either by large-scale farming and distribution systems that are highly damaging to the environment, or by giving far less to farmers. The organic farming process is more human-intensive and more land must be given to crops grown organically to avoid the use of pesticides and fertilisers. 

Does local produce cost less?

It can do: buying direct shortens the supply chain. However, economies of scale are also a factor: so if it's produced by a very small farm or growing operation, which cannot afford to sell at a discount, this produce will cost more. It’s about striking a balance. We want to support small-scale farmers by paying them a fair price but we also want to provide affordable organic food for our members.

How do you strike a balance between paying a fair price to farmers and providing affordable organic food?

We start by having a good, mutually beneficial relationship with our farmers and suppliers. They are mainly small-scale tenant farmers without the reserves to be kept waiting a long time for payment, which is why we ask you to take out a regular subscription and pay upfront for the week. We very much believe that we’re in this together and they know we are going to pay them a fair price and work to increase the number of people on the scheme. At the same time they are aware that we need to provide a great bag of organic vegetables for our customers. We have a mixture of different suppliers, some very small, some larger. We also put much less of a mark-up on the produce we sell than mainstream, commercial retailers.

We can do this by running the bag scheme in a way that keeps our operational costs low. Examples of this are:

•    keeping our admin costs down
•    making our scheme a collection scheme rather than delivering door to door (which also keeps our carbon emissions very low)
•    not providing bespoke bags but instead offering a swap box at most collection points so you can exchange unwanted items.

This means that more of your money is going to the farmer and we are fairer to our farmers, our members and the environment. The other advantage of this scheme is that GC is not for profit, rather than commercial, so we invest any surplus in advancing GC's aims - advocating for fairer, farmer-focused trade and agroecological farming. Read our director Julie's blog post to see just what a huge difference you make to farmers by buying through GC. 


About Growing Communities

Why should I get my veg from Growing Communities?

When you join Hackney's nature-friendly veg box scheme, you're doing much more than buying fresh, organic produce. You become a member of Growing Communities, which is a not-for-profit social enterprise working to take our food system back from the supermarkets and agribusiness and put the power where it should be: with communities and farmers. 

Find out how every £1 spent with GC generates a phenomenal £3.70 of value for you, you farmers and your planet. 

We believe this is the way to create the sustainable, resilient food systems that will see us through the challenges of climate change.

It has become increasingly clear to us that ethically driven and farmer-focused trade is vital to this process of creating real change in the food system. While it’s really important that more people get involved in growing food, if we don’t also change the systems that trade the food, then those new small producers will follow the same fate as many of the small farmers who have gone out of business over the past few decades – trying to sell their food through a system that puts them at a permanent disadvantage or being completely dependent on subsidies from a rapidly shrinking public purse.

Growing Communities’ fruit and veg scheme and our organic farmers’ market support local, sustainable farms by giving them a regular guaranteed income and helping them to create jobs in their communities. Martin Mackey from Ripple Farm told us that supplying the veg scheme and the farmers’ market helped to save his business during some very challenging winters. Adrian Izzard of Wild Country Organics was able to increase his farm from 10 acres to 40 acres, and employ more people. 

As we're not-for-profit, any surplus we make goes straight back into furthering our aims to make food better. We have created a Patchwork Farm in Hackney, where we grow produce for our ultra-local Hackney Salad bags and train new growers. And we set up Dagenham Farm, where we produce more food and teach local people how to grow and cook. We set up the Better Food Traders network to bring together all the small, ethical, climate-conscious retailers who support agroecological and regenerative farming and we created the Better Food Shed, our not-for-profit wholesaler that connects these small veg schemes in London with local farms. 

We're a key partner in the Bridging the Gap programme, which aims to enable people on a low income to access climate and nature-friendly food. In a pilot project, we are helping schools in Hackney to cook healthier school meals by providing them with fresh, organic vegetables.

What does membership mean for me?

As a member of Growing Communities, you're part of our efforts to create a sustainable, re-localised food system that can provide local people with real, practical alternatives to the current damaging food system.

You're welcome to attend our Annual General Meeting and have a say in how the scheme is run and you can become a member of our voluntary Board [and technically, as a member, you would also be required to pay up to one pound in the event of the company winding up...]. Every week we send you an email with details of what’s in the bag and where it was grown, recipes for the more unusual produce and news about the scheme.

As the scheme is collection-only rather than a delivery scheme, it cuts down on food miles and allows you to meet your neighbours when you collect your veg.

How is GC structured?

Growing Communities is a social enterprise - an organisation that works to bring about the environmental, social and economic change it desires directly through its trading activity. Any surplus we make is invested back into the organisation.

Our legal structure is a company limited by guarantee. While we do not have charitable status, we do have an organisational structure that is based on a charitable model, with members who elect a voluntary Board that has ultimate responsibility for the organisation. We have about 30 part-time members of staff. All our core income is self-generated.

How did Growing Communities start?

Growing Communities was set up by a group of friends including Julie Brown (now the director of Growing Communities) nearly 30 years ago. It started life as a Community Supported Agriculture scheme, which linked just 30 families up with a farm in Buckinghamshire. "These were the early days of box schemes," says Julie, "and it really felt very subversive to be unloading vegetables fresh from the farm at 6am right under the nose of the local Sainsbury’s!" At the same time, Julie began organising weekend working trips to the farms supplying the box scheme so members could help with the watercress harvest, plant plum trees and pick caterpillars off Brussels sprouts. 

The success of these trips helped inspire Julie to find sites in Hackney that could be transformed into flourishing organic vegetable plots with the aid of a grower and volunteers. “I started looking for land in Hackney by cycling around and peering over hedges and under fences.” In 1997 Growing Communities got its first site: a tiny piece of land by the old butterfly tunnel in Clissold Park. This was followed by the Oaktree site on Bethune Road later in 1997 and then the Springfield site in Springfield Park. In 2004 we set up a new growing site at Allens Gardens on Bethune Road, Stoke Newington, to replace the Oaktree site, which became a housing development.

Meanwhile, the box scheme (which by now was a bag scheme, as bags are so much easier to carry home than boxes) continued to grow and in 1999, Growing Communities moved out of the coordinator’s garage and into its current offices at the Old Fire Station Community Centre in Stoke Newington.

“We always wanted to be about more than just veg,” says Julie, so in 2003 Growing Communities set up the UK's first all-organic farmers' market in Stoke Newington. Initially the market took place next to Growing Communities' office at the Old Fire Station, but a need for more space led to a move to William Patten School on Stoke Newington Church Street in April 2005 and then to St Paul's Church on Stoke Newington High Street in 2011.

What’s happening in the future?

We will continue to be an active member of the network of ethical, sustainable Better Food Traders (now spun off into an independent Community Interest Company). We campaign for policy changes to level the playing field for small organic farmers and producers and to demonstrate the importance and value of farmer-focused routes to market. Read about our research, which shows that every £1 spent with Growing Communities generates £3.70 of value for the people that eat the food, grow the food and the planet.

Why does the farmers’ market have meat stalls?

We believe that animals have a part to play in a sustainable agriculture system but that the scale and nature of most current livestock systems result in negative effects on the environment, animal welfare and human health. There is a case for the sensitive inclusion of livestock in an ecological farming system, and in the human diet.

All the meat you can buy at the market comes from small farms with high environmental and animal welfare standards. We define these as mixed farming systems, grass-fed livestock and farms that are aiming to reduce their dependency on bought-in animal feeds.

The farmers’ market aims to support small sustainable farmers from around London, such as Fabienne and Simon Peckham of Galileo Farm in Warwickshire. They use sustainable farming methods to rear chickens, sheep, pigs and beef cattle. By farming on a much smaller scale than most livestock farmers (whether organic or conventional), they ensure the quality of life for their animals is very high. 

Hook and Sons from Hailsham in Sussex sell raw, unpasteurised milk, butter, cream and buttermilk as well as rose veal at the market, while the Organic Cheesemakers offer a choice of hard, soft and blue organic cheeses from three organic creameries in southern England.

Delphine from Soleshare works directly with small independent fishers who use only small boats and sustainable fishing methods, such as static net fishing using different sized nets to target different species, minimising discards. 

We appreciate that some members of Growing Communities prefer to be vegetarian or vegan – and the bag scheme sells only fruit and veg, with eggs available to buy at the Old Fire Station collection point for those who want them.

Can we visit you to talk about your work?

Visitors are always welcome at the farmers’ market on Saturdays, where the market manager will be happy to answer any questions about the market or our other work. You can also come and see our growing sites on the days they are open (see Hackney Patchwork Farm page), and take the self-guided tour. Please bear in mind that the grower, trainees and volunteers are very busy on those days, so will not have much time to stop and chat. The veg scheme now packs well over 1800 bags of fruit and veg every Wednesday at The Old Fire Station so it’s not possible to come and see us then. Our website has a lot of detail about what we do, so please check whether your questions have already been answered somewhere on these pages.

Can you run a stall at our event?

If the event is in Hackney or Haringey, then probably yes – if we are able to staff it. Please give as much notice as possible and email for further details. If it is further away, then probably no. As a not-for-profit organisation, we don’t have a budget to attend events where we would have to pay for stands.

Can you come and speak at our event?

If it is relevant to our work, then possibly, depending on our current workload. Again, we need as much notice as possible.

Is there something similar to Growing Communities in my area?

See if there is a Better Food Trader near you.

Can we order larger amounts of produce from you?

We often have extra Hackney-grown salad to sell, as well as herbs and tomatoes, cucumbers and other items in season. Contact our growers, Sophie Verhagen and Alice Holden to find out what they have. 

Can I interview you/write about you for my PhD, thesis etc?

As you can imagine, we receive a lot of requests and we can't meet most of them. We all work limited hours and we don't have an information officer to deal with such requests. You can find a wealth of information on our website; our principles, Food Zones and Impact Reports are good starting points. 

Can I read your annual reports?


I’m interested in becoming a trainee

Check our jobs page around January or February.

Do you have any job vacancies?

Please see our jobs page.

If you can't find what you're looking for here, please email us or call 020 7502 7588