When it comes to January and food, there are usually only two things on people’s minds – resolving to eat more healthily in the new year, or the opposite – getting stuck into the comfort food and left over Christmas goodies! But I’m going to suggest an alternative food trend for 2022 – joining the growing army of veg box delivery conscripts. And, no, before you stop reading, they’ve moved way beyond a box of odd shaped root vegetables in quantities you’re unable to eat!
I’m writing this off the back of COP26 back in November, and while I don’t necessarily understand exactly what that all ultimately achieved, one thing I do know for sure is that we aren’t looking after our planet that well. Whether you agree or you don’t, it’s hard to deny that we have a genuine global climate crisis.
You may feel that there’s not much we can do to individually help, but that’s where the often spouted personal decision bit comes into play. ‘Food miles’ has become quite a cliché in recent years – if you’re feeling cynical, it’s nothing more than marketing speak to make you buy local, without much sincerity – but actually, if we do reduce our food miles, and do it with intent, then we can all do our bit to help the planet – not to mention our local growers, farmers and producers.
Veg box schemes are the ideal way to put this into action and with very little effort on your part: with a simple press of a button, you receive regular deliveries of just-picked, locally-grown, seasonal vegetables, plastic-free, and with that fresh from the field flavour that you just can’t get in the supermarkets. And unlike Ocado, there’ll always be a delivery slot available!
Here are three local veg box schemes to try:
Cotswold Veg Box Co: when gardener, Alex Thompson, and friends, Pete Robinson and Will Yoxall, established this veg box scheme during the second week of lockdown last spring, they had one aim – to make this way of shopping accessible for everyone. So, there are boxes to suit all budgets and customers are not held to contract. This strategy has obviously worked as Alex has attracted over 500 regular customers since starting out.
What’s in the box: as well as freshly-picked, locally grown fruit and vegetables, there are add-ons with local producers, such as David Moore Family Butchers in Mickleton, R-Oil in Lower Swell, and Leafy Tea in Bath.
Slipstream Organics: Nick McCordall was ahead of the trend when he established this organic veg box scheme in 1994. As part of the sandwich year on a Food Marketing Science course, Nick saw how organic produce often languished on shop shelves, looking wilted and wonky. His aim was to get organic produce to the customer in a state where its freshness and flavour justified the expense, and a veg box delivery was the answer. The popularity of organic produce means that Slipstream currently has over 400 registered customers, with sales almost doubling since lockdown.
What’s in the box: while the main emphasis is on organic produce, the principle is to include produce that’s grown as locally as possible. Fruit boxes are also available containing locally-grown organic fruit.
Delivery radius: Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Forest of Dean
Cotswold Market Garden: after a decade in academia, James Butterworth had the mother of all career changes and set up a market garden with the idea of growing vegetables to deliver to the local community. This meant going back to school to teach himself how to grow crops, and also finding some land on which to establish his market garden. Fortune played its part when James met Jonty and Mel Brunyee of Conygree Farm who were looking to branch out into growing vegetables. And just as the joint business was getting going, Covid struck, which only helped to drive sales: James now serves around 50 local families in the area.
What’s in the box: vegetables that are exclusively grown by James make it into the box for most of the year, which means these are as seasonal and local as you can get. The salad, available all year round, is a great way to try some new and tasty leaves such as claytonia and buckshorn plantain.
Delivery radius: James delivers to households within a 10-mile radius of Conygree Farm which is on the National Trust Sherborne Estate
Daylesford Organic: a visit to this award-winning farmshop should be on everyone’s wish list this Christmas. As well as organic meat and fish, there’s cheese from the onsite creamery and artisan bread from the bakery. And a huge range of Christmas gifts and hampers to keep everyone happy!
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