The Growing Communities Team at the Old Fire Station, Stoke Newington
Growing Communities is a community-led organisation based in Hackney, North London, which is changing the food system into something fairer and more sustainable – one carrot at a time!
We run an organic fruit and vegetable scheme with 15 collection points all over Hackney from the Castle Climbing Centre near Manor House to Hackney City Farm and Homerton Library.
We work with local farmers in Kent, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk – as well as some wholesalers – and pay them fair prices to make sure your bags are filled with the best local, seasonal, organic produce that’s available in any week.
We also run the UK’s only all-organic farmers’ market, which happens every Saturday, from 10am-2.30pm, at St Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington, N16 7UY. It’s home to about 25 small farmers and local food producers, selling fruit and veg, bread, meat, fish, raw milk, cheese, eggs, cakes, pies, chocolates, brunches, gozleme, mushrooms and local honey.
We’ve also set up a Patchwork Farm of small, organically certified, growing sites in Hackney and a 2-acre farm in Dagenham. Both these farms grow fruit and vegetables for the bag scheme and train the growers and food producers of the future. Our award-winning Hackney Salad is in the veg bags from February to November – each bag contains up to 30 different varieties of gorgeous, ultra-fresh leaves, herbs and flowers.
Growing Communities – why we’re a BFT
Our veg bag scheme is organically certified with the Soil Association and our Farmers’ Market is the only one organically certified in the UK.
We source as much local produce as possible: our Hackney salad is grown on our Soil Association certified Patchwork Farm right here in the heart of London. In 2015, 62% of our vegetables and 23% of the fruit in our fruit bags came direct from local farms while overall 88% of our vegetables came from the UK. We never buy air-freighted produce or produce from heated greenhouses. Only our Fair Trade organic bananas come from outside Europe.
Over the past 20 years or so, we have created two main community-led trading outlets – an organic fruit and vegetable bag scheme and the Growing Communities Farmers’ Market. These harness the collective buying power of our community and direct it towards those farmers who are producing food in a sustainable way – allowing those small-scale farmers and producers whom we believe are the basis of a sustainable agriculture system to thrive.
We also run organically certified urban market gardens, where we grow produce for sale through the box scheme.
We are London’s first community-led fruit and veg bag scheme run by local people, based in Hackney.
When our members sign up to a regular fruit or veg bag they become a member of Growing Communities. Members attend the AGM and have a say in how the fruit and veg bag scheme is run. Being a member of our bag scheme is not just about delicious fruit and vegetables, it’s about being part of an organisation that’s trying to change what we eat, how we eat and how it’s farmed.
Our longevity, reputation and position as innovator and market-shaper gives us many opportunities to influence food policy and thinking at London and national level. We actively engage with and support agencies who are exploring sustainable food systems. We constantly interrogate our assumptions and world view – as a result our model, thinking and strategies are helping to drive authenticity and transparency through the urban food system.
Our Start-Up Programme has helped other communities around the UK set up their own community-led veg schemes based on the Growing Communities model.