Whenever I found myself in the fresh section of a big supermarket, I often wondered – when was this veg actually picked? Is it in season? How many hundreds of miles has it travelled? What has it been sprayed with? Can I justify buying something with quite so much packaging? And… it costs how much?
Those concerns, which regularly pricked my conscience, are no longer a problem thanks to Local Greens.
Local Greens is a not-for-profit vegetable bag scheme, run by a small group of south London residents who are passionate about local food. It all started in 2011, as the brainchild of two eco-conscious Herne Hill mums, Therese and Jean. They wanted to provide their neighbourhood with easy access to organic or biodynamic seasonal veg grown as near as possible to south east London, to ensure maximum freshness and minimum food miles.
I have to say that it’s revolutionised my food shop. It’s a weekly treat to pick up my seasonal bag of super-fresh veg from my handy local collection point – the award-winning butcher, Flock & Herd in SE15. After a quick natter to owners Charlie and Lyle, I’ll purchase some of their lovely free range meat, grab my veg bag and head home with my shopping for the week, content in the knowledge that it’s all been carefully sourced. Easy on the conscience, and on the purse strings (prices start at £7.50 for a bag of six or seven types of vegetables).
Worlds apart from complicated supermarket supply chains, Local Greens keeps it simple. They work directly with five, small hand-picked UK farms, and succeed in bringing bags full of vegetable joy to south London households. It does the thinking for you. It gives busy people with good intentions about healthy eating, food sourcing and environmental impact some great answers to the questions that often remain unresolved during a supermarket trip.
The farms are all organic or spray-free and can be found within a 50 mile radius of south London – in fact the closest (in Sutton) is just 11 miles from Herne Hill. Local Greens farmers are passionate about growing great produce by working with nature, avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides.
Gone are the days when I’ve spent a ludicrous amount on organic supermarket vegetables – only to find them wilting, bending or browning underneath the mass of packaging by the time I’ve got them home. With Local Greens you’ll often find yourself eating crunchy fresh veg that was growing a day or two before it’s packed and delivered. It’s also always seasonal and interesting – if the veg isn’t ready to be harvested that week, you won’t find it in your bag. What’s more, as well as being excellent value, the farmers also earn a fair price for their produce.
It makes it an ethical, sustainable, affordable and environmentally sound choice – and you end up enjoying great tasting, ultra fresh veg every week.
Local Greens supplies veg to Crystal Palace, Dulwich (East, West and Village), Herne Hill, Brixton, West Norwood, Camberwell and Peckham. Weekly bags are accessed from one of 16 collection points ranging from butchers to delis and pubs in the area. The scheme encourages everything local. As well as reconnecting people to where their food comes from, it also draws people to their high street, encouraging a great sense of community and support of the local economy, which can only be a good thing.
Words & pictures: Rachael Simcox