Eat Local

Published on May 18th, 2009 | by Mei Li


An Organic Box Scheme (A British Take on Community Supported Agriculture)

I feel like I’ve finally settled a little here in London now that I am the proud recipient of an organic fruit and vegetable box scheme from a local company called Growing Communities. These box schemes are the equivalent of what we call Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes in the States. As other writers have mentioned on Eat.Drink.Better, it’s a great way to support local farmers and have good produce around to eat!

I feel blessed to live in the same area as Growing Communities, because it means I get access to their boxes of local and organic fruits and veg (the nickname everyone gives to vegetables here). You have to live or work in the neighborhood of Hackney in order to be a part of the scheme, which I’ll explain below. Their box scheme is particularly cool for a couple of reasons:

1. Growing Communities is ‘committed to cutting food miles and supporting small sustainable farmers.’

They were London’s first box scheme, and now help distribute produce from over 25 organic farmers and cooperatives. A slip of paper arrives with the produce each week detailing the producers and country of origin of each included item and often includes a feature on a local farm.

2.  They never buy air-freighted produce.

Veggies come from farms all over Britain and some vegetables come from Italy. This seemed to contradict their claim about food miles until I remembered how close together the countries are in Europe. Right. The organic salad bags, which include some greens I can’t even identify as well as edible flowers, are grown right here in Hackney for just about zero food miles. Sweet.

3. The scheme is ‘collection-only,’ which minimizes pollution and food miles.

Instead of getting a box delivered directly to your house via truck like my CSA in San Francisco, you have to go pick up your bags (it’s not actually a box either) at a collection point. This seemed inconvenient, and might have even made it unable for me to join if I didn’t live in the Hackney area. Thankfully, I ended up moving next door to a collection point! Every week, I pick up my small bag of fruit and small bag of veg at Hackney City Farm next door. Yes. I live in the city. And I live next to a farm. Amazing!

4. Growing Communities delivers the produce to the seven collection points using either a bicycle trailer, or Maisie, the electric cow float, pictured above.

Would it be weird if I got a Maisie for myself?

5. As if Growing Communities couldn’t get any more awesome, they also run a farmer’s market! It also happens to be the only all-organic farmer’s market in the UK. That even includes the cupcakes.

If you live in the Hackney area, you should join their box scheme! If you don’t live around here (which probably includes all of you Eat.Drink.Better readers), check out the principles behind Growing Communities for some inspiring and helpful information on real, sustainable food.

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About the Author

Mei is a sustainably minded foodie and voracious eater always in search of new food adventures. For the past three years, she has been hopping around the country tasting local food while working as a Game Developer with The Go Game, a company running technology-fueled urban adventure games. Her home base has been the gorgeous sustainable-food-access-paradise known as San Francisco, where she enjoys munching on burritos, running her own iron chef competitions, working the lovely Ferry Building farmers market, and writing a food blog with her sister at She is incredibly excited to begin writing for Eat.Drink.Better and the fantastic group at Green Options Media, which coincides with her move to London where she will be opening a European office of The Go Game. She plans to explore good, clean, and fair food in London and hop all over the rest of the continent in search of more deliciousness.

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