It is our passionate conviction at Manchester Veg People that the paradigm of a globalised, industrial, chemically-laced, mono-culture, exploitative system which manufactures the food that dominates the market needs replacing as soon as possible.
It is unfair to farmers, unsustainable, and is damaging to the environment and wild fauna as well as the local economy. Furthermore, the food is all too often tired and tasteless.
We believe that as farmers, chefs, and people who appreciate great food we have to act –we have to work together locally to achieve what changes we can in terms of what is grown, how it is grown, where it is grown, and how it is paid for.
Therefore, the fundamental ambition shared by the members of Manchester Veg People is to take on more local organic farms and to change more local, quality arable land to organically-certified farms growing beautiful food for local people to eat.
Incorporating existing organic farmers as new members of our cooperative is straight-forward – last season farmers with more than 100 acres of land within 50 miles of the city have become members, and we expect to triple that this season.
There are not, however, currently enough local organic farmers within 50 miles of the city – so we need to support new growers and to convert more land to organic. Land that is in the process of being converted to organic needs further explanation in terms of Manchester Veg People’s buying policy.
Converting to organic:
Quality land that is allocated for future organic certification requires the soil be farmed for two full years using solely organic methods before the produce can then be officially labelled as organic. During the first year, it carries no official status. In the second year it can be legally referred to as ‘in-conversion’, before being certified organic from the third year onwards.
Following consultation with long-standing buyer members of the Manchester Veg People Co-operative, we have chosen to sell the produce coming from quality local land at the beginning of the process. We have chosen to do this for three principal reasons:
- Farming is hard. Organic farming – where chemical inputs being applied to control pests and artificial fertilizers are not permitted – is even harder. Principally, because chemicals are not used on weeds and pests and the risk and the labour required to farm it is greater. We believe that farmers choosing to begin the process of conversion should be paid commensurably when they are producing exceptional produce using farming methods that are organic.
- Converting local land to organic status is one of our primary ambitions. In order to make a practical and immediate impact on the amount of local produce being grown organically, we feel that we and our customers should have the opportunity to choose to support local growers who are starting to convert.
- But it’s not all about the money. Initiating the process of converting to organic means that the process of bettering the environment begins. We think we have a duty of care to the soil. Farmers taking the risk in converting to organic and selling their produce through us are more able to have an impact on everything from the extraordinary micro-organisms that thrive in organically-farmed soils to the plants and wild fauna – including us – that depend on a more naturally-balanced eco-system.
In our documentation, therefore, produce is coded for each year of the process: NC, IC, and OC for not-certified, in-conversion, and organically-certified, respectively.
The present and the future:
In the meantime, as more local growers are being developed, we continue to serve and increase sales of organic food to our customers. This means that we need to buy organic produce from further afield. These purchases will end when local growers have developed to the point where they can meet your needs locally.
The chart top-right shows where the produce we handled for farmers and customers over the past financial year came from in percentage terms.
The goal, year in and year out, is to significantly increase the volume of organic food grown locally. We aim to play our part in establishing a robust mosaic of local growers operating under a more sustainable and resilient agricultural paradigm. We will report back every year showing you the change our farmers and customers have achieved.
Principally, we plan to accomplish this by working with growers to re-direct their planting. Where possible they will grow more of the crops that we currently need to buy from outside the area. In addition, we will work with customers and growers to introduce suitable unusual crops they want for their kitchens. Lastly, we hope to work with customers and the public to change instincts and expectations about what to eat according to the seasons.
Manchester Veg People Buying Policy: Summarised
- We buy from farms that are within 50 miles of the city whenever possible.
- We buy from regional UK farms when local production is in short supply.
- We buy from EU wholesalers for items that cannot be grown in the UK.
- We buy from EU wholesalers crops which can be grown in the UK but are unavailable.
- We do not buy air-freighted produce.
- We do not buy produce from outside the EU (the sole exception being bananas).
- We maximise the benefit to the local economy by prioritising local growers.
- We aim to pay farmers a price based on the true costs of organic production.
- We support and work with new growers by purchasing from them as they convert.
- We work with growers to co-ordinate crops planted, aiming to reduce risk and wastage for growers and to expand the variety of crops available to buyers.
Our principal aim is to grow beautiful fruit and vegetables – using organic methods. The reasons we have taken this position include but are not limited to the points below:
- Increased biodiversity – organic farming increases biodiversity greatly
- Reduced carbon footprint – organic farming lowers carbon emissions substantially
- Food sovereignty – localised organic farming reduces reliance on long supply chains giving more control to the people producing the food and to those eating it.
- Soil health – organic methods help build up the fertility of the soil, making it healthier and more productive
- Artificial chemicals – organic foods contain far, far fewer artificial chemicals
- Environmental pollution – organic production reduces pollution of soil and water courses (and therefore also reduces the annual cost to the public purse of cleaning that pollution up)
- Taste – we find that fresh locally grown organic food just tastes better…
We believe this policy makes buying through Manchester Veg People Co-operative meaningful.
Choosing to source the fruit and vegetables you need for your business from our established farms, from new growers and from farmers who are converting to organic means you are not only serving very high-quality food to your customers. It also means playing a very important and practical role in improving and protecting the land around us.
Buying Policy V2.20 updated 15-05-2016 DHJ