Continues from The British heritage and farm shops in the country side.
"Although the British diet has been improved significantly in a past decade", Ben Raskin, head of horticulture at the Soil Association continues, "but we are still losing our valuable soil and seeds." The Soil Association is an organization in UK, promoting the connection between healthy soil, healthy people, healthy animals and a healthy planet. Their activity is funded by 25,000 supporters and various fund raising campaigns.
When you think to choose organic in UK, you will see their logo everywhere, on organic food packages, gardens, farm accommodation, farm shops and so on. Over 70% of organic products in Britain carry the Soil Association charity symbol, and over 4,500 farms and businesses all over the world have their certification.
I was planning to attend one of their conference event in Manchester, but unfortunately the event has been canceled. I asked the event organizer whether I could ask several questions about British organic farming and food, and Ben kindly offered me to visit his office in Bristol.
The office is located in a center of Bristol city, and there are about 120 members. Half of them work on charity campaigns, and the other half work directly with farmers and growers to support and certify their organic products.
During this travel, I was impressed by a huge variety of organic products in Britain, and I wanted to ask how it became so popular.
Ben feels that there is a raise in interest in organic farming especially among young generation. The Soil Association is providing an apprentice training program on organic farming. There are 20 apprentices at the same time, and there are over 300 people on the waiting list.
There are 188 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) across England and the soil association team has supported the development of 67 CSAs with another 147 on the way. 110 farms are involved in their Organic Farm Network, opening their farms to public and school visits. ( Some numbers from Soil Association : Annual review 2012)
The other interesting example which Ben mentioned was The Community Farm near Bristol. The community grows 22 acres of land in a co-operative way. More than 500 members from nearby towns and villages are not only receiving weekly organic box, but also collaborating to manage the farm.
We discussed that the age from 30 to 40 (his and also my age) might be a kind of lost generation in healthy diet while having their childhood in a high‐economy-growth period. But younger generation seems to care more about the healthy and sustainable food system.
As my last question, I asked him what is the most important factor for the future of good food. His answer were "the soil and seeds". Once I hear the answer, it sounds obvious. But I realized that how easily we tended to forget about where our food fundamentally came from.
We think that organic is the healthy choice for our body, such as a non-pesticide and non-chemical choice. It is true, but sometime we forget that it is also about the health of the soil. Thinking only about our body might mislead our sense of healthiness especially when we live at the center of city, far from the soil. About seeds, I had an interesting experience at the other event, and I would like to write about it in another entry.