Left: Riddling taters with Sandy Lane and the Turl Street Kitchen, and Right: Dan serving customers at our Oxfam stall
We did our first spot of serious greengrocery last week, thanks to Oxfam HQ who arranged for us to set up an experimental stall in the building’s lobby. Our remit was to run a 2-hour pop-up greengrocer’s shop over the lunchtime period, supplied entirely with local produce. A chance for us to get word out about Cultivate to Oxfam staff as well as test the waters for a potential more regular stall in a few months time. Produce was supplied by David and Anneke at Worton, and Sue, Charles and George at Sandy Lane, both of which are within just a few miles of Oxford. Although we’re getting deep into the ‘hungry gap’, we managed to pull together a nice little range of produce including beetroots, parsnips, Savoy and January King cabbages and some beautiful squashes. Amongst the offerings was a bag-load of brussels sprouts… which were by far and away the worst seller! (Very sad if you ask me – I’m a big fan of sprouts and I think they’ve been unfairly maligned. I’m considering trying to get ‘rescuing the public image of the brussels sprout’ written into Cultivate’s strategic objectives for 2012-13. Any members want to join my campaign?) We also sold apples and pears from Waterperry Gardens, salad from the Little Salad Company, eggs from the FAI in Wytham, flour from the Oxford Bread Group and bread from Cornfield Bakery – all of which were good sellers and suggest that there will be a demand for us to stock a certain amount of general local produce as well as fruit and veg.
We were back at Sandy Lane a day later with a crew of staff from the Turl Street Kitchen on a site visit to discover the source of some of the produce cooked up by chefs Carl and Sacha on a daily basis. We indulged in a bout of potato riddling (what do you mean you don’t know what potato riddling is? oh ok, it involves sorting out the various potato grades and sizes on a beautiful antiquated piece of machinery), fed the flock, and inspected the long rows of snow-covered winter veg before sharing a warming bowl of squash and lentil soup in the kitchen. This is exactly the kind of thing we want to be doing more of in Oxford – bringing fork and field closer together, working with restaurants who want their staff to know where their food comes from, and with restaurant staff who want to communicate that with end customers. We want to be engaging more people in ‘the food system’, an abstract sounding thing that is actually really just about engaging… or re-engaging… with people. And eating soup.