Our online poll about whether we should sell local non-organic fruit or English organic fruit in the summer gathered almost 70 responses (background info: as far as possible we normally sell produce that is local and organic, but there is no local organic summer fruit production). It’s clearly a question that a lot of you are thinking about, as we have been too. On the one hand, supporting local producers and building a local food economy are key parts of what Cultivate and the VegVan are all about, but on the other, we also think organic is the best way to grow food!
What you said:
52% said you’d prefer to buy LOCAL non-organic
38% said you’d prefer to buy ORGANIC English
5% said you didn’t particularly mind either way, and 5% found the problem too knotty to even contemplate.
- Although there was a preference for LOCAL, the results were not conclusive, without just as many people saying either ORGANIC or DON’T KNOW.
- A lot of respondents saying you’d prefer local also said you’d like to encourage local farmers to go organic in the long run, so maybe we could think about ways of demonstrating to farmers that this demand for organic exists in Oxford.
- Some people pointed out that we can perhaps source non-certified chemical-free produce from back gardens. This is something we did to a small extent last year, and we’d be happy to talk to anyone who’d like to get involved with supplying us this summer too!
- There’s a need for clear labelling of what is organic and non-organic. At the moment everything on the VegVan that is certified organic (the bulk of produce) is labelled as such and anything labelled ‘Cultivate’ or ‘Springhill’ is grown without artificial pesticides and fertilisers (working towards organic). But perhaps we need to develop a more consistent and clear labelling system – any ideas? A colour code? In the meantime please do always feel free to ask to check.
Here are some of the comments you left:
“Organic has to be better if it can be local. But if not, I think we should support local grwoers and encourage them to head towards organic as much as poss..”
“My real first choice would be English organic fruit, second choice would be locally-grown non-organic fruit. I definitely wouldn’t buy fruit that has been brought in from overseas, and I would prefer to support local growers rather than growers from, say, Devon or Kent, etc.”
“For me it’s not an issue of principle either way. I’d go on what’s available at the time.”
“I’m more committed to buying local than organic because sometimes getting the label means a huge effort; consequently, not all non-organic is ‘bad’; sometimes it’s very similar to organic, but just not quite there. If you’re able to sell local produce and the producer know that your customers are very keen on organic produce, maybe they start moving away from pesticides and produce more sustainably. Also, if I want English organic fruit, I can go to the supermarket and buy it there, whereas I find it very hard to buy local produce except if I go to a farm’s shop.”
“Supporting local producers will stabilise what is going on and allow for producers to have the flexibility to go organic in time. However, during the hunger gap, we need to eat, and I’d much prefer the option to buy fruit and veg from France/Spain from the veg van, than having to go to Tescos for the same produced in Mexico.”
“For the time being we are happy to have a bit of each. But as we eat a lot of fruit we don’t really want to be consuming any toxic substances on a regular basis.”
“Organic, please! Maybe we as a group could eventually demonstrate to local farmers that there is a market for organic fruit and that they shoudl switch… :)”
“If the local producers are supported and then thrive, organic could follow. If there are no local producers to start with it is unlikely that a new venture is going to break into the market fully accredited as organic.”
“While I love buying and eating organic, I don’t believe the world’s demand for food can be met by this extensive approach. I’d rather see you stock local because it develops an appreciation for seasonal food and supports communities and businesses around Oxford. Thanks for asking! :)”
“I know you are carefully examining the ethics of every purchasing decision that you make, and as long as you demonstrate to me that you have thought carefully about each decision in your newsletters, I am happy to accept them. I have no time to do the research myself!”
“While I think that organic is important for all sorts of reasons (pesticide residues on e.g. apples, GG emissions and soil fertility), I think buying local outweighs this, where organic is not available.”
“There’s sometimes a glut of organic fruit grown in back gardens or on allotments. Apples, for example, are not picked and are left on trees to rot or become pecked by birds. And there must be surplus rhubarb. Why not try to make contact with these sources? I used to shop in a wonderful organic store when I was in Australia (Adelaide} and they often sold interesting in-season produce from ‘backyards’.”
“Organic is of paramount importance to me. However if the local food was predominantly farmed in an organic manner but was simply not certified as such then I would be happy with that. Effectively I would be trusting you to do your own informal certification.”
“I think fair trade and supporting little growers is more important than eating organic, as we are all going to die sooner or later but if we help little chaps along the way it is better in the long run.”
Thanks all for taking the time to respond. More polls in the future!