Updated: May 29, 2021
The best idea you've probably never heard of....
Crowd farming is the brain wave of a few young Spanish farmers looking to cut out the intermediaries in the food supply chain. By selling direct to consumers, customers are offered the chance to support that farmer over the longer term. In essence, invest in them and what they do. Having heard about this scheme we bought 8 boxes of lemons and sponsored a lemon tree. Now every year we will continue to receive a crop for a reduced rate. Suddenly the transaction has gone from 'buying lemons' to 'special lemons! what shall we do with them?' Have a preserving day of course! It's not the cheapest way to get your lemons, but it's certainly the most satisfying.
With the best will in the world there are certain things that cannot easily be grown in the mild, wet Welsh climate. Polytunnels and greenhouses work wonders. Not least in opening up the possibility of year-round food production, within limits. It's one thing having salad in mid-winter. It's quite another to hope for a pineapple! Less exotic varities, like peaches (or lemons), may be possible, but does such a limited crop justify the space? Who wants to be the gardening version of Sisyphus, struggling under an heroic weight just to prove a point?
At Pencoed Community Garden we produce roughly 30% of our own food needs in fruit, vegetables and preserving days. So that begs the question - what about the other 70%? Given we work so hard to ensure our share is sustainable, it seems fitting to view the rest in the same light. Many of us do collective food orders with Suma, the vegetarian wholesale supplier. By submitting bulk orders we cut down on waste, transport costs, and benefit from the knowledge that every product they stock is ethically sourced. The only problem is, caring about where something comes from is a significant step in the right direction towards sustainability, but it still leaves a gap. Because buying the right stuff is not the solution; it's too easy. Money alone will not solve the dual problems of inequality and environmentally damaging practices. The only antidote for that is the one thing money was brought to stand in for and simplify: relationships. The best answer lies in fostering these and building networks wherever you can. Supporting people over transactions. The more we do this, the more we become part of the solution rather than the problem
The deepest sense of satisfaction comes from working with a team of friends to harvest your own crops. That cannot be bought. But, salting lemons and imagining that tree you sponsored...well, it comes a close second.