- Veg Scheme
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We've been thinking about what makes us different from other people who sell fruit and veg. It's partly about the food we sell (locally grown, organic, sustainable...) but a lot to do with the way we sell it (short supply chains, big respect for farmers, minimising waste, reducing packaging, being not-for-profit...). We thought we'd explain a bit more about what drives us and why it matters.
Everything we sell is organic. This is the best way to guarantee a sustainable supply of food for future generations. Organic farming protects soil, air and water and quality, looks after wildlife and climate, and minimises the use of carbon-intensive pesticides and fertilisers. If it isn’t grown organically, it may well be helping to trash the planet.
Everything we sell is as locally grown as possible. Hackney salad is grown in Hackney parks and our patchwork farm then transported to GC HQ by bike. We grow tomatoes, greens and more at our Dagenham Farm 11 miles away. We work with local farmers in Kent, Essex, Cambridge and East Anglia. Then we source from further afield when we need to – but we never airfreight our fruit and veg and we don’t buy veg grown in heated greenhouses.
Eating a wide range of fruit and veg of different colours ensures you get a mix of the nutrients you need. Professor Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and lead on the Covid-19 symptom study app, says the optimum level of variety for a healthy immune system is eating “30 different types of fruit and vegetables a week”, including nuts, seeds and herbs. Two-thirds of people who join our veg scheme say they eat more fruit and veg than before they started their GC journey.
Everything we do is intended to minimise waste. We know how many orders we have each week and ask the farmers to harvest the right amount. We buy whatever is ripe and ready to harvest so it won’t rot in the fields. We welcome wonky, small, big, misshapen, beautiful and “ugly” produce - the sort of produce the supermarkets would reject - knowing that it all tastes just as good. The small amount of surplus we have each week goes to charities or volunteers so virtually nothing is wasted. We minimise packaging and only use it where it's essential to keep the produce in good condition.
Everything we sell is fresh and unprocessed. Some or our local farmers harvest greens on Tuesdays that are ready to pick up from collection points as little as 24 hours later. Other fruit and veg are often only a couple of days older than that. Some roots and fruit are stored carefully to extend the season and ensure a variety of produce through the year.
We pay our suppliers and our staff fairly. We pay our staff at least the London Living Wage and we pay farmers the price they need to cover the costs of producing the food and pay their own staff a decent and regular wage. The dominant supermarket-led food system does the opposite: it drives prices down, relies on poorly paid insecure labour and puts farmers out of business.
When food is cheap, someone somewhere is paying the price – maybe the person who picked it or packed it or sprayed it with pesticides. So our fruit and veg isn’t as cheap as most conventionally grown food – but it is good value. GC is not for profit, our wages are decent but not greedy, and there are no shareholders or directors whose wallets are growing fat on the money you pay us. Instead your money is helping to campaign for better food and farming and to train the next generation of organic food growers.
The current food system is broken. We don’t want to prop it up by mopping up the waste left behind by supermarkets’ damaging buying policies. Instead, GC is building a new and better food system, founded on respect for farmers and respect for nature. And we campaign tirelessly for changes that will bring this better, fairer food system to life.
Many of our members tell us they’re surprised to discover how much flavour there is in the veg we supply. You’ll also discover many varieties of fruit and veg that you'll never see in a supermarket – varieties that have been bred for taste rather than shelf life or superficial good looks.
We buy what local farmers are growing in the fields, rather than making unrealistic, unseasonal demands and flying in veg from thousands of miles away. We don’t sell tomatoes in January, green beans in February or oranges in August. We love hearty roots and healthy brassicas in winter; salads, tomatoes and aubergines in summer.
We’re a living wage employer. We pay farmers what they need to survive. We’re transparent in our operations and our supply chains are short. Unlike some shops, we don’t need to make up farm names to put on our produce – we genuinely know who grew it.
Read more about the Key Principles that define how we work.