At this time of year a search of the fridge or veg rack of even the most committed exponent of seasonal eating is liable to reveal a fair amount of imported produce. Fourteen years of agonising over box contents has taught me that, in order to hang on to customers through the hungry gap from April to June, we must be pragmatic about supplementing with imports. Most out of season veg imported to the UK is flown in from Africa and South America causing horrendous emissions, or trucked, from Southern Europe with less, but still substantial environmental impact. The challenge is to maintain a degree of balance and variety with the minimum of environmental impact and loss of freshness.
We do not sell air-freighted produce and, over the year, about 80% of what goes in the boxes is home grown. For some time we have been trying to source the remaining 20% northwards and closer to home. I feel particularly uncomfortable with some of our Spanish producers who are using unsustainable water sources and are quite open that they see the organic market simply as a commercial opportunity. While I respect their honesty, our preference is to deal with growers who share our philosophical commitment to the underlying principles of organic production.
The best compromise
After a year of studying climatic maps and several visits to growers and horticultural institutes in France, my search has focused in on the coastal Vend