Back in 1993, when we packed our first veg box, what little imported organic produce available was fit only for the compost heap by the time it got here, so our veg boxes were UK-only by default. Back then organic box customers and organic growers alike were widely characterised as freaks on the fringe, prepared to pursue the principles of local and seasonal even if it meant a diet of cauliflower, stored roots and cabbage for months at a stretch.
23 years and 30 million veg boxes later, I am happy to be part of a broader church. While our veg is still around 80% home grown, it is supplemented mainly by our French farm and a small grower group in Spain. Together they provide tomatoes, peppers and the like year-round without the environmental disaster that is UK heated glass production, and without losing the closeness to our growers. But globalisation has not passed organic farming by; if you want to buy organic and are not too worried about how or where it is produced, the supermarkets will provide you with just about anything at any time. Some of the organic pioneers whose advice I sought in the ‘80s would be delighted that trade and scale have led to success and accessibility, but I suspect more would be appalled by the way trade has arguably prevailed over principles.
I reckon we strike a pretty good balance between principles and pragmatism in what we provide. Eating can be a political and philosophical act but mostly it is just eating, and I don’t think it is our job to tell you what to eat (though we may nudge you in the direction of a sustainable as well as pleasurable diet and do draw the line at things like airfreight). Having said that, many of you have a strong preference for homegrown veg and I do get a regular ear bashing from the hardliners for importing at all, so we are going to offer a 100% UK box again. Our last attempt amounted to just 1% of sales, but maybe things have changed and more of us do without peppers for longer. We plan to run this box across the year bar a break for the hungry gap, when only the hardest of the hardcore would be satisfied with its limited contents.
The timing of this may strike some as a little ill-judged; I can only say that it was planned way before the EU referendum!