EU plans growth in organic farming to enhance biodiversity – a recent article in Farmers Weekly.

© Tim Scrivener© Tim Scrivener

The EU could set a target of one-quarter of agricultural land in Europe to be farmed organically by 2030, with an additional goal of reducing the use of chemical pesticides by 50%.
 
The plan to increase the amount of organic farming in Europe is understood to be included in the latest draft of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy to 2030, scheduled to be published later this month.
 
The proposal to reduce the use of pesticides and nitrogen, while increasing the use of integrated pest management methods, has been included in a draft of a Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy, which will sit alongside the biodiversity strategy.
 
According to Brussels insiders, the latest draft text of the plans suggests that transformative change is “urgently required” to reverse the trend of biodiversity losses.
 
It says organic farming is the “best-known and best-regulated agro-ecological practice”, but acknowledges there would also be a need for measures to increase demand for organic produce through a commission action plan.
 
The document also suggests that at least 10% of the agricultural area in use should be restored as high-diversity landscapes.

Organic progress

 Although there has been strong growth in organic farming in Europe over the past decade, the extent of the sector varies considerably across EU regions, so such a target would be a significant change.

Across the whole of the EU-28 in 2018, organic farming accounted for just 7.5% of the total used agricultural area, or 13.4m hectares.
 
According to Eurostat, the total organic area in the EU rose by 25% between 2012 and 2017.
 
The highest share of organic farming was reported in the Salzburg region of Austria, where about half (52%) of the total  agricultural area was used for organic farming in 2016 (the latest year for which regional data are available).
 
There were a further seven regions where organic farming accounted for upwards of one-quarter of total used agricultural area: Severozápad in the Czech Republic (30%), Norra Mellansverige in Sweden (29%), Calabria in Italy (29%), Mellersta Norrland in Sweden (28%), Burgenland in Austria (27%), Sicilia in Italy (26%), and Moravskoslezsko in the Czech Republic (25%).

Latest UK figures show that organic farming represents less than 3% of the total farmed area on agricultural holdings.

Next steps

Publication of the F2F and Biodiversity Strategy has already been pushed back because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
 
The most likely dates for publication at present are 20 or 29 May.

Potato Day 2019

What a fantastic day…

Saturday saw one of our busiest Potato Days with queues out of the door (yes, in that weather!) and a packed hall once the doors were opened at 10am.

The first variety sold out in 14 minutes and another four were gone a few minutes later. Luckily there were lots more options for people to try, and again there was a lot of people trying growing potatoes for the first time.

Talks by potato expert Alan Romans and BBC Radio Leeds gardening expert Graham Porter were popular and well attended. As usual, the Wholegrain Café kept everybody well fed and watered throughout the day.

But if you missed it – don’t worry, there will be some leftovers for sale at Northcliffe Allotments Clubhouse in Shipley this Saturday the 16th, from 10 – 2pm. For more information contact allotmentval@phonecoop.coop

Organic varieties in capitals.  (EM) denotes early maincrop.
1st Earlies:
Belle de Fontenay (3kg)
2nd Earlies:
BRITISH QUEEN (7kg), MILVA (7kg).
WCF: Divaa (7kg), Jazzy (6kg), Kestrel (1kg), Vivaldi (10kg).
Mains:
BELMONDO (EM) (5kg), CAROLUS (EM)(3kg), DESIREE (EM) (1kg in poor condition), GOLDEN WONDER (4kg), ORLA (EM)(1kg).
Red Emmalie (EM)(1kg), Sarpo Blue Danube (10kg) (EM), Sarpo Kifli (EM)(2kg), Vales Sovereign (EM)(2kg), Violetta (6kg).

Important update on Ryton Organic Gardens

Ryton Gardens latest – 23 Feb 2018

Dear Local Group Member

In September last year we sent a letter, with The Organic Way magazine, to all members informing them of the Board of Trustees decision to explore options for our headquarters site at Ryton. We are looking to secure the long-term future of the charity and release the financial pressures from owning and managing the land and buildings.

As part of the exercise to understand what future options the organisation has, the site has been marketed by property advisors, with expressions of interest received from a number of different parties and for a variety of purposes.

At the moment these expressions of interest contain only headline information with minimal detail. The next step will be to meet with interested parties and begin discussions to understand the detail behind each one. This will be a complex and potentially lengthy process but as and when we have any further updates we will continue to publish them on our website.

The Board of Trustees will evaluate the options available on the merit of their ability to protect the future of the charity. They will be considering all elements of our charitable work to ensure we are in a position of strength to continue and expand the work which delivers the most charitable benefit, both to our members and our project beneficiaries.

As you will be aware, Garden Organic is a national charity with a mission to encourage people to grow organically. We have over 20,000 members across the UK who access information and advice from our website, magazines and newsletters, and through our outreach work. At our base at Ryton we have an organic demonstration garden open to the public, plus a number of buildings which we manage.

In recent years, it has become clear to the Trustees that the running costs of the full site at Ryton are limiting our ability to operate to our full potential. The site is expensive to run and means that we are unable to fund as many projects as we would like in other parts of the country where we believe we could make a real difference. In addition visitor numbers to the site have dropped as there are now many different inspirational sites across the country where organic gardening can be seen in practice.

We currently undertake some outreach work through our amazing volunteer Master Composters, Master Gardeners, Growing Buddies and Food Buddies to support individuals, community gardens, schools and horticultural therapy projects at grassroots level across the UK. Our Heritage Seed Library is also going from strength to strength, with the support of our volunteer Seed Guardians, and we are building partnerships with venues to showcase varieties with local and historical relevance. We would like to do much more of this outreach work, which spreads the organic message far and wide.

Garden Organic has had to evolve many different times since it began. It is this willingness to move forward that has allowed the organisation to continue for 60 years, and will put it in the best position to continue for 60 more.

I would be happy to attend one of your group’s forthcoming meetings, to explain the charity’s position in more detail and answer any questions you may have. If you would like to take up this offer please contact Trish Henderson at phenderson@gardenorganic.org.uk with potential dates. Please could you also share this message amongst your group’s members?

 

We will continue to provide updates via our website and The Organic Way, and any comments or questions on this can be submitted via email to questions@gardenorganic.org.uk.

Yours sincerely,

James Campbell
Garden Organic CEO

Potato Day a roaring success

Potato Day 2018 was a roaring success, with crowds once again queuing patiently well before the doors opening, and the first variety to sell out going in just 11 minutes.

Talks from Riverford Organics and Plate2Plate compost kept people entertained, the Wholegrain Café kept people topped up with food and drink, and Veg on the Edge swapped seeds all day long. Stalls from West Riding Organics, Palestinian Solidarity Oil and the Vegan Society provided plenty of things to look at and buy. Once again, there were a range of fruit trees and bushes for sale.

There was a good deal of interest from local media, with radio spots on BBC Radio Leeds and BCB community radio, together with a great article in the T&A.

Thanks to all the volunteers who either helped in the kitchen or sold spuds, by the end of the day we were nearly sold out. There are a few varieties left and if you’re still after some you can get hold of them on the 24th of February, 1-3pm at the club house on Northcliffe allotments. To get to the club house park at the Cliffe Gardens entrance to Northcliffe Woods (off Bradford Road), walk up the steep tarmac road and onto the muddy track, keep going for a couple of hundred yards and the club house is on the right, at the top of the bottom set of allotments, it has a ramp and lots of pots etc outside. If you get to a car park and NEET then you have gone too far so come back down the track.

Ryton Gardens update – February 2018

In September last year we sent a letter, with the Organic Way magazine, to all members informing them of the Board of Trustees decision to explore options for our headquarters at Ryton. We are looking to secure the long-term future of the charity and release the financial pressures from owning and managing the land and buildings. We also sent a letter to the relatives of people who have memorials on the site and contacted groups who use the gardens regularly.

As part of the exercise to understand what future options the organisation has, the site is being marketed by property advisors, Bruton Knowles, with expressions of interest requested this week. Over the weeks following the Trustees will be considering any expressions of interest and will start to discuss proposals with interested parties. Discussions could take the form of a full sale, a partial sale, a partnership or otherwise – it is simply too early to tell.

The Board of Trustees will evaluate the options available on the merit of their ability to protect the future of the charity. They will be considering all elements of our charitable work to ensure we are in a position of strength to continue and expand the work which delivers the most charitable benefit, both to our members and our project beneficiaries.

As members will be aware, Garden Organic is a national charity with a mission to encourage people to grow organically. We have over 20,000 members across the UK who access information and advice from our website, magazines and newsletters, and through our outreach work. At our base at Ryton we have an organic demonstration garden open to the public, plus a number of buildings which we manage.

In recent years, it has become clear to the Trustees of the charity that the running costs of the full site at Ryton are limiting our ability to operate to our full potential. The site is expensive to run and means that we are unable to fund as many projects as we would like in other parts of the country where we believe we could make a real difference. In addition visitor numbers to the site have dropped as there are many different sites across the country where organic gardening can be seen in practice and many television programmes, magazines, online resources, etc. promoting organic gardening. 

We currently undertake some outreach work using our amazing volunteer Master Composters, Master Gardeners, Growing Buddies and Food Buddies to support individuals, community gardens, schools and horticultural therapy projects at grassroots level across the UK. Our Heritage Seed Library is also going from strength to strength, with the support of our volunteer Seed Guardians, and we are building partnerships with venues to grow and display varieties with local and historical relevance. We would like to do much more of this outreach work, which spreads the organic message far and wide.

Garden Organic has had to evolve many different times since it began. It is this willingness to move forward that has allowed the organisation to continue for 60 years, and will put it in the best position to continue for 60 more.

We will continue to provide updates via our website and The Organic Way, however if you have any comments or questions on this in the meantime please email questions@gardenorganic.org.uk.

Read the January 2018 update.

Read the September 2017 update.

France to make half of all food in public sector organic or local by 2022

FarmingUK 5 February 2018 11:45:32

Hunawihr, a small village surrounded by vineyards in north east France

Hunawihr, a small village surrounded by vineyards in north east France

France has announced that at least half of all food bought by the public sector must be organic or locally produced.

 

Reported in Politico, the French government will force an uptake of local and organic food by 2022.

 

The French Agricultural Minister Stéphane Travert announced the new rules as part of measures to boost the French farming sector, and to improve diets.

 

Farming charity the Soil Association has said Defra Secretary Michael Gove must “sit up” and “take note” on this new French policy.

 

Policy and Campaigns Manager at the Soil Association’s Food for Life, Rob Percival said the initiative highlights the “power of public procurement” to support better farming practices and improve diets.

 
He said: “More ambitious action from Government could further stimulate demand for British, local, and higher quality produce.

 

“Michael Gove already has the tools he needs at his fingertips. He must move now to implement mandate Defra’s Balanced Scorecard approach across the whole public sector including education and health, while requiring public procurement decisions to place a weighting of at least 60% on quality relative to cost.”

 

Mr Percival said Mr Gove should also investigate the potential of ‘dynamic’ procurement approaches to support SME producers to gain access to markets, in line with the commitments made in the Industrial Strategy.

 

He said as France is showing, public procurement can be a “powerful tool” for supporting local and organic farmers, and can make an “important contribution” towards improved public health.

 

“Gove must seize the opportunity presented by Brexit to implement a procurement policy at least as ambitious as his French counterpart,” Mr Percival added.

Ryton Gardens update January 2018

The following statement is taken from the Garden Organic website:

“In September 2017, Garden Organic wrote to all members to announce that the running costs of our base at Ryton were limiting our ability to reach our full potential, and we would be exploring a number of options for the site that are in the best interest of the long-term future of the charity.

A copy of the letter, which was sent to members with the Autumn/Winter issue of The Organic Way, can be downloaded below. 

We are still exploring all possible options that will release the financial pressure that comes with owning and managing the land and buildings, and as part of this process the site is being marketed by property advisors.

In the future we want to make sure we can take our message to more people, communities and schools than ever before, and invest more resources in projects that will have the biggest impact. 

We will continue to keep members informed about our plans for Ryton and anyone with any questions should email questions@gardenorganic.org.uk.  

Download the original letter here
 

Posted: Thursday, 25 January 2018″