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A new local food enterprise is set to launch in Eden this week.
VistaVeg is a small grower’s co-operative based in Crosby Ravensworth near Shap. The co-op produces high quality, responsibly-grown vegetables across three sites for people who care about where and how their food is produced.
Co-op member Lynn Barnes who has developed the initiative after two years of research and development by Crosby-based Vista Projects said: “There are so many fantastic and delicious local foods in Cumbria but so few locally grown vegetables. We’re making local veg accessible to everyone in Eden by ensuring that it’s readily available, delivered to people’s doors and affordable.”
The co-op is half way to attracting £100k of investment over three years to develop its services following Rural Development Programme for England support of its business plan in 2009. The enterprise is about to submit an application to the Big Lottery Local Food fund for a dedicated packing shed, polytunnels, and fruit trees.
VistaVeg operates a community-supported box scheme, which means that box scheme members have a direct relationship with the co-op growers and receive a regular share of what they produce.
A box scheme is a really simple way of distributing local produce and much more convenient for the customer than farm-gate purchases.
For families who think that eating fresh local veg each week is out-of-reach financially, VistaVeg accepts Healthy Start vouchers for families on low incomes (visit www.healthystart.nhs.ukfor more information about this scheme) and could drop-off at family/children’s centres to coincide with activity sessions.
Lynn added: “We provide a weekly menu planner to ensure no veg is wasted and recipe ideas to help people get to grips with veg like chard, squashes and celeriac. The last thing we want it people throwing away veg we’ve grown.
“The ethos behind the box scheme is healthy eating, home cooking and re-localising food production. We think that Eden should be putting in place now the infrastructure to feed itself in the future. This ‘bigger picture’ is as much about encouraging people to seek out and buy local food as it is about encouraging local farmers to grow food crops. Supply can have a powerful role in driving demand.”
VistaVeg also provides opportunities for its box scheme members to volunteer with special projects (ie, making raised beds) and harvesting so that members develop a closer relationship with the growers and come to understand the vagaries of the UK growing season. As part of National Salad Week, VistaVeg is inviting people to come and pick-your-own salad bags on Saturday July 10, and help harvest their vast pumpkin crop on Saturday October 16.
Over the next two years VistaVeg hopes to develop its box scheme membership across Eden.
As well as deliveries to families and individuals it would like to develop workplace ‘drop-offs’ - to be as green as possible - to organisations such as Eden District Council, Penrith Hospital, the Environment Agency, and Cumbria County Council. The message to those who think they won’t munch their way through lots of veg each week is share a weekly veg box with a work colleague, friend or neighbour.
If you’d like to become a VistaVeg box scheme member or find out more about how the scheme works ring Lynn Barnes on 01931 715546 or visit www.vistaveg.co.uk.
VistaVeg Ltd is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas, delivered through the Northwest Development Agency with Defra.