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Organic September – what's your small change?

Helen Browning: 2014 already has been a great year for all things organic. So far we've seen the UK organic market return to growth for the first time since 2009 and the publication of a landmark scientific study, which showed nutritional differences in organic vegetables, fruit and cereals. All this stands us in good stead for our 'small changes, big difference' campaign for this Organic September.

29 August 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

We want our leaders to take action that is good for all of us

Amy Leech: Soil Association stand united alongside nine other organisations, and the millions of people they represent, The National Trust, RSPB, Friends of the Earth, The Wildlife Trusts and many others, in calling for the next government to show the leadership we expect from those in power, for them to make much needed changes to our national food and farming policy.

21 August 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 3

Cherry Picking Organic

Anna Louise Batchelor: I have been very quiet on the Soil Association blog over the last few months as I’ve embarked on a new project. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to take on plot, of just under a hectare, in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside. This might not sound particularly astonishing, especially to large-scale organic farmers, however for me as an ex-Londoner this is HUGE. Not just in spatial terms but in terms of what I am attempting to do with the land.

15 August 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 2

Organic vs conventional and what fish has in common with organic whole milk

Marianne Landzettel: A widely reported study published in the July edition of the British Journal of Nutrition found that there is a difference between organic and non-organic fruit, veg and cereal crops. Organic produce has a higher concentration in antioxidants and less cadmium, nitrate, nitrite and pesticide residue. In other words: more good stuff and less of the bad.

12 August 2014 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 0

Organic September needs a recipe for success

Anna Louise Batchelor: Last year’s ‘Organic September’ was a great success with organic food sales in the month increasing by nearly 9%. The ‘Small Changes, Big Difference’ campaign theme also gained a great deal of publicity in both print and social media, the latter allowing people to really engage with the campaign through making personal pledges. Personally I know that Organic September 2013 has been a success because I’m already recipe writing for September 2014.

31 July 2014 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 1

Succeed with seed with selection perfection

Ben Raskin: One of the keys to saving your own seed is the 'selection', or identifying the best of your plants to keep the seed from. If you are aiming to 'maintain' a variety, in other words to keep it as close as possible to the original genetics of that variety, then there will be specific traits you will need to keep (colour, height, pest or disease resistance for instance). Most of just want to ensure the selection performs well in our garden or farm.

25 July 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 4

Going the extra mile...

Lynda Brown: As part of my Trustee induction, a few weeks ago found me at an organic dairy getting up close and personal with Soil Association Certification inspection procedures with one of our senior inspectors. Like many consumers who regularly buy organic food, I've often wondered exactly what goes on and how certification officers ensure that their licensees are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

21 July 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Organic is different

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: For many of us, especially those who grow our own, the idea that organically produced fruit and veg is good for you just seems instinctively right. When you know what has – and hasn’t – gone into the soil and how little the sophisticated processes of nature have been interfered with by the grower, then the inherent vital, vibrant goodness of the resultant crop seems obvious. I grow organically both at home and at River Cottage and I can see the positive effects on the environment – the soil brimming with worms, the abundance of insects and wildlife – as well as tasting them in the quality of the fruit and veg I harvest.

15 July 2014 | 13 Comments | Recommended by 12

Three cheers for Minnesota’s bee-friendly law!

Marianne Landzettel: Legislators in the US state of Minnesota took action after a study done last year by Friends of the Earth US found more than half of all bee-friendly plants bought in nurseries to be contaminated with neonicotinoids. Why is this important to us, you may ask, the EU has banned neonicotinoids for a two year trial period, all should be well.

04 July 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 7

Hedge-Blog: Looking for love...

Alex Firman: Well, our hedgehog is certainly out of hibernation now thanks to the warm (and sometimes wet) June weather, although sadly I don’t have the photos to prove it - apparently our little hedgehog is a wee bit camera shy. Although hibernation is long past, I will still be putting out food and water for our hedgehog who will be low on energy after their long sleep. I’m sure anything that makes foraging that bit easier will be appreciated.

27 June 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 4

How do we achieve sustainable catering?

Traci Lewis: At our recent Big Food Debate in Plymouth we explored the issue of sustainable catering to find out what it really means and how we can achieve it. To help inform this debate we had a team of catering experts taking the floor including Brad Pearce of Plymouth City Council School Meals and Restaurateur Tim Bouget of ODE restaurant in Shaldon.

25 June 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 6

Death in disguise?

Marianne Landzettel: 'Keep Britain Buzzing' - thanks to campaigns like the one run by the Soil Association the message comes across loud and clear: around one third of our food crops depend on bees and other insects for pollination. And the bees are under threat with more and more beekeepers finding nothing but dead bees in their hives after the winter.

09 June 2014 | 7 Comments | Recommended by 3

What’s a BFE?

Traci Lewis: Well our BFE is the Plymouth Big Food Event. A city-wide celebration of good food, from 10-14 June. A food event for the city, in which everyone can get involved. To kick things off we have a Big Food Debate, at the National Marine Aquarium on 10th June, an opportunity to debate and celebrate healthy and sustainable food. We are really pleased to have Carolyn Steele speaking, a leading thinker on food and cities who wrote Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives, an inspiration for our work in Plymouth.

06 June 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 12

Notes from an ex-apprentice...

Emma Heseltine: Well here I am again; you might remember me from my two year blog about what life was like as a Soil Association apprentice… The Future Growers scheme has asked me for an update on how life has been treating me since I finished last July, so here we go! Since finishing the apprenticeship I have been working on expanding my pig business, The Rooted Pig.

02 June 2014 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 9

Juggling seed crops in your rotation

Ben Raskin: If you’ve been inspired to try some seed saving this year, but hadn’t planned it into your rotation then it's worth giving it a little bit of thought now before it's too late to change everything. For some crops it doesn’t make any difference. Beans and tomatoes for instance you can treat as you normally would and just keep some of the crop for seed.

19 May 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 1

Conversing with plants and growing for the future

Marianne Landzettel: HRH Prince Charles admittedly talks to his plants, Dan and Theresa Podoll are having a whole conversation with theirs. But then the Podolls - award winning family-farmers in North Dakota - don’t just grow plants, they grow organic vegetables for seed production: seeds for plants that will be able to deal with the fast changing climate in the United States, colder winters and shorter growing seasons in the north, droughts in the south- and mid-west, unseasonal storms and flooding.

14 May 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 8

Are we facing a less nutritious future?

Rob Percival: Carbon dioxide is present in the atmosphere today in a concentration that has not been seen since sabre-toothed cats and mastodons roamed a planet on which humans had never set foot - it was three million years ago and we had not yet evolved. In recent years we have poured huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We know that rising global temperatures are the result. But a study published last week revealed that increased levels of carbon dioxide will also make some of the world's most important foods less nutritious - and this has significant implications for millions of people.

12 May 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 15

Seven steps to perfect compost

Ben Raskin: This week is National Composting week, which gives me the excuse to talk about one of my favourite subjects: compost. There’s something magical about the way that scraps and waste fruit and veg can turn into sweet smelling and nutritious crumbly brown soil food. And the best thing about this natural process is that you can do it on any scale – from municipal composters handling many tonnes a week to small compost bins in our houses. Here are my seven steps to perfect compost:

07 May 2014 | 13 Comments | Recommended by 37

Food Futures start here

Lynda Brown: Last Thursday the winners of this years BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme Food & Farming Awards were announced, including inspirational Halifax school cook Tony Mulgrove, who has been instrumental in helping Ravenscliffe school achieve a Food for Life Partnership gold award.

06 May 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

So what’s a Sustainable Fish City?

Traci Lewis: Plymouth is very fortunate to be surrounded by rich agricultural land on one side and the sea on the other. Yet despite its advantaged location, very little of the food eaten in the city is actually sourced locally, or from its port which sees some of the biggest fish-landings in the UK. Plymouth's National Marine Aquarium are engaged in an ongoing effort to reconnect us with the fish we eat, so I asked Paul Cox who works there why we eat so little of what is actually caught locally.

02 May 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 3

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