Passing on organic knowledge, Scandinavia comes to True Food.
Anna Louise Batchelor - 15 August 2013
At the True Food Community Co-operative we take pride in being involved in the wider organic movement; from informal information sharing to speaking at conferences and even being a case study for large scale, large budget, food projects. However, there is nothing like actually meeting people who are interested in what you do.
A couple of days ago colleagues and I hosted a Scandinavian delegation at the True Food shop. Visitors from Denmark, Norway and Sweden came to see how we retail organic food at affordable prices to the communities of Reading. From growers to retailers, policy makers and even an architect designing edible cities, they were a mixed group with mixed interests.
Whilst it was a mixed group, it was refreshing to hear unanimous support for organic agriculture. Whilst we in Britain seem to be caught up in the ‘local food’ debate, Scandinavia forges ahead with fully organic food. It was also refreshing not hear the platitude; “organic food is elitist and just for the middles classes”. Instead our visitors saw nutritious food as a right for all, not a privilege for the few.
Our visitors asked a range of questions about how we do business, how we are going to grow and interestingly what we felt was missing from our range; Organic dairy products was the unanimous answer, would someone in Berkshire like to set up an organic dairy? They also questioned how a membership co-operative manages to keep its volunteers, and how do we the volunteers manage to find time and stay enthusiastic. A good question as I’d had to take an afternoon off work to host them!
There isn’t a ‘magic bullet’ or simple answer that I could give the visitors on setting up and scaling up local organic food solutions. It takes time and energy, the all-important enthusiasm, strategic thinking and support. Support from the local community and support from the organic community. We at True Food have received fantastic support from our peers so it’s only right that we pass it on.
So many good questions were posed to us by our visitors which make us think and made me wonder; did they learn from us or us from them? Well that’s the best thing about sharing information, connecting with others in the organic movement, it’s a two-way process benefiting all.
Anna Louise Batchelor is an environmental scientist who has worked in academia, government and industry. For the last six years she has been part of Reading's True Food Co-op.