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How to grow from seed: eight tips for new gardeners

Jess Gotham: Want to grow your own but don’t know where to start? The task of growing from seed can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before. Now is the perfect time of year to begin getting your hands into the soil, but if you haven’t got naturally green fingers and find your plants die for no apparent reason, this blog will help you turn your patch into a source of satisfaction instead of stress. The Soil Association’s head of horticulture, expert gardener Ben Raskin, gave us some tips.

17 April 2015 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 0

Magical, mysterious, essential - and being unthinkingly destroyed

Peter Melchett: Soils are magical and mysterious, essential to all life on earth, but extremely vulnerable, and being terribly damaged. We know enough about soils for them to fill us with wonder, but so little that they remain places of great mystery. We do worse than take soils for granted, we often behave as if soil, and particularly life in the soil, was not there at all.

14 April 2015 | 5 Comments | Recommended by 2

Spring lamb

Liz Earle: Spring is an especially busy time on Liz’s home farm down in the West Country as lambing gets underway. With three different flocks of sheep – Black Welsh Mountain, Hampshire Downs and Lleyns (HRH Prince Charles’s favourite sheep), there’s lots of new life to look after. Here, Liz explains why rearing pasture-fed lamb is an important part of her organic farm, both in terms of human health as well and global environmental benefits.

09 April 2015 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 1

Horse high, bull strong and pig tight – US organic farmers meet

Marianne Landzettel: Portland, Oregon in February may not rank among the top ten holiday destinations – it is one of the wet months and in the Pacific Northwest that can be very wet. But with its picturesque bridges, one of the world’s largest book shops, great coffee wherever you go and people who queue for ice cream (the salted caramel is divine), outside and in the rain – what’s not to like.

07 April 2015 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Vote for veg! Our new government must take action to support plant-based diets

Rob Percival: Each year, we Britons throw away 570,000 tonnes of fresh meat. This is the equivalent of 110 million animals. Most of these are chickens. 3 million are pigs, typically intensively reared to minimum welfare standards. Over 200,000 are cattle. Globally, each year, 12 billion animals are born to be binned, an extraordinary waste of life.

02 April 2015 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 3

A second green revolution?

Anna Louise Batchelor: Last month I attended a special lecture held at the University of Reading’s School of Agriculture. Entitled “Balancing food production and environmental protection” the speaker set out to overcome the thorny issue of increasing yields without increasing damage to eco-systems. The lecture was given by Poul Christensen, President of the National Federation of Young Farmers and former chair of Natural England.

30 March 2015 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 2

Tackling Food Waste in Sussex - The Fruit Factory

Tristram Stuart: You and I have something in common. Food. Getting together to cook, share a meal, and swap stories is something we can all relate to. On the flip side of this we instinctively know there’s something bad about wasting food. That’s why I wanted to write about Brighton Permaculture Trust’s crowdfunding appeal to finish the building of a straw bale Fruit Factory - saving unwanted local fruit from waste and turning it into delicious produce for the community.

26 March 2015 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 1

Eating better in hospital: a meal shared is a meal enjoyed

Susannah McWilliam: 16 - 22 March is Nutrition and Hydration Week, a collaboration between the Hospital Caterers Association, National Association of Care Catering and Patient Safety Domain NHS England. We are delighted to see this initiative taking place. At the Soil Association we believe that everyone has a right to good food, and where is there more need than in hospitals, where food is a vital ingredient in supporting recovery and boosting patient experience. Hospital food is also a personal issue: most of us have visited loved ones in hospital and we care deeply if our nearest and dearest aren’t getting nutritious wholesome food.

19 March 2015 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Putting planet and growers at the core of seed legislation

Concepta Cassar: The arrival of March marks the melting of winter into spring, and the long-awaited emergence of new life from the depths of the cold season. Snow drops, daffodils and crocuses bring light where there was once darkness, and the first-sown seeds of the year finally start to raise their sleepy heads. Around the country, people will be cracking open bean pods and shaking out little envelopes, while the seed industry celebrates an early cash crop.

10 March 2015 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

10 ways to eat organic on a budget

Tom Hunt: With a little shopping knowhow we can all buy more organic produce - here are 10 ways to eat organic on a budget. From eating less meat to buying in bulk - find out the tricks to getting more from your money.

03 March 2015 | 4 Comments | Recommended by 2

Soil and the power of poo

Marianne Landzettel: ‘Give me five more minutes’ signals Gualu Goud as he’s standing on top of one of his five compost heaps working the top layer with a hoe. I met Gualu earlier this month in a village in the eastern Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa). He’s been a cotton farmer for most of his life. Things were ok until about 10 years ago when yields started to drop even though he used increasing amounts of expensive chemical fertilisers.

12 February 2015 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 8

Caring for my cows

Oliver Dowding: It is clear to most sensible observers that the use of antibiotics within agriculture is going to have to reduce due to increasing resistance problems and nightmare scenarios within human medicine. For organic farmers this is not such a big issue: organic standards require farmers to maximise preventative husbandry, and deploy other means than antibiotics, which are reserved for use as a last resort.

09 February 2015 | 17 Comments | Recommended by 5

Why restaurants are no place to treat children

Amy Leech: Eating out is a treat; whether once a year or week it’s a pleasure to be waited on, cooked for, and get a smile (a smile!) in return for dirty dishes – unless that is you’re unlucky enough to be under 12. Back in the, let’s go for a rose-tinted, ‘balmy’ summer of 2013 I set out with a small army of families to find out what the nation’s high street restaurants were serving up to our youngsters.

05 February 2015 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 2

Seed saving: the EU horizon and a renewed resurgence

Ben Raskin: We had a good growing season in 2014 with a dry summer and autumn, giving us some good seed ready for planting this year. Meanwhile, at a political level the EU Plant Reproductive Material (seeds, cuttings and baby plants to you and me) legal shenanigans continued. The proposed regulation from the European Commission wanted to simplify the existing confused and cumbersome laws, as well as provide a platform to increase exports to outside the EU and safeguard human health. But this proposal would have further sustained the dominance of the big seed companies (like Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta) and drastically reduced the number of seed varieties available for growing. The Soil Association, along with many others campaigned against these proposals.

30 January 2015 | 4 Comments | Recommended by 0

Working to improve organic production systems

Liz Bowles: Improving organic systems and markets is always at the forefront of our minds at the Soil Association. As part of our ongoing work we have prioritised a number of areas for special attention over the coming months and years which I wanted to update you on. However we are keenly aware that we may not always know about the challenges that you face from day to day so we really do welcome your thoughts on where you believe we should be placing emphasis.

19 January 2015 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

A tale of two Oxfords…

Peter Melchett: In Oxford this week, two major farming conferences are underway. The newer, forward-looking Oxford Real Farming Conference is discussing innovations in technology that are needed for farming to face the challenges of achieving massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, tackling the horrendous problems of diet-related ill health, and restoring beauty, colour and wildlife to our farmed countryside. Meanwhile, speakers at the much older Oxford Farming Conference seem stuck in a time-warp where for decades almost the only new development in agriculture worth discussing is GM crops, and where an annual attack on organic farming seems to be obligatory.

08 January 2015 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 5

GM – It’s no chickenfeed...

Marianne Landzettel: "Why don’t producers who feed their animals GM soy or maize have to say so on the label?" came the question from the back. Janet Jones raises grass fed organic cattle in Cornwall and the information we got during the ‘GM threat’ workshop at the Organic Producers’ Conference left her as exasperated as the rest of the audience. GMO labelling turns out to be a complicated issue with the rules being made in Brussels. A ‘GM-free’ label however is a different matter and one that really can make a difference.

05 January 2015 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 0

Seven tips for healthy, glowing skin this winter

Emily Lunnon: Your skin reflects your state of health and well-being. Every day of your life, pollution, grime, and dust attach themselves to the surface of your skin. However, in winter, the skin is covered up and does not get the same chance to breathe. Dry heat in houses, offices and cars also means the skin gets dehydrated, leaving us and therefore our skin looking sluggish instead of bright and shining. We are prone to exercise less which does not stimulate our metabolism as well. So, as we get ready for winter it is time to think about health generally. Our skin will glow healthily when we look after our mind and body too.

18 December 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 9

The real deal

Lynda Brown: Christmas is the one time that everyone focuses on and celebrates food, both for its symbolic importance but also as one of the last bastions of the joy sharing a special meal: it really does bring out the best in us, and to bask in that after glow of conviviality is all the proof one ever needs that food is crucial to our well-being. As we are already painfully aware, the food industry goes into festive overdrive: Christmas is gigantic business, and the more festive the food looks and 'luxurious' it sounds, the more we seem prepared to pay for it.

15 December 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 1

The scent of Christmas

Colleen Harte: We all have our own aroma of Christmas, which reminds us fondly of the festive season. Let me take you on a journey of the most beautiful Christmas essential oils and their wonderful qualities. Clove bud is the ideal Christmas essential oil to keep away the colds and flus. Its fresh fruity top notes and deep, sweet spicy undertones make it a perfect choice for a room fragrance.

11 December 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 3

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