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Help Shaun the Sheep design a henhouse

Kathie Auton: In case you haven’t clocked it yet there’s a very cool competition running at the moment and it’s all about designing a henhouse. You need to get the kids to enter this competition. You must. It's open to anyone up to the age of 16 and that's the only downside, because I'd quite like to enter myself. Obviously, you'll need to tempt the kids in with the prize, which is a totally awesome Aardman model making session. Aardman of Shaun the sheep, Wallace and Gromit fame. A chance to do actual model making with Aardman - brilliant.

17 April 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Organic Market Report: what can we glean?

Lynda Brown: As most people know, the new Organic Market Report is a corker (a fascinating read, nicely presented, and lots of feel good stats). Despite a dreadful recession - which all sectors of the food and farming industry have battled with and suffered from - and supposedly against all the odds, the organic market is back in growth. Frankly, it's looking buoyant, good-to-go, and fighting fit. Moreover the trend is global and includes textiles and health & beauty products too.

15 April 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Bees and the raspberry revolution

Marianne Landzettel: For those who saw him somewhere en route from Andover to London on a sunny day in May last year Paul probably still is a good dinner party story - or rather that car that was driven by a guy in a full beekeeper’s outfit, including hat, veil and gloves. But then Paul drives a hatchback and though he’d sealed the hive carefully, you never know...

14 April 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

The importance of food diversity

Rob Percival: Your dinner plate probably doesn’t include goosefoot, hopshoots, vervain, beremeal, medlars, Saltcote Pippin apples or Shetland black potatoes. But it could. These plants were once common British fare, and they grow here still. We simply don’t eat them. Nor do we eat the majority of the 30,000 edible plants growing on the planet today. For the most part, we eat about a dozen.

08 April 2014 | 5 Comments | Recommended by 8

Hotbeds

Ben Raskin: As bacteria rots organic matter down it produces heat. Trying to make use of this heat to help things grow in our cold Northern climate is nothing new. This is how the Victorians managed to produce pineapples in their walled gardens. However, there seems to be a renewed interest in harnessing this waste energy.

07 April 2014 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 2

Good food in the NHS: acting today for a sustainable tomorrow

Susannah McWilliam: 'A day for action' was the strapline for NHS Sustainability Day, celebrated last week across the UK. Getting your own house in order by doing one thing differently was the call from the founder, Trevor Payne, Director of Estates and Facilities at Barts Health NHS Trust, at an NHS Sustainability Day event in Barts. While the day itself saw an impressive 75% of all NHS trusts taking part, from planting trees, to offering seasonal menus, to reducing energy use, Trevor called for the change to be mainstreamed into everyday practice.

03 April 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Do not fear 7 a day!

Kathie Auton: Apparently 5 a day is not enough. That’s what I heard on the news yesterday morning. It was April Fool’s Day, but still, I’m pretty sure this isn’t a joke. I know many people, maybe parents in particular, might be letting out a groan as the advice suddenly jumps from 5 a day to 7 a day. But do not fear. For one thing, the government is apparently sticking to its ‘5 a day’ advice, maybe they’ve just had loads of posters printed or something. They say it is ‘sufficient’. However, if you fancy doing more than just being ‘sufficient’ in your diet, then go for the 7. It’s okay, it’s not going to be that hard.

02 April 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

DEAL: The French Connection

Traci Lewis: I have just returned from a three day trip to Rennes, the capital of Brittany, in France. This is part of an EU project the Soil Association and Food Plymouth are part of called DEAL, a French acronym meaning the 'economic development of local food'. Some might say this is just an excuse for the 13 partner organisations (a mix of Local Authorities, Education providers and Farming organisations) to eat a lot of great food together, however we also share a lot of learning, so I wouldn’t say that is strictly fair!

01 April 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 4

Why I’m taking the Cancer Research UK headlines with a pinch of organic salt

Amy Leech: I’m surprised to see a reputable and well-respected charity like Cancer Research UK grabbing headlines based on emerging and uncertain evidence. The headline Cancer Research UK went for was ’organic food doesn’t lower overall cancer risk’, while playing down the equally significant finding of the study, which found a ‘21% decrease in risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer, among women who reported usually or always eating organic food’.

28 March 2014 | 4 Comments | Recommended by 7

Hedge-Blog: Help hedgehogs get a quiet night

Alex Firman: The other day I asked a few friends to name three animals they'd see in their gardens; four out of five of them included the hedgehog in the list. The wee beastie is one of the most well-known animals to trot through gardens in their nocturnal hunt for food, being a source of fascination for small children and constant frustration to dogs (if mine are anything to go by).

27 March 2014 | 3 Comments | Recommended by 0

Armchair farming...

Marianne Landzettel: ... is not a synonym for a journalist writing about agriculture. An organic farmer I recently met coined the phrase. Jim Dufosee raises sheep and beef cattle in Wiltshire and grows feed. When he switched to organic it wasn’t necessarily because he was one of the converted. Back then there were financial incentives to do so. "Today I just know I’m doing the right thing", he says, and he wouldn’t go back to conventional farming even if they paid him.

26 March 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 4

Safeguarding our living gene bank

Ben Raskin: Without diversity we can’t have resilience. We all need sufficient genetic material whether saving our own Open Pollinated varieties, or at the cutting edge of seed breeding. An effective legislation as well as protecting consumers must allow us all, both amateur and professional seed producers, to increase the living seed bank adapted to the changing climate.

19 March 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 1

The conscientious carnivore

Rob Percival: A recent YouGov survey has found that in the past year a quarter of the British public have cut back on the amount of meat they eat. Even more, one in three of us, said we would consider eating less meat, with the need to save money among the key reasons given. But despite our squeezed budgets, around half of us reported that we would be willing to pay more for ‘better’ meat – meat that tastes better, is healthier, and is produced to higher animal welfare and environmental standards – and this was true across the social spectrum, not just among the most wealthy.

17 March 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 2

Died and gone to (cheese-y) heaven...

Lynda Brown: Imagine being in a wonderfully restored barn hosting a truly magnificent display of cheeses, sampling indescribably tasty organic cheeses of every style and description, being able to meet the cheese makers and learn about their cheeses first hand (their enthusiasm is infectious), as well as getting the latest market update (buoyant - organic cheese market is in very good health and growing by the minute), not to mention presentations from experts including cheese maestro Juliet Harbutt.

13 March 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Rainton Herdshare

David Finlay: This is a good news story. It’s about how we are going to have a damn-good go at coming up with an alternative food system that, to a large extent, addresses all the issues we worry about.

11 March 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 5

The Story of Baba Marta: An ancient Bulgarian agricultural cult

Rossi Mitova: With the beginning of March in Bulgaria we mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring.The tradition comes from ancient pagan history associated with all agricultural cults of nature typical of the Balkan Peninsula.

11 March 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

You are saving our wild bees - the unsung heroes of our countryside

Louise Payton: It has been all over the news - the dramatic decline in our bees. The most attention has been centred on our honeybees, and they are indeed faring badly with a third of bee colonies lost by British beekeepers last winter (2012/2013). But our wild bees are in deep trouble too.

05 March 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 0

Introducing farmhopping

Rossi Mitova: As a graduate with a financial degree from Cass Business School in London my future was apparently predetermined: I was to start my career in the financial world where seemingly endless 100 hour working weeks in the city awaited me. On one of my visits home to Bulgaria, a friend of mine took me to a small farm in the mountains. Experiencing the mountains and being around animals made me feel exceptionally close to nature. I made my choice then and there: I left my corporate future behind and I took the road less travelled.

28 February 2014 | 0 Comments | Recommended by 0

Finding the key ingredients for success

Traci Lewis: After a night of monumental rain and flooding in Devon and Cornwall, I turned up to our last Food Plymouth Steering Group meeting not sure if anyone would even make it! But out of the rain emerged a City Councillor along with representatives from the large public sector institutions; Plymouth University and Plymouth Community Health Care, as well as small social enterprises such as Food is Fun, Allways Apples and Diggin’ It.

26 February 2014 | 2 Comments | Recommended by 4

You are helping to save the colour in our countryside

Louise Payton: Our countryside has changed colour in the past century. Now mostly green or perhaps yellow with rapeseed (and more recently brown with flood water), it used to be a profusion of reds, blues, whites, yellows and purples when wildflowers bloomed in all their splendour. Agricultural intensification has been the reason for this change in palette - 97% of our wildflower meadows have been converted, weed-killers have obliterated the huge variety of wild plants (weeds) that insects and farmland birds depend on, and mixed cropping (used to control insect pests and break-up disease cycles), have been replaced with inorganic fertilisers and repetitive monocultures.

21 February 2014 | 1 Comments | Recommended by 1

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