Making a Ripple
Sayōnara for Now
This week is the last recipe in our series from Moto Priestman of Okan Brixton. While it might be goodbye for now, we hope her Japanese dishes have inspired innovation in your cooking. If you have a few root veggies you'd like to say 'sayonara' to, look no further than her Root Vegetable Kimpira for a delicious way to end the season.
Call for Donations
Our community partners at the Norwood and Brixton Food Bank have reached out to request donations for non-perishable food. If you'd like to help, please leave items such as tinned foods, UHT milk and juice, and packaged cereals in the shed when you go to collect your bags. This effort will be ongoing for the next few weeks and the food bank will be very grateful for it!
Making a Ripple
This week, we’d like to introduce you to Ripple Farm Organics, the Canterbury home where your garlic and stir-fry packs were grown. Situated over 14 acres in the Stour Valley, Ripple is a small, organic, horticultural farm run by Martin and Sarah Mackey. Ripple has been certified organic since 1989 by the Soil Association. The home farm is essentially a market garden producing a wide range of vegetables, salad crops, herbs and soft fruit. An additional 100 rented acres near Wye enables Ripple to run their own local box scheme, sell at farmer’s markets throughout Kent and London, as well as supply specialty shops, cafes, pubs and other box schemes such as Local Greens. Martin has an academic qualification in Sustainable Agriculture, and many years of practical experience in organic growing. Sarah, on the other hand, discovered her love for organic growing while working on farms across Europe, a practice knows as “WWOOFing”. The Mackey’s farm is well placed in the ‘Garden of England,’ with their fields sloping up towards the North Downs, giving light, chalky and free-draining soil. They are blessed by the warmer climate of the Southeast, which produces vegetables of great taste and quality.
Martin originally hails from Ireland, but his roots (literally and figuratively) are strong throughout the local community. Ripple employs about 10-15 people year round, and the farm’s entire workforce is comprised of local people. “I'm the only foreigner on this farm,” Martin has joked. However, the decision to turn locals into employees was very much intentional. “Working on farms has been devalued,” he says, “We feel very strongly that farming is a noble profession and wanted to bring back that sense of pride to the local rural community…we've been able to attract some people because they care about organic farming, ideologically. But a lot of staff came on board as youngsters, didn't know too much about organic, started as a Saturday job that's turned into a full-time job.”
This mentality is a positive counterbalance to recent news reports that roughly 90,000 farming jobs may go unfilled this season in the wake of COVID-19 and Brexit. The Mackeys are steadfast in their farming commitments and pledge to keep going, “as long as they're fit and well.” Operations continue on the farm with new practices in place, including a tractor fitted with plastic screens for social-distance planting, and a delivery bicycle equipped with hand sanitizer. Ripple Farm has continued to supply its own box scheme and others, as well as appear at farmer’s markets throughout the pandemic. The farm does not sell to supermarkets, opting instead to prioritize sustainability, both locally and more widespread. By working in harmony with nature, Ripple provides fresh, nutritious food that is in-line with the seasons; they establish direct links between their farm and consumers, and offer stable, local employment. By supporting Local Greens, you support the Mackey’s ability to enrich their community and make it stronger by encouraging a steady income throughout the year for the farm and its workers. Martin sums it up best by saying, “I am committed to the small-scale business model of farming, which is able to supply local customers and outlets, and provides a solution to ever-increasing food security issues.”
Food security, in terms of supply chains and labour practices, has certainly come into the spotlight in the past few weeks. Ripple Farms has established its own security with its long-term focus on empowering the community that it serves. This is a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship that will continue to enrich the Kentish population, and a model for UK farming as a whole. Local Greens is proud to have Ripple Farm Organics and the Mackeys as part of our supplier network. Your support of our scheme ensures that this local farm can “keep on growing, harvesting, packing and delivering your vegetables” through the highs and lows of the growing calendar. Martin’s promise to his employees, land and community is a worthwhile cause, and as he reflects, “It’s just much more rewarding to know that you’re trying to work with nature as opposed to dominating nature.”
Ripple’s top tip for green garlic: use all of the garlic, as you would a spring onion – great in salads and stir-fries.
Read more about Ripple and farm labour