I’ve recently completed my MSc Gastronomy dissertation in which I studied GYO bloggers in the UK and looked at their GYO and GYO blogging in terms of food activism – it was a really interesting study and my findings led to the conclusion that there is a groundswell in grow your own and that it is very clearly linked with motives aligned with those in regular food activism discourse – the environment, economics and health were found to be the key motivators .
Compost Direct have just compiled a report on the growth of GYO and the UK’s changing food trends and it makes for interesting reading (see below).
Although I believe an interest in healthier lifestyles is a factor for these changing trends (the conclusion from this report), I also believe, from my own study, that there is a greater understanding of our environmental impact and the response to this is a trend in more sustainable ways of producing, purchasing and consuming food. There’s also a greater understanding and genuine mistrust of the ££ multi-million corporations controlling our food chain, from the biotech giants controlling our seed to those exploiting others at every point of the food system to reap unprecedented profits. By shortening the food chain we can all do our bit to take back control of what we consume and it seems that we are.
The rise in organic food sales
In recent years, global interest in stocking cupboards with organic food has risen. The market is worth an outstanding £2.09million and experienced a growth of 7.1% throughout 2016. In fact, organic food and drink now represents a 1.5% share of the total UK market, according to the 2017 Organic Market Report. On a global scale, the UK’s organic market makes up 4% of the $81 billion worldwide organic sales.
The rise in organic purchases has been explained by the growing awareness of organic produce and its benefits. Overall, 80% of consumers said they had knowledge of organic food, with 39% buying it on a weekly basis.
Some argue that the focus on organic food has stemmed from an increased fitness culture in Britain. With the rise of social media, many consumers are exposed to toned (possibly edited) bodies and it is inspiring them to self-improve. Given that organic food is often fresher, containing fewer pesticides and no genetic modifications, it’s the route many people choose as part of living and eating better.
It appears that the foodservice market has reaped the greatest benefits following the trend. Sales of organic food within the UK’s foodservice market rose by 19.1% in 2016 and were estimated to be worth an astonishing £76.6million.
Restaurants, pubs and cafes have recognised the growing trends and are adapting their menus accordingly to their new health-conscious visitors. Many well-known restaurants have made the switch to organic, including Jamie’s Italian, McDonalds and Nando’s.
Of course, as customers eat differently and restaurants cook differently, the wholesalers must too adapt. Between 2015 and 2016, there were almost 25% more licensed organic wholesalers, responding to the growing demand for wholesome food.
In many public services, organic food has been implemented too as schools, universities, hospitals, and workplaces serve more organic food under the Food for Life Catering Mark. The requirement for organic doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
The love for home produce
Following the recession in 2007, many homeowners searched for ways to battle rising food costs. One tactic taken by many was growing their own produce. In 2012, for example, the BBC reported that almost a third of British adults grew their own food. A further 51% said in a survey that they would take to the vegetable patch if food prices were to rise further.
In a recent survey, YouGov investigated the new trend, too. They found that 77% of gardeners listed eating produce that they have grown in their own gardens as the main benefit of gardening. What’s more, 44% grow enough fruit and vegetable to share with their friends and family, while over 25% said that growing their own food was now their hobby.
An interest in recipe boxes
Alongside the new trend of enjoying fresh food, the old lifestyle habits remain — such as our need for any time-saving tips to complement our busy lives. From this, different companies have launched their own recipe boxes. Pioneered by the likes of Hello Fresh and Gousto, these boxes contain all of the ingredients you need to cook tasty meals, along with instructions on how to do it.
The boxes offer organic food at convenience and it comes with no surprise that they’ve been successful. In 2015, the recipe box industry achieved £702 million in worldwide sales. By 2025, predictions estimate that this will grow to £3.8 billion as the market goes from strength-to-strength and more companies emerge.
Recipe boxes also reduce waste as they only contain as much as you need for the meals that you will create for that week. When you look at the UK household wastage — £13 billion of edible food in 2017 — it’s no surprise a lot of people want to get involved. According to analytics by Cardlytics, spending on recipe boxes grew by 64.6% in the first half of 2016, with the volume of orders increasing by 47.6%.
Supermarkets have recognised the threat of these boxes, and Tesco and Waitrose have launched a similar kit within their stores.
With organic food, growing our own and recipe boxes, it’s clear to see that the way we purchase and consume food is changing as we strive for healthier lifestyles.
I recently tried rhubarb tea at a friend’s house – not sure where she’d got it from as I’d never seen it before but it was really tasty so I thought I’d have a go at making my own with the last of the rhubarb harvested from the garden this week.
I sliced the rhubarb into thin slices and blanched it briefly before dehydrating it – it took about 10 hours to fully dry it out. Then I blitzed the dried stalks in my food processor and stored it in a airtight tub ready for use.
It was pretty simple to make and resulted in a lovely lightly pink and refreshing homemade tea. I think next time I’ll try adding some ginger or possibly mixing it with some dehydrated apple to add some extra warmth and sweetness.
Looking forward to making more teas with the Autumnal harvests just around the corner.
I recently had to write an essay on Food Sovereignty and it was during this research I became totally fascinated with the Seed Sovereignty aspect of La Via Campesina’s movement – the right to breed and exchange diverse open source seeds which can be saved and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled. I had no real understanding of the devastating impact on our biodiversity due to a number of factors, not least, the agri-behemoths who control seeds around the world for farmers and home gardeners alike. 94% of our seed varieties have been lost (forever!) since the turn of the 20th century – that’s frightening!
But, there are people all around the world doing their bit to save our seeds and ensure we don’t lose our precious heirloom varieties and to keep our food heritage alive – Janisse Ray is one of them. A writer, naturalist and activist, Janisse is a seed saver, seed exchanger and seed banker and has been growing food for nearly 30 years!
The Seed Underground is a charming read – it’s a collection of stories about her past and people she has met along her way, characters who are striving to save open-pollinated varieties that will be lost if people don’t grow, save and swap their seeds. These are not activists in the militant sense, just ordinary people who are connected to their environment and the food that they produce and eat. If you’re interested in gardening and food then this book will be a light and happy read that’ll still make you think.
I’ve been massively inspired and as a result I’ve been experimenting with heritage varieties this year and will be trying to make my own contribution to the movement by saving and exchanging my seeds. I’ve bought another book – Back Garden Seed Saving from The Real Seed Catalogue (where I also bought some heirloom corn and carrots ) which I’m hoping will help teach me how to do this. I can’t wait to give the tomatoes a go as well as a few other things.
And this one…
The Power of Food Festival, a great celebration of community food growing, will be held in 29 gardens across Edinburgh on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 June.
2017 marks the third edition of the Festival and showcases community food growing as a way to promote greater societal well-being and environmental sustainability. The Power of Food Festival provides a unique opportunity to (re)discover the city and take the pulse of its vibrant and varied neighbourhoods.
There is a wide range of free entertainment for children and adults, including: music and singing, edible plants walk, yoga, talks & stalls about the impact of our food choices, bioblitz, bug hunt, dance performance, food-inspired poetry-making workshop, a drystone dyking course, as well as sharing in the pleasure of eating together.
Entry to the gardens and all Festival activities are free (food may be offered on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis), and all are welcome to attend.
There is a short film about the Festival which offers an insight into what the Festival is all about. You can watch it here.
The detailed programme includes maps for different parts of the city to help visitors plan their weekend’s exploration, sustainable travel information, and a schedule of timed events. The full programme is available here.
The story of The Power of Food Festival itself is a simple one. With so many inspiring food gardens springing up around the city, transforming individual lives and communities, the Festival seeks to highlight community food growing as a powerful force for social change – connecting people, building trust, doing something together that’s greater than the sum of the parts. It aims to raise awareness of the environmental and social impact of our everyday food choices. It centres around a joyful garden gate open weekend and offer an exciting programme of free events and activities at local venues. Hosted by community food gardens, the Festival is the opportunity to be inspired by positive stories of collective action. Unlike traditional food festivals, this event gives the public the chance to go on location and experience how food is grown by local residents in their own neighbourhoods.
The Festival is entirely volunteer-run and operates without any grant funding. It seeks to harness the great human potential of our city and draws on people’s energy, enthusiasm and talents. The Power of Food Festival team would like to thank all those who are working hard to make the gardens and this Festival grow from strength to strength. It is a heart-warming sign of the community empowerment the Festival aims to celebrate.