Organic , matters

Edinburgh is due to host a


conference looking at recent developments in

organic farming. Catherine Fellows

unearthed some of the

issues involved.

In the boom years of the late 80s, E organic farmers were confidently predicting that their share of the market would grow and grow: ‘Twenty per cent by 2000' was the catch phrase happily banded around in kale yards and cabbage patches up and down the


But things have not gone quite according to plan. During the recession, consumers have been less happy to pay extra for their food. and the Soil Association’s most recent figures suggest that the organic market share remains as low as 0.1 per cent. Safeway. which has been the most vociferous of the supermarkets in the promotion of organic food, records that only 2 per cent of its customers are

committed organic buyers.

And yet the arguments for organic farming are as strong as ever. As more research findings are published. it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny that intensive farming methods are wreaking havoc on the environment and having innumerable negative effects on human health, never mind that of livestock. Farmers themselves are asking how long the current counter-intuitive combination of subsidy and set-aside that keeps the intensive industry afloat can be


‘ln fact,‘ argues Francis Blake of the Soil Association. ‘if subsidies were withdrawn, and the cost of pollution taken into account. organic produce would find itself in a very competitive


two years.


a .me as

position in terms of price. Unfortunately the political will isjust I not there at the moment.‘ The

3 Government is currently shelling out £400 a hectare to farmers in areas that have been heavily polluted with nitrates. This is to encourage them to use less pesticide and fertiliser. a

' compromise measure which may

reduce pollution but does nothing to redress the ecological imbalance

f created by years of intensive fanning. In contrast, organic farmers. the health of whose crops depend upon sustaining a whole integrated and delicately

balanced eco-system. are, from April onwards. to be given a rueasly £70 a hectare, and that only for a period of


rigorous standards. There are no loopholes anymore. so consumers can be sure of what they‘re getting.‘ Whilst Sue Gerard is doing her bit to make organic food more accessible, others are looking at more radical alternatives. Community Supported Agriculture is a blanket term for a series of projects which bring the people who produce food into direct

3 contact with those who eat it. A f particularly impressive set up is the

Ayrshire Organic Growers co-operative in Sundrum, near Ayr. Each spring, the four part-time growers involved draw up a financial forecast for the year ahead and then issue ‘shares‘ to around 50 local households. For around £180, they receive a mixed box of seasonal organic fruit and vegetables each week. This gives the growers a secure income and for the consumers it means a wide variety of ‘home grown’ organic foods for less than they would pay for the intensively famied equivalent. For

some. who opt to do a bit of voluntary

weeding at the weekend. there is also the appeal of direct contact with the soil that sustains them.

Fond. Farming and .S'm‘iety: Linking Farmers and Cmisunzers On l5 Feb. The Soil Association is hosting a conference in Edinburgh‘s City Chambers which will address many of

3 the issues raised above. It is designed

primarily for producers wanting to

establish direct marketing schemes like - the Ayrshire one. but interested

consumers are very welcome. For more details contact the Soil Association on

Undeterred by this gloomy scenario, a

f small number of dedicated growers and 5 consumers are doing their utmost to short circuit a system they regard as unethical. impractical and anti-social. One such is Sue Gerard of Damhcad Holdings, an organic farm. farm shop and wholesale business on the outskirts of Edinburgh, which supplies most of the wholefood shops in Glasgow and Edinburgh with fresh fruit and vegetables. ‘Our retail customers are actually doing very well. In many ways, things have improved in that

organic produce is better quality.

fresher and more various now that growers have got established. Also.

. since the new EC. regulations came in last year. it is illegal to use the word organic unless you Conform to very

I Vegville liiner 93 St George‘s Road. Charing Cross. 33l 2220. A much needed addition to Glasgow’s relatively small number of vegetarian restaurants. this one specialises in its own- make vegetarian burgers and sausages but also has separate full menus for lunch and dinner. Dishes include mange tout in lemon vinegar with croutons. nachos and salsa. goulash. carrot and courgette loaf and gnocchi - all for less than fiver.

Vegville is also open for

brunch on Sundays. Bring your own bottle and mellow out to the music

5 in one of the restaurant‘s

private booths. Open Sun—Wed l lam—7.30pm. Thurs l lam—8.30pm and Fri—Sat Ham—11.30pm.


I Tiles 1 St Andrew‘s Square, 558 1507. At an address businesses would die for. Tiles bar is in fact the old ceramic encrusted home of the Prudential. Like the Pru‘s head office in London. Tiles listed interior was designed by Waterhouse of Natural History Museum fame.

Venerable history aside. since the autumn it has been well stocked with malt whiskies and real ales. as well as serving cappucino. sandwiches and a full lunch menu. Soon. it will also be open for Sunday brunch. (As we went to press. the licence was still pending but may now have been granted.) There will be everything from croissant and orange juice to eggs benedict and the full

works of roast beef and ; Yorkshire pudding. A slap ' up breakfast will set you

back around £5.50. Tiles

. is open on Sundays



0272 290661 . Damhead Farm Shop is just past Hillend ski s10pe, on the Old l’entland Road. Lothianbum,

' Edinburgh. Open from 9.30am—5pm.

Mon—Sat. it stocks organic fruit and

_ vegetables. wholefoods. meat and cheese.



This traditionally Scottish curly brassica is in season just now, and widely available in both its organic and not so organic forms. Catherine Brown in ‘Broths to Bannocks’ (John Murray), her encyclopaedia oi Scottish cooking tells us that, at one time, Kale


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was used so extensively here that the word kale was used generically to mean a meal oi any kind. iiow though, despite its high vitamin and mineral content and its strong, spicy ilavour, it has iallen out oi iavour somewhat. that great culinary doyenne Constance Spry suggests that it is good ‘cooked, drained, chopped, and iinishad oii in a little butter in which

some grated onion has been tossed over heat, with a iinal addition oi lemon juice and ireshly ground Fellini'-

Alternatively, try this rather sumptuous Potato and Kale Gratin from Deborah Madison’s wonderiul book oi vegetable cookery, ‘The Savoury Way’ (Bantam Press).

Scrub a pound or so oi potatoes, leaving their skins on it they look iresh. Slice them into rounds ‘/. inch thick, and boil them in salted water for iive minutes. Scoop them out, then add a large bunch oi kale leaves to the water. These should have been rinsed well and chopped into large pieces discarding the tough stalks. When the kale has boiled tor a couple oi minutes, drain.

in a lightly buttered gratin dish, layer the kale and potatoes in alternate bands. Pour a cup oi cream over the top, and season with plenty oi pepper. Bake in a pro-heated oven (325°F) ior about 45 minutes, until the cream has been absorbed and tamed a golden crust around the edge.


r—“w‘fi/ Y; U13“

'Ubiqaitoas Chip—


Le Sept

7 Old Fishnzarket Close Edinburgh

lunch and dinner Monday to Thursday all day Friday and Saturday Sundays dinner only

telephone 03l 225 5428

5&3,“ :52. £3


gm; [:1 u a mtg-tint u.



TEL: 041-334 5007 .4 l

g The List 28 January—l0 February [994 33