Thursday, March 6, 2008

Local Foods Memo: 'Eggs, Bunnies and Piglets, Ow My': The UK Soil Association and Organic Farmers' Invite City Folk to Celebrate Easter on the Farm

The United Kingdom's Soil Association has come up with a fun and educational way for Brits to learn more about where their foods come from during the upcoming Easter Holiday weekend.

The environmental, farm and food organization has partnered with some of Britain's organic farms to create a number of Easter weekend farm tours, walks and other educational and recreational activities designed to showcase local sustainable and organic agriculture, as well as offering a relaxing and enjoyable holiday weekend.

The Soil Association is the UK's leading environmental charity. It's charter is to promote sustaniable and organic agriculture, along with human health.

There will be plenty of scenic walking tours, a chance for kids to see lambs and piglets up close, tastings of gourmet-prepared, fresh organic produce and meats, organic wine tastings, and even Easter Egg hunts run by UK-based Green & Blacks, a maker and marketer of premium, organic and Fair Trade chocolates, come Easter weekend. And, since Green & Blacks' produces some of the finest quality chocolate products in the world--and those chocolate delights in the form of chocolate Easter eggs will be the prizes at the egg hunts--you can bet the adults will be looking for an egg or two themselves out on the farm.

A number of the United Kingdom's sustainable and organic farms are involved in the Easter Weekend events. Among these farms include:

Commonwork at Bore Place: Chiddingstone, England. The farm will offer an educational session on food and climate change, including hands-on activities. Lunch will feature local, organic and Fair Trade foods. March 29. For Information: Call: 01732 463255.

Densholme Farm: Great Hatfield, Hull, East Yorkshire. Among the special activities will be a Marathon race and a fun run through the farm's rolling green meadows. March 30. For Information: Call: 01964 535315.

Hindon Farm: Bratton, near Minehead, Somerset. This a must-visit for the kids. The farm will have piglets and lambs in the fields for visitors. Hindon Farm also will be where one of the Green & Blacks' Easter Egg hunts will be held. March 22. For Information: Call: 01643 705244.

Lower Rundhurst Farm: Tennyson's Lane, Roundhurst, Haslemere, West Sussex. Another must-visit with the kids. The farm will place colorful characters in its fields. When kids find the characters they will win chocolate Easter Eggs. Green & Blacks' also is conducting one of its Easter Egg Hunts at the farm. For mom and dad, there's an afternoon tea, with homemade chocolate cake. March 22. For Information: Call: 01428 656 455.

Pink Pig Organics: Holme Hall, Scunthorpe, Linconshire. March 21, 22, 23. There will be a "hunt the rabbits" event. Kids finding a rabbit (or more) win chocolate Easter Eggs. Green & Blacks' is providing the chocolate eggs, and also will hold one of its Easter Egg Hunts at Pink Organics. Lastly, there will be a competition to name the farm's brand new local, Lincolnshire Curly-Coated Pigs. For Information: Call: 01724 844466.

Rushall Farm: Scratchface Lane, Bradfield, Berkshire. There will be a Lambing Weekend on March 15 and 16. Visitors can merely watch, or participate if they choose to. FOr Information: Call: 0118 974 4547, or email:

Sedlescombe Vineyard: Cripps Corner, Sedlescombe, Robertsbridge, East Susex. The vineyard will hold a vineyard and nature trail hike on the property, along with a tasting of its wines, on March 21, from 10am-6pm. For Information: Call: 01580 830715.

Sheepdrove Organic Farm: Lambourne, Berkshire. On March 16, the farm will host farm tours, a demonstration of lambing, a hog roast, butchery demonstrations and farm walks. There also will be a fair featuring local craftspeople, books written by local authors, and gifts produced locally. On Easter Sunday, March 23, Green & Blacks will hold one of their Easter Egg Hunts at the farm. the farm will also offer tours of its eco-garden, eco-conference center and sustainable agriculture grounds. Lunch is a three-course meal made with all organic ingredients, meats and produce. For Information: Call: 01488 674737, or email:

Programs like the Soil Association's Easter Weekend events, in which consumers are brought into contact with the farms (and farmers) where their food is grown, are important on many levels.

First, many urban dwellers, especially younger people, have little or no concept of the farm-to-food store chain. Ask them where their food comes from and you are likely to hear: from the supermarket--or restaurant. Many adults, who are aware that food is grown on farms, aren't to clear on the concept either however--preferring to not bother with the details. Farm tours, like those to be held in the UK in conjunction with the Easter Weekend, create a relaxing and fun setting, which encourages adults and kids to want to learn more about farms and farming, and how food gets from the farm to their dinner tables.

Additionally, by showcasing local farmers, groups like the Soil Association are not only creating awareness about where food comes from and how it's produced, they also are showing consumers the importance of locally-produced foods, and how such enterprises can benefit local economies with jobs, as well as the social and cultural benefits that go along with local agriculture.

The more awareness that can be created around local agriculture and local foods, the more consumers will look for local items and purchase them. And, the more consumers buy local, the more benefits acrue to local farmers and others involved in the food chain. This creates stronger local economies, as well as providing consumers with fresher and healthier foods. It's a win-win really. It also benefits retailers who make it a point to merchandise local products.

Lastly, creating awareness of and educating about farming has a larger environmental purpose. Farmers really were the world's first conservationists and environmentalists, and many remain so today. Especially those generally small farmers who grow their crops sustainably, avoiding pesticides and other synthetic chemicals. In this way, farming and environmentalism go hand-in-hand.

Exposing urban consumers to the farm can create a greater understanding of how agriculture and consumer behavior are linked, from the field, to the supermarket, to the home.

Easter is an excellent holiday and time of year to promote farming and agriculture. The religious themes of Easter, it's spring setting, the symbols of celebration--Easter Eggs, the Easter Bunny--are all rural and farm-oriented. It's only right for farms and farmers to be a part of any Easter weekend celebration.

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