Visit to Martineau Gardens, Birmingham – 26 April 2014
It has charitable status with no grants and survives through hard work from volunteers and supports 4 employees through memberships, donations and plant sales. Many different agencies refer ‘volunteers’ for help, where they soon become the fabric of the gardens, so there is low turnover and hence a waiting list.
“You’d think we were in the country” I heard, as we followed Caroline on a tour of the gardens which included old and modern woodland, a wildlife pond, beehives, formal gardens, vegetable beds, an orchard, a polytunnel and a hothouse. It is a beautiful and peaceful spot, and it is inspiring to see an enterprise do so much good with the support of willing volunteers. Thank you Caroline for a motivating afternoon, and thank you Solomon for such a warm welcome. www.martineau-gardens.org.uk
The Real Wine Fair, London – 13 April 2014
The fair included 150 exhibitors of natural wines which the organisers defined as artisan and independent producers who work without chemicals in low yielding vineyards (so organic, biodynamic or low or zero interventions). Our expectations before the fair were mixed. Are they really organic?
We arrived on a sunny day to enjoy the wonderful wrought-iron architecture of the former Tobacco Docks and find a large crowd of people filtering through the well-organised reception to the wine fair. One look inside and we had to pause for thought; 150 winemakers with probably 600 wines and a couple of thousand merry tasters – this needed a plan! Choosing carefully we tasted the range of whites and reds from Sussex (Davenport, Forty Hall and Sedlescombe), Galicia (Dominio do Bibeiri, Forja del Salnes), Douro (Morgadio da Calcada), Loire (Brendan Tracey in his Ramones T-Shirt), Champagne (Pierre Gerbais), Georgia (Teleda), Chile (De Martino, Villalobos) and Tuscany (Montenidoli).
Surprisingly we still had the strength to test the unfiltered beers of Camden Town Brewery and the Organic Gins and Vodka of Highgate’s Sacred Distillery. Overall, the wines were fantastic and the producers bursting to tell their tale of ancient and wild vines on family or community land, or of new entrepreneurial ventures. By the time we reached the shop we were too confused to buy anything to bring home. Luckily it’s all online at www.therealwinefair.com. Next year we’ll organise a HEOG trip…
Talk by James Campbell, CEO Garden Organic – 17 March 2014
James Campbell was appointed CEO of Garden Organic last year having joined from the Earthwatch Institute, where he was Acting Chief Development Officer. James described his introduction to organic growing at the relatively new Ryton Gardens in 1987 and went on to explore the different roles of Garden Organic and how they are relevant to the world we live in today. He described that whilst research and development has been taken up by the general market and public research funding has all but disappeared, there is still a place for members’ experiments. GO’s work on how to grow on flooded ground proved particularly relevant this winter.
Their community work remains a priority whether through local champions such as the Master Gardeners or projects such as Rye Hill Prison where inmates are helped to learn to grow food. The charity will continue to campaign on issues of interest to organic growers, especially in areas where no other organisation exists to do so; such as ‘greening’ the garden industry, protecting pollinators, lobbying government to ban neonicotinoids, and the EU to protect heritage seeds from the Plant Reproductive Materials directive.
James described the importance of members whether individual or of local organic groups such as HEOG. He urged HEOG to consider running the local potato day, having controversially decided to cancel the national potato day because it used up too much resource and was no longer primarily organic. GO’s membership is evenly spread across the UK (apart from Northern Scotland). He described Ryton Gardens as needing to change to refocus on organic growing and how pleased he was that Fresh Rootz would take on the restaurant and include dishes using organic Ryton produce and with the relationship with 5 Acre Farm community agriculture sharing the site. James said that the Heritage Seed Library would remain the jewel in the crown of Garden Organic providing a vital role in retaining our vegetable varieties .
After his talk James stayed to answer almost an hour’s questions from group members, ranging from finance and governance to his personal hopes and fears. This was a candid evening at a critical point for Garden Organic which provoked much discussion. James could never satisfy everyone’s hopes, and indeed made it clear that he was not afraid of making tough decisions himself. Thanks James for giving your time to this most local, of local organic groups. www.gardenorganic.org.uk
Juicing for Health – February 17th 2014
Jane went on further to look at the work of Dr William Li who looked at ways of suppressing angiogenesis and reported that diet makes up 30-35% of the environmental causes of cancer. The group were pleased to see a perfect supper provides the antidote, a diet rich in red grapes, berries, soy, garlic, tomatoes, artichokes and parsley.
Through her work Jane sees daily the effects of osteoporosis, which is so common that half of all women (and a fifth of men) will suffer a fracture. With the age for peak bone deposit finishing at 29 years there were only 2 members of the audience to heed advice! Whilst Calcium is the key mineral, it was interesting that dairy calcium alone does not prevent osteoporosis, rather the compounds in dark green veg and oily fish are needed. Magnesium greatly enhances Calcium absorption and can be found in nuts, green vegetables and shell fish. Magnesium deficiency is common in the UK and leads to cramps, ticks, vertigo, insomnia and palpitations.
Jane went on to explain that Vitamin D is important for the development of strong bones and also for avoidance of heart disease and types of cancer. The main source of Vitamin D is sunshine, but with 20 minutes of exposure needed daily and only six weeks storage in our bodies, the UK lifestyle and latitude do not help (between September and May the sun is too low in the sky for the requisite UVB). The Vitamin is only significantly found in oily fish and eggs and so is widely taken as a supplement.
Jane finished her prepared talk and went on to answer many questions from the audience. Than you Jane for an enthusiastic and informative talk, which gave even these hardened foodies pause for thought!
Annual General Meeting and Supper – 18 January 2014
The formal meeting lasted for around an hour with most attention paid to the state and future of Garden Organic. After formalities closed supper was serve; a superb collection of salads, bakes, soup, casseroles, breads, cakes, cheeses and desserts. This group can still cook.
After dinner the group reconvened to discuss the planned events for the year which gathered a number of new ideas.
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