The pressures and demands of creating and running a local, sustainabale food operation when the ‘mainstream’ world is happy for soils to be wrecked and climates changed by subsidy-gobling factory farming. Nowhere Is that more apparent than at Cultivate Oxford. The changes since I visited are significant.
Cultivate Oxford was a co-operative with one full-time and several part-time employees who produced organic vegetables on 10 acres of land leased from the Earth Trust just north of Oxford. In keeping with the founding ethos of ‘change through practical action’, Cultivate had recruited over 400 members from in and around Oxford who support the venture with time and resources. Key to the sales of the co-operatives produce was its mobile greengrocer’s shop, the Veg Van, which delivered produce through a weekly tour around the city.
However, a quick glance at Cultivate‘s website starts to reveal a very different story today. Its still about bringing people together to create a better food system for Oxford, but now focuses on partnering with local growers, producers and farmers via weekly market stops. This is the product of a year that has been difficult, and has included redundancies, something in an enterprise that is an indicator of challenges. Not the least of these was the VegVan breaking down and there being no resources to replace it, as result of lower than expected incomes, and higher than expected costs. In an operation as fragile as Cultivate, that hard to take and survive
I guess the good news is though, that led by its Trustees and with the network of support from the past, Cultivate is currently refocusing, concentrating on taking other peoples produce to market. In the meantime, with main grower Jack moving to pastures new in Hampshire, active search is on for a new grower to lead the next stage of Cultivate’s life by developing the use 30 acres of ‘new’ land at South Hinksey. A key post to be filled or what!!
So……I offer some pictures from a very happy day at Cultivate thanks to Doireann Lalor, one of the founders but now elsewhere. Hopefully not such much an epitaph as call to action for all within reach of Oxford!
[Double clicking on any of the images below will open up that image up in a slideshow format. You can then run the slide show using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons. Personally I prefer to go also to full screen having opened the slide show – F11 on my PC, don’t forget to get out of full screen is the same button , not ESC]