Where I come from in Ohio, I used to belong to something called a CSA, which is an acronym for community supported agriculture. I would pay a fee to the local market (Greener Grocer represent!) and then weekly I could run to the market and pick up a box of locally raised, organically grown goodness from farmers in the area. It was fabulous, cheap (not more for $15 for a medium box/$20 for a large), delicious, and a great way to support small farmers locally. Of course then I moved to England and couldn’t find any sort of similar CSA anywhere. I was bummed, until I discovered what was wrong-Brits call it something else! Once I found out that here they go by the moniker “veg box scheme”. I was all up on it. This week, we got our first fruit+ veg box from Riverford Organics. We met some of their lovely employees at the Brighton Food Fest a few weekends ago, and our whole experience so far has been nothing but wonderful.
We’ve started out with just a small fruit+veg box, which cost us a mere £12.45. This box includes 5 varieties of vegetables and 2 types of fruits. This week that means: leeks, mushrooms, purple sprouting broccoli, plums, kiwi, cherry tomatoes, and a very interesting looking cabbage. We’re already thinking about sizing up to the regular fruit+veg box, which has 7 vegetables and 3 fruits. What can I say, we love vegetables! And for these prices it’s really a win all the way around-it’s a small part of our regular food budget, for a better price than at any grocery and with more variety than anything we’d normally choose.
Look at that texture!
Riverford Organics does a lot more than veg boxes. They also do…wait for it…meat boxes. Seriously. From as little as £20 you can order a box of locally raised, organic cuts of meat. Sausages, chicken wings, pork chops, mince, the whole shebang. I’m super impressed. We have not, in fact, ordered any meat boxes (and with our tiny freezer and how little we eat meat, I don’t think we’ll be taking advantage any time soon) but I think it’s a really great opportunity for community building in Brighton. People can build a relationship with the people raising their food, and truly know where it’s coming from, fostering a deeper respect for the animals that nourish them. Riverford also has a few more offerings on the table. Organic cheeses, milk for 99p a liter (organic and local, of course), and even bread. And WINE. They do wine!
I can not speak highly enough about Riverford so far. The website is full of recipes for each weeks’ box contents. Their guy Stephen delivered our box to me on Tuesday afternoon (free delivery!) and he was incredibly friendly, accommodating, and asked if I had any questions about their service. You really get the vibe that they are more than willing to work with you for whatever you may need. You can set up a weekly debit and delivery, or you can change your box order up until Tuesday night of the delivery week. You can order a box every week, or every fortnight, or even just as/when you’d like it. So much flexibility! I think the only downside is that not all of their products are always from England, but they are sourced locally when possible and are organic/come from small farms elsewhere in Europe when they’re needed. Because uh…this is England, and you can’t just grow things willy-nilly.
There are other CSA/Veg box schemes in Sussex (and I’m sure in other parts of the UK), and I would encourage everyone to check it out. And if you’re in Brighton-Riverford gets two thumbs up from us!