Friday, October 03, 2008

Permaculture and wholesale markets

It's been a busy week in London, somewhat typically so as it included sun, wind, rain, security alerts on the tube, too much food and drink, too many nights out in a row, a couple of days grappling with bureaucracy (2 days and 3 visits to Canadian high commission offices trying to get registered for a mail-in ballot for the upcoming Canadian election, somehow eclipsed by some other election I think is happening on that side of the pond).

The rest of the time I'm delighted to be back at Sustain for a very brief spell, working on some articles for the relaunch of the in-house magazine the Jellied Eel, which will soon be magically appearing all over London in full and glorious colour.

Tuesday was the London Food Link networking do followed by a wildly over-subscribed talk by Cuban biologist and permaculture activist Roberto Perez. The talk, prefaced by a preview of the irresistably-titled film The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, covered bio-fuels, agribusiness & the food crisis. Perez works for the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity in Havana; it's described as a socio-cultural environmental organisation which fronts research, advocacy and educational activities in environmental, sustainability and biodiversity. During questions, Perez revealed his great interest in worms, which it turns out were the subjects of his thesis; and I think we'll hear more and more about them as vermiculture is a growing trend for building soil, in conjunction with composting.

Wednesday morning I crawled out of bed as early as I could (but not as early as some) to get down to join the crowd

at the New Covent Garden wholesale market for a tour and day of talks and workshops, a Local to London trade event designed to bring together producers, wholesalers and end users in a bid to encourage food service sector to source more regional produce.

There were master classes by an amazing fishmonger from James Knight, who dazzled with the speed of his knifework. He prepared fish

while chef Patrick Williams, of The Terrace in the Fields, demonstrated Caribbean-influenced dishes like this mackerel tartare, seasoned with vodka, lime and salt.
Andrew Sharp, butcher and Cumbrian meat advocate, who also displayed dazzling speed and facility with many different blades while talking about hill lamb and the use and aging of mutton and discussing some of the difficulties of marketing lesser known cuts. He is the marketing face of a farmers' cooperative and sells beef and lamb at Borough Market under the name Farmer Sharp.
There was also a talk by a herb grower, who addressed some of the difficulties around growing herbs seasonally and importing others to feed a year-round demand for herbs in a climate that is only able to grow what it can for about 8 months of the year. And a fruit wholesaler talked about issues to do with seasonality, size and quality in British apples.

One popular stand: Food Fore Thought supplied the organic bacon and sausage sandwiches for breakfast and the lamb ones for lunch.


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