On this page we've included links, information and resources associated with various wider activities in which we at Vallis Veg are involved.
For example, as you'll see on the menu to the left, from here you can navigate to the Seed Saving and Plant Breeding Group that we help run, or find out more about Permaculture (including the Permaculture Design Course that we're involved in). You can also look up our publications and other research on sustainable small-scale farming.
Please feel free to contact us if you'd like to follow up on any of this information with us.
As I mentioned in Vallis Veg Newsletter No.165 there’s a fair bit of uncertainty about terms like ‘organic food, ‘local food’, ‘conventional food’, ‘agro-ecological farming’ and so on, so here is Vallis Veg's scrupulously unbiased reference guide for the perplexed:
Conventional farming uses fertilizer from fossil fuel feedstocks to promote plant growth. It also uses – at least potentially – the full armoury of modern herbicides & pesticides, many of which are also synthesized from fossil fuels (& have various effects such as promoting pest tolerance & damage to ecosystem or human health).
Organic farming uses no synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. Fertility is created largely from fertility-building crops such as clovers, sometimes mediated by livestock via manure. Organic pesticides which do not persist in the biosphere are sometimes used as a last resort (a practice often cited by organic farming’s critics wishing to undermine its credibility), but the main way of dealing with pests and other agricultural problems is through a ‘holistic’ or integrated management regimen across the whole farm, including such things as building up natural pest predators, complex rotations to break pest life cycles and so on.
Agro-ecological farming builds on the organic approach, but pays closer attention to the farm in its full ecological context as part of the natural and social landscape – so things like the use of energy and other nonrenewable resources, biodiversity, local livelihoods and so on assume greater importance than in organic farming, which is often practiced on a large scale.
Local food can be anything that anyone wants to define it as – from conventional food produced in the general vicinity of Europe, to agro-ecological food from your back garden.
Our approach at Vallis Veg is agro-ecological, and as local as it’s possible for us to be given the land, labour & capital available to us and our commitment to filling your box each week. In our interpretation of the term, this means that – unlike many organic and other large-scale growers – we don’t use chemical pesticides of any kind, we don’t use bought-in fertility and we’re frugal in our use of fossil fuels and other non-renewable inputs (I’ve calculated that we use around five times less litres of fuel for each calorie of food we produce than conventional growers). This means it’s hard for us to compete on price with larger-scale growers, including organic ones. But we like to think that our approach will prove to be more sustainable in the long run!