Sustainable Crops for Sustainable Markets

Encouraging nature-positive farming is very important to us at Locavore. It is for this reason that we are thrilled to partner with the James Hutton Institute’s Centre for Sustainable Cropping platform. The platform was established in 2009 to provide an open research facility for improving the long-term sustainability of arable cropping systems. At 42 hectares it is the first of its scale in the UK.

The scientists working on this project are researching how integrated cropping can improve soil health and biodiversity compared with conventional farming practices. By attending to semi-natural ecosystems (e.g. diversifying field margins), improving the quality of the cultivated areas (e.g. enhancing in-field biodiversity and improving soil health), and measuring the impacts on indicators of the whole arable production system (fertiliser and energy use, pollution and yields), they are building on knowledge that will help farmers grow crops in a way that also protects ecosystem health. This research is important for addressing three major global issues: the biodiversity crisis, food security and human health, and the climate emergency.

We want to make it clear to our customers that while organic food is central to Locavore’s ethos, these crops are not organic per se, however, they are grown under a system that aims to minimise reliance on inorganic agrochemical inputs and instead allow natural regulation of ecosystem functions through the key components of biodiversity found in agroecosystems. This project is an opportunity to learn about nature-positive farming techniques that can be widely adopted by both organic and non-organic farmers – e.g. biodiversity and soil protection practices such as no-tillage, cover cropping, intercropping, and integrated weed, pest and disease management.

Click here for a virtual tour of the farm in Balruddery, near Dundee. We recently went to visit the farm, and were shown around by Cathy and Pete (pictured below).

Over the years the harvests have typically gone to animal feed, but this year Locavore will be coordinating the farm to fork processes for barley, fava beans, wheat, potatoes and oilseed rape that are grown at the Centre for Sustainable Cropping. In addition to these crops we are also coordinating the farm to fork processes for barley, peas, lentils, field beans, that are grown adjacent to the Centre for Sustainable Cropping. This smaller project is supported largely by the Scottish Government, and aims to research the benefit of intercropping – in this case growing lentils, peas and barley together.

Peas
Lentils
Barley
Fava Beans

We are currently finding opportunities to process these crops and fill gaps in Scotland’s local food supply chain. We have been contacting processors (for flour milling, malting and oil pressing) and we are thinking about opportunities to set up smaller scale in-house food production facilities. Once the crops are ready for market they will be available through our trading department, Locavore Trading, and on Locavore’s shop shelves.

We are currently developing product ideas and will be reaching out to Locavore customers to find out what you want. Tattie scones? Fava bean ravioli? We have already developed our own baked beans made from Scottish fava beans!

Aside from providing tasty sustainable food, we hope this project will increase awareness of the need for sustainably produced food and the multiple benefits of healthy soil, diverse agroecosystems and integrated management.

For more information about the platform please contact: joanne@locavore.scot and/or cathy.hawes@hutton.ac.uk