Members of the group visiting one of the recently started local organic growers; Javier from ArobesOver the years we’ve introduced a lot of environmental initiatives in the hotel and on the farm and its always lovely when we get positive feedback about them from our guests. It’s very satisfying for us to hear a guest say they have enjoyed their stay and that they are now going to try and buy more organic produce or copy some of our other environmental initiatives.
Javier from Ribadesella drying and shelling his small scale production of dried "Faba" beans
Although it’s great to be able to work in an environmentally friendly way at the hotel and see our guests enjoy our efforts, we have been well aware that we could do more with the local community. We try and support small local farmers whenever possible and also have various farm open days where we are keen to share information but we still felt we could be doing more.
Two of the new growers interchanging information on growing.
So when we were approached by Mari Jose from Arriondas last year about helping form a consumer group for residents in the East of Asturias we were delighted. To start with there were about eight people who were interested in the project and in the first meetings we established the ideas behind the group. The members of the consumer group wanted to buy organic produce directly from small local growers and encourage this type of production. We wanted to help support the local growers by giving them some guarantee that we would buy what they produced. The idea would be able to say to the grower(s) we would need so many boxes of vegetables each and every week throughout his production period and thus guarantee an outlet for his produce.
Discussing plant production with two of the group members.
First we wanted to establish how many consumers would commit themselves and be prepared to buy what the grower could produce for us each week. The members of the group had a common ideology and recognized the problems of small scale growing and were prepared to share some of the risks of growing. If there was a glut of lettuce, courgettes or whatever and the vegetable box that week overflowed with lettuce we would just have to be imaginative and consume more lettuce!
Javier from Ribadesella preparing Walnuts for the group.
We visited various producers in the region to look for possible suppliers and our first surprise was the lack of organic growers in a 50 km radius of Arriondas. There was one established organic grower from Ribadesella so we started a trial the box scheme with him throughout the winter, preparing a box twice a month with what he had. We all ate lots of cabbage and leaf beet but despite this the interest in the group carried on growing and the number of members kept on increasing. We also held monthly meetings where we discussed the project over a meal with different dishes supplied by the different members. In late winter, as our initiatives got better known we were pleased to be contacted by a young local grower who wanted to start producing vegetables for the group.
Meeting and social event at the hotel for the group members
Communal effort preparing food for the group
Nine months have now passed since the first meetings; the group now has 22 members and is growing. Another local has taken the initiative to start growing organic vegetables for the group, so there are now three organic growers in the area. Every Tuesday the three growers bring their produce to the hotel farm house where volunteers from the consumer group take it in turns to make up the vegetable boxes and then all the members come to collect their boxes. Members of the group have also clubbed together to buy local organic beef and pork direct from the farmer as well as other types of produce. Congratulations should be given to Mari Jose and all the members of the group who have worked so hard to get the initiative going, a very valuable initiative which I am proud to be part of.
Preparing the first vegetable boxes last autumn.