At the heart of the UK’s Soil Association is the belief espoused by its founder, Lady Eve Balfour that “The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible”. For decades, the Association has been the premier campaigner for organic farming in the UK but it now sees its brief as far wider than that. Today, it reaches out into schools, catering and beyond in its aim to change Britain’s food culture and practices. It also wants other farmers to embrace some of the lessons it has learned even if not going fully organic.
It has staff of over 250 in its Bristol HQ, about half of whom work on organic certification, supports some 14500 public members and 4500 licensees and has a turnover of around £15-16m, about half of which comes from the certification business.
On a visit to Bristol last month, I took the chance to ask its chief executive and organic farmer, Helen Browning*, about where its founder’s view fits in its work today and where the Association wants to be in 2020:
One of the most successful recent ventures of the Soil Association has been the Food for Life Partnership work with schools that Helen mentioned, so I asked Libby Grundy, director of its work at the Soil Association to tell me more about it:
*If you want to hear more about Helen and are in the UK you can listen to her story as told on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs on 22 May 2015