Here at Cave we love getting to know our fellow worker co-ops. I had the pleasure of meeting Adam from Organic Lea at a course this year, and decided to pay them a visit one bright autumn day.
They are a community nursery garden located just on the edge of Epping forest, on a sizeable piece of land that used to be run as a nursery by the council back in the day. They are committed to bringing food cultivation back to a local scale with organic cultivation methods. I met Theo, infrastructure and site development co-ordinator (and workshop wizard extraordinaire), who took me for a tour of the site, from the glasshouses growing all kinds of chillis, to the more wild corners of the site where a dried up pond has been turned into a meeting area.
The coop has over a dozen members, and takes volunteers from local areas to help support the growing effort, but also, more crucially, learn new skills and education. Whilst I was there a happy team was netting up vine trees. They have there own wine making equipment on site and I see that the first bottles have just hit the shelves!
So this is why Theo tells me that they are not to be thought of simply as a farm, they are indeed so much more than that. For the last ten years they have done the heavy work of turning an allotment, and more recently the derelict nursery site, back to cultivation, and setting up the successful local veg-box scheme. With this in place and operating successfully, they are focussing their attention on developing the site towards their goals of providing a flagship venue for community involvement and education. This is already happening across the site with a healthy supply of local volunteers learning vital skills in cultivation and land management.
Not only are they making wine, repurposing an old milk float for home deliveries, and announcing new nursery courses for next year, they also have found the time to publish a book, details here. This has been distilled from a regular blog written by one of the growers, a unique record of how the site and the co-op has developed.
Like all worker co-ops they have a brilliant website! So do check it out at www.organiclea.org.uk. Also, if you are in the area, they run regular open days so do go and have a look at the good, and very tasty, work they do.