The Archers and the Soil Association

June 7, 2014 12:28 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

I don’t often listen to The Archers, but like many others surely, have been captivated by the recent problems surrounding Tom’s abandoned pigs. Will he come back for them? Who will feed them for him? And just how long will the Soil Association allow Tony to house non-organic stock? (Of course, if he hadn’t broadcast his intentions all over Radio 4, he’d have got away with it for ever.)

It’s all a minefield. We understand their concerns in Ambridge – we too are regulated by the Soil Association, and while we don’t have hundreds of porkers to deal with, we do have to follow strict organic standards.

You might have noticed the Soil Association logo on our website – or seen it on some of the products we sell. The Soil Association is a membership organisation that campaigns for ‘healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use’. In the UK, organic food is strictly protected by law, meaning that anything labelled as organic must comply with EU law on organic standards:

  • no genetic modification anywhere in the food chain
  • no pesticides, or herbicides
  • no hydrogenated fats or artificial colours
  • no unnecessary packaging
  • no irradiation or nanotechnology
  • the creation of an improved habitat for wildlife
  • minimum processing
  • on average, higher levels of some nutrients than non-organic foods
  • a higher standard of animal welfare
  • better-tasting food.

Soil Association certification is an essential way for consumers to be sure that what they are buying is truly organic.

The Association describes its certification process as having a core of ‘vision, integrity and trust’: everyone involved works hard to maintain this. We have a processor’s licence from the Soil Association: we pack organic products from large, bulk bags and boxes, into smaller user-friendly bags. We have to account for every gram of product – every lentil, every sesame seed! – and follow strict cleaning routines.

We are also inspected annually by the Association. Here’s a summary from our most recent inspection:

‘…a fantastically wider range of organic produce….In addition, a range of non-organic wholefoods and dietary-specific products are sold, such as gluten- and dairy-free products. Excellent systems of recording are in place – making audits very easy to accommodate. Well done.’

A couple of years ago, we joined the Soil Association’s Organic Food for Life Catering Mark Scheme. We’re now a ‘Food for Life’ catering supplier, working with schools and other public and private bodies to increase the nutritional value of the food they serve.

The International Foundation for Organic Agriculture is the umbrella organisation that covers the Soil Association in the UK and other certifying bodies, both here and abroad. We sell stock from all over the world, and make sure that where it is noted as being ‘organic’, it is accredited by a reputable body in its country of origin.

So, farmers of Ambridge – follow our lead, and follow those Soil Assocation rules. And listeners, take note: it’s not all bell-ringing, lemon drizzle cake and single-wicket results in the countryside (though all those were mentioned within the first ten minutes of Monday’s episode)! All of us out here in the sticks have to keep those high standards up. Anything else would be tantamount to running a main road right through Ambridge. Oh.

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This post was written by Yzanne

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