OrganicLea is a small workers’ co-operative growing food on London’s edge in the Lea Valley.
From modest beginnings in 2001, they now distribute healthy locally grown food to 300 households each week and run an extensive training and volunteering programme.
As well as being owned by its 17 members, the co-op provides paid work placements, volunteering opportunities and accredited training to over 350 local people annually. OrganicLea aims to develop its services to deliver health and well-being training and skills outcomes, in particular working with excluded pupils and in social prescribing linked to occupational therapy.
As well as their 12 acre food and plant growing site at Hawkwood Plant Nursery, the co-op’s members have also established a food distribution base at The Hornbeam Centre, which additionally acts as a well-loved local hub for other local growers to sell their produce, share their skills and celebrate locally grown sustainable food.
“The support we received through The Hive has been excellent and enabled us to effectively review our governance arrangements and processes so that we can take the next steps in our continued expansion,” says OrganicLea worker-owner Marlene Barrett. “It’s an exciting time for us with the prospect of expanding our deliveries and our services.”
Marlene continues: “Social and environmental aims are fundamental to our work. By growing local organic food we are able to reduce food miles and maximise reuse and recycling. We use electricity from renewable resources (including solar panels on our roof) and operate an electric milk float and bicycle trailers as our main transport.”
“We work in one of the most deprived boroughs in England. Over 50% of our participants have faced social exclusion due to mental health problems, learning disabilities or long-term unemployment. We work with local referral partners such as Waltham Forest Wellness Service, Outlook Housing and IAPT Waltham Forest. They welcome the vital services we provide and the positive impacts given the limited community participation and training opportunities for residents with high support needs.”