The Hot 100: Gorgie City Farm and the impact of social enterprises
- Jo Laidlaw
- 1 November 2017
Social enterprises are big business, contributing around £24bn to the economy but they can also have a huge influence on the way we eat
Gorgie City Farm blew out 40 candles on its birthday cake this summer, with outgoing chief executive Josiah Lockhart leaving the once-ailing farm in fine shape. A trip to Gorgie has long been a rite of passage for Edinburgh's kids, but it does more than provide a fun-filled day out. In fact, it's a trailblazing social enterprise connecting people to food through volunteering opportunities, the sale of farm-produced eggs, veg and meat in the café and shop, and partnerships with some of the city's best-known chefs and restaurants.
Raising meat carefully, sustainably and openly (there's no pretence that the piggies aren't for the pot) not only provides an income, but is a fertile breeding ground for off-the-wall ideas. So when Fred Berkmiller, chef-proprietor of L'Escargot Bleu and Blanc, was offered some rare-breed, slow-growing Mangalitsa piglets, where better to bring them up than Gorgie? 'Gorgie City Farm shows young people where their food comes from,' explains Berkmiller. 'Without this knowledge, where will the customers and chefs of the future come from? To be able to raise the pigs half a mile up the road, to watch them grow, then to use every part of them in our kitchens is a brilliant way to support the farm, educate children and guarantee beautiful, unique produce for the restaurants.'
But eating with a social conscience doesn't have to involve trips to a restaurant. With three farms, a shop, a veg-box scheme and a wholesale business, Glasgow-based community-interest company Locavore has a 'big plan' to scale up and become a viable alternative to the supermarkets, creating an opportunity for most people to do most of their shopping in an easy, yet ethical way. Dig In Bruntsfield has a similar concept with pantry staples (fresh fruit and veg, milk and bread) all available from this wee grocery shop, which is wholly owned by the community.
The humble morning coffee or lunchtime sandwich can also be a powerful force for good. More and more social enterprise cafés have sprung up recently, most of them providing training opportunities and a vital source of income for grassroots charities. Social Bite is one of the most well-known, with a network of cafés in Glasgow and Edinburgh where customers can 'pay it forward' and buy a meal for a homeless person. Their concept matured last year with the launch of Home by Maison Bleue, a French-inspired restaurant.
But the Edinburgh Community Cafés website lists around 50 cafés around town with a social purpose, ranging from the fabby Grassmarket Café to the equally brilliant Breadshare, whose mission is to make real bread accessible to everyone in the community. Clear evidence, then, that there are plenty of opportunities to put your money where your mouth is, and support local good causes.