Research isn't all fast-cars, international locations and cocktails, in fact it would be pretty good if it ever was even one of those things, but most of the time it is about discipline, details and determination. At the moment I am working my way through a vast number of websites for organic farms, shops, veg-boxs, on-line retailers, markets and specialist suppliers (I would recommend Why Organic and Alotoforganic). Just how many sites I can find is probably going to be a long and the subject of another blog.
The question that is raised by this work is just how dependent on the internet boom has the rise of organic food and farming been. Sure BSE was important, as was an economic boom and the Labour government but has the Internet played a big role in helping farmers directly communicate with the customer? Rather than having to rely on a middle person the farmer has been able to forge virtual links with the end customer, they get to keep more of the profit and the consumer knows where their food has come from. The Soil Association estimate that in 2004 this was worth £38.5 million for veg and meat sales of £2.2 million. Since that time the growth in veg-box schemes in particular has been huge and it would be nothing but a guess but the figures could now have doubled. With the integration between databases, on-line retailing and distribution systems veg boxes in particular are now probably easier to cope with than trailing down to the supermarket.
The other aspect of this that we shouldn't underestimate is the cachet or cultural capital of having a box delivered. In a time when we construct our identities partly through our consumption patterns using the Internet - the technology of the moment - in order to order your organic goods - the food of the moment is a sign of being very highly contemporary. It is also as many concerned with ethical living would suggest a public display of virtue. That is not to belittle these projects far from it. If virtue is easy, if the environmentally sound is the default setting of daily life we can only all benefit. All we need to do now is to get all of those people ordering their environmentally sound food on recycled computers running on open-source software!