Lea Valley Growers Association
37-39 Turners Hill
Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, EN8 8NP
Tel: 01992 625 076
Fax: 01992 640 141
9am to 5pm Monday to Friday
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As I sit here reflecting back over the last hundred years there seems to be some striking similarities between the growers of the Lea Valley Growers’ Association (LVGA) of yesteryear and the LVGA of today.
We have to irrigate, heat the crop, harvest it and control a wide range of pests and diseases, no change there then.
Today we have a range of beneficial insects that combat almost all of the modern glasshouse pests. Modern pesticides are pest specific and seldom used in some protected edible crops, with almost no detectable residue levels in the produce when and if they are used.
Modern plant breeding has enabled us to grow plants with greater resistance to a wider range of plant viruses and diseases.
In 1911 the LVGA was set up with the goal of representing growers on a political lobbying front.
The emphasis changed over the years but today the LVGA is firmly representing our growers again at both local and national MP level but also encroaching into Brussels with regular contact with our MEPs for certain issues like the 91414 pesticide directive.
Both locally and on a national level we have seen some challenging times none more so than the recent e-coli outbreak in Northern Germany.
There comes a moment, a catalogue of circumstances that has the potential to decimate a whole section of protected edibles by a wrongful diagnosis of the source of the outbreak.
The repercussions of this were felt throughout Europe with dire consequences to growers, marketing and retailers alike as consumer confidence dipped to the point where most of the protected edible crops were also targeted as the real source of the outbreak was left in doubt. When lives are lost and (one life is one too many) it focuses the mind, if in doubt don’t eat cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce.
They were all implicated at one point. Still not sure? Then I won’t eat aubergines or peppers because there was a picture of one on the BBC website. From the original suggested source it became clear that were a number of crops affected either directly or by association. In living memory there has never been a food scare where lives have been lost from UK grown produce.
I know this is tempting fate but is a true reflection of the high regard given to food safety in the UK and by local growers.
To restore consumer confidence the Lea Valley Growers Association, NFU, Epping Forest and local businesses came together to celebrate the humble cucumber by way of a festival.
The Great British Cucumber Festival celebrated not only cucumbers but all produce grown in the Lea Valley and connect with local businesses and interest groups.
As a specialist sector representing horticulture we are a resilient group that survives by our own dogged reluctance to give up.
Unlike other sectors of industry we continue with little or no subsidies but continue we do. Bring on the next century; we have survived for the last hundred years and continued to grow despite these challenges.
What the challenges are for the next century no one knows but I suspect it will be much the same as the last century.
The emphasis may change but the principles remain the same, crops need irrigating, heating, harvesting and we will still need a route to market.
All I do know is we need to be proactive, resilient and have the ability to see change as a positive but of this I am sure; survive and prosper we will.
Lea Valley Growers Association