You have to hand it to Reuben Chesters, the fearless founder of the not-for-profit ethical food hub Glasgow Locavore.
You have to hand it to Reuben Chesters, the fearless founder of the not-for-profit ethical food hub Glasgow Locavore. Since starting up the social enterprise on the south side of the city a couple of years ago, he??s opened a neighbourhood shop selling local, sustainably grown produce and had to move to larger premises within a year. He??s operating a popular weekly veg bag delivery scheme to 150 households in Glasgow and surrounding areas, and demand has been so high that he has committed to renting a 2.5-acre market garden at Neilston (with £2,500 start-up funding from Glasgow City Council), so the veg bags contain as high a percentage of truly local produce as possible.
The 28-year-old has been able to support eight full and part-time staff, as well as offering self-employment opportunities ?? growers can earn good money from privately selling the vegetables they grow. All this on very limited funds.
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So far, so good. Chesters?? next move in his continuing mission to get people to think about where their food comes from has been somewhat bolder, and certainly more controversial. In a bid to get them to reconnect with the meat they buy in supermarkets, to think about where it comes from and how ethically the animals they eat are raised, he founded the Urban Croft earlier this year ?? a piece of lush overgrown land at the edge of Queen??s Park Bowling Club??s disused tennis court ?? and raised two 60kg Gloucester Old Spots
The pigs were supplied at six weeks old in June by Allan Steel of Lochbyre, the rare breeds smallholding on the outskirts of Newton Mearns. At Queen??s Park they were fed on local organic waste from the shop and gardens, and this weekend the first batch of Queen??s Park Pork is on sale in the form of bacon, sausages, chops, belly, ham, cheeks, trotters, ears, snouts and even bone bags. That most of the combined 80kg yield was sold out before it even hit the counter, having been pre-ordered by 100 Locavore customers, is an astonishing achievement.
Chesters is delighted by the result, from which he will make the grand total of around £350, though he does acknowledge that it??s a small step in the wider aim of displacing purchases of less sustainable, lower welfare meat, and preventing that money going to the globalised food system.
But the project wasn??t as straightforward as it sounds. Locals grew so fond of the pigs ?? despite their being purposely never named ?? that they mounted an online campaign to save them. The Pigs In The Rex garnered 1,500 followers, united in their outrage that the eight-month-olds were to be ??stunned, hung upside down and drained of blood through the throat??. It urged people to appeal to Chesters to ??have mercy on the park pigs?? and not to send them to the slaughterhouse. Locavorewatch.com has been set up with a map pinpointing the site, and the comment: ??Queen??s Park pigs met their unnatural death today.??
One member of the vegan community offered to pay for a pig sanctuary so the animals could live happily and die naturally in old age. Chesters tells me he thought about naming them Christmas and New Year just so people were clear what their purpose was.
One lady customer said she??d stopped eating pork since learning about the pigs because she was appalled they were being killed; a message was left on the shop telephone threatening that ??something bad would happen?? to the two Locavore pygmy goats that also live on the Urban Croft. ??I was endlessly surprised by the variety of reactions to this project,?? Chesters told me.
Despite this, he says it has been more successful than he could ever have imagined. He reasons that people who previously didn??t know or care where their meat came from, might think again about buying intensively reared pork from pigs deprived of sunlight and fed on processed or GM soya. ??It??s absolutely fine that they give us a hard time,?? he told me. ??I just hope it helps people think about it.??
Sounds like he??s achieved his objective.