Creating a Sustainable Food Economy in London

Sometimes you don’t have to go half way round the world to find amazing community stories, or look to learn from India or Africa about empowering social enterprise initiatives—just occasionally, these stories are quite literally on your doorstep. Forty Hall Community Vineyard, Enfield, London, U.K. is an innovative scheme led and managed by volunteers. Enfield is the last place in London that you would expect to find volunteers pruning vines whose grapes will end up in homes and high-end restaurants in the first bottles of organic wine grown in the capitol since the middle ages.

The Forty Hall vineyard is the brainchild of Sarah Vaughan-Roberts, who was determined to create an organic vineyard in London. It is an independent social enterprise situated at Forty Hall Farm, a local ‘food hub,’ bringing people together from Enfield and across the city to learn about and get involved in the growing, cooking and eating of local food. The Farm is certified organic. Together, the Farm and vineyard are dedicated to demonstrating environmentally sustainable farming and vine growing practices. They contribute to the development of a sustainable local food economy for London. The vines are fed on manure created from garden waste collected from Londoners' homes.

The vineyard provides volunteering opportunities to a wide range of local people, including many people from deprived and marginalised communities. This social enterprise is maintained by working parties of people with learning difficulties as well as the regular volunteers. A key part of the project is to offer eco-therapy: the mental and physical benefits of working outdoors, on the land. The Jacobean mansion of Forty Hall is a beautiful setting, with lovely buildings, making it perfect for this kind of treatment.

However, what is also really special about this vineyard is how it could make a change to CO2, as an estimated 35% of CO2 emissions from wine production stems from transporting wines across the globe. The U.K. is one of the world’s largest wine importers. Figures provided by Waste & Resource Action Plan show that Britain consumes about a billion bottles per year. Most of this wine travels thousands of miles from as far as Australia, New Zealand and South America. This is why this social enterprise in Enfield is attractive; it offers the most effective way of reducing CO2 emissions. Just think: if each London wine consumer replaced just one imported bottle a year with a bottle of English wine, the impact could be significant.

Photo Credit: Forty Hall Vineyard Main Website