Image: Celia Bradley, Lee Greens Director and Founder
Lee Greens celebrates its seventh birthday this coming weekend: how did we start and how did we grow to the size we are today?
Since leaving behind me a life in the corporate world I had spent time thinking about what my values were, and how I could be true to my values in my work. Three really important things for me were Community, Environment and Healthy Eating. In 2014 I came across an article in Jellied Eel magazine: Growing Communities, a well-established ethical food organisation in North London were offering assistance for people wanting to set up a local veg scheme to support small farmers who farm sustainably, and to create a community focused non-profit enterprise.
While I knew absolutely nothing about selling vegetables, I did know that this chimed with what I was looking for, and I therefore got in touch and joined the start-up programme. In recent years, this has become Better Food Traders and Lee Greens is an accredited member of that network.
I reached out to the local community and with the help of a small team (including Chris, Lee Greens Director, pictured below) who gave up their free time to help with the planning, after a few months of work, we were ready to launch. In May 2015, we started out, packing vegetables in a small room at Kingswood Halls in Blackheath. Deliveries were made in my car and we had just 3 pick-up points and 23 customers at the beginning.
Amazingly, 12 of the original 23 customers are still with us! Thanks to them and all our current supporters. Without you we wouldn't be able to do what we do. Thank you.
We now rent a much bigger premises at Leegate; we employ 8 part time staff and rely on a formidable team of volunteers who are part of our packing rota. We deliver to our 18 pickup points using rented Zipvans and we look forward to expanding to 3 more pickup points in the coming weeks. Customer numbers are around 200 and you now have the option of ordering a fruit bag alongside your weekly vegetables.
There’s been lots of change but some things have remained the same. The sense of community within the team and also the strong connections that we have with our suppliers and our pickup points have been amazing. Likewise, our intention remains unchanged: to be part of a fairer food system, focused on local, seasonal, organic produce that will benefit the local community and our precious planet.
We saw a large increase in customers at the start of the pandemic however sadly this trend has reversed in recent months and we are now packing a similar number of bags to what we were at the start of 2020. Many people have moved out of London and others are perhaps feeling the pressure of rising costs and are unable to continue with their subscription. We are really keen to reverse this pattern and grow further: we are confident that we can sustain a 50% increase in bag numbers using our current staff and premises. If you can help us by spreading the word among friends and family, particularly anyone living near to our new locations, we’d really appreciate it.
Thank you for being part of our Lee Greens community. Happy Birthday to us!
Image: Chris Henry, Director at Kingswood Hall Pack c2018