Lessons from the field: supporting our Urban Food Heroes

Published: 26 Sep 2018

Urban Food Fortnight was set up in 2012 by London Food Link to celebrate our city's local larder, an connect the great people behind our good food scene. Here Georgie Styles talks to Nat Mady, Founder of Hackney Herbal, to find out just how Urban Food Fortnight helps inspire and support her good food business.

To us here at the Jellied Eel mag, good food is healthy, sustainably produced, and sourced locally where possible, making a positive contribution to the local community and economy. Since Urban Food Fortnight was launched in 2012, we have seen an explosion of good food businesses popping up around the country, and particularly in London. But how can we support the people behind these initiatives and how do we make good food available everywhere? I chatted to Nat Mady to find out more.

How did you get involved in Urban Food Fortnight 

I first got involved with Urban Food Fortnight when I was volunteering with Capital Growth. It was really exciting to see locally grown produce celebrated throughout the wider food industry. The fortnight is a great time to raise awareness about all the interesting foodie projects in the city. It provides a really good platform for growers to link up with restaurants and other food-related businesses who are interested in sourcing locally grown food. 

As Founder of Hackney Herbal, how does food grown, made, cooked or saved feature in your business?

At Hackney Herbal we grow a variety of well-known and more unusual herbs and turn them into interesting herbal tea blends. It's all done by hand - the growing, harvesting, processing and packaging so it's a slow process that's very labour intensive. But it's a labour of love and something that is integral to our mission of showing people how to grow and use their own herbs. 

The blends change each year as we experiment with different herbs and we pride ourselves on creating something totally unique. We also sell blends that are created from herbs we source organically but we'll never stop producing our small batch Hackney-grown herbals! This year during the fortnight we'll be selling a special blend from this summer's harvest which has been grown by our trainees. We are also held our annual Communi-Tea Party at Hackney City Farm during the fortnight to celebrate everything herbal in the city.

Why is Urban Food Fortnight good for your business?  

Urban Food Fortnight is a great way for us to promote what we are doing and also meet others who are doing similar things. It's a nice time during the year to celebrate the abundance of food being grown in London and recognise all the projects that work hard (particularly in the summer we've just had) to produce good quality food that often achieves many other social and environmental benefits too!

Why is it good for the wider good food business community? 

I think UFF is a great opportunity for new and old food businesses to network, for growers to meet chefs and for connections to be made. The range of pop-up events, seasonal menus and one-off collaborations is really exciting but the fortnight also provides a catalyst for more long-term relationships to be made.  UFF is a great platform for those relationships to develop and that's really exciting!

Read more about  our Urban Food Heroes and check out Feeding the City, a 12-month nationwide incubation programme for sustainable food businesses that benefit the community.

Check out the Urban Food Fortnight map or join London Food Link to support our work.

Find Hackney Herbal here.