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Soil Association

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Soil Association
FounderLady Eve Balfour, Jorian Jenks, Friend Sykes
FocusOrganic movement
  • Soil Association, Spear House, 51 Victoria Street, Bristol, BS1 6AD
Area served
United Kingdom
MethodCampaigning and certification
Key people
Monty Don: President
Gabriel Scally: Chair of Board of Trustees
Helen Browning: Chief Executive
"Soil Association, registered charity no. 206862". Charity Commission for England and Wales.

The Soil Association is a charity based in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1946, its activities include campaign work on issues including opposition to intensive farming, support for local purchasing and public education on nutrition; as well the certification of organic food.[1]


Lady Eve Balfour, Friend Sykes and George Scott Williamson organized a founder's meeting for the Soil Association on 12 June 1945 in which about a hundred people attended.[2][3] The Soil Association was formally registered on 3 May 1946,[4] and in the next decade grew from a few hundred to over four thousand members.[5]

According to its website:

"The Soil Association was founded in 1946 by a group of farmers, scientists and nutritionists who observed a direct connection between farming practice and plant, animal, human and environmental health..."The catalyst was the publication of "The Living Soil" by Lady Eve Balfour, the niece of former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, in 1943. The book presented the case for an alternative, sustainable approach to agriculture that has since become known as organic farming."

The Soil Association was founded in part due to concerns over intensive agriculture and in particular the use of herbicides. British Union of Fascists (BUF) member, Jorian Jenks, who was closely associated with Oswald Mosley was one of the founders of the Soil Association. Jenks was for years the editorial secretary of the Association's journal "Mother Earth". During the late 1940s the Association involved far-right and even antisemitic elements, remnants of the defunct BUF, and was driven by far-right political ideas as much as ecological concerns. Following Jenks' death in 1963, the Association tilted towards the left of the political spectrum, especially under the new president of the Association, Barry Commoner.[6] The campaigner Alastair Sawday was Vice Chairman of the association between 2005 and 2007.[7]

The Soil Association was one of five like-minded associations that founded the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) in 1972 in Versailles, France, to act as the umbrella organisation to advocate for the global uptake of organic farming.[8]


The Soil Association carries out work certifying products as organic in the following areas: farming, food processing, restaurants and catering, fisheries, textiles and leather, health and beauty, and fulfilment.


The Association's campaign priorities are to promote organic food and farming, promote food security, and to lobby against genetic modification, many pesticides and the routine use of antibiotics.[9] Many campaigns are led by reports produced by the policy department.

Policy reports

The Soil Association's policy department carries out research and releases reports to further its aims. The reports have covered topics relating to climate-friendly farming, welfare and wildlife, health, and genetic modification.


The Soil Association runs a number of schemes designed to educate people and reconnect them with the land and where their food comes from. The Food for Life Partnership[10] is a £16.9m lottery-funded programme involving four charities – the Soil Association, Focus on Food Campaign, Health Education Trust and Garden Organic. It aims to transform school and community food culture across England by giving schools and communities access to seasonal, local and organic food and the skills they need to cook and grow fresh food for themselves. Organic Farm School is a series of over 300 hands-on courses on growing food, rearing animals, cooking and rural crafts. The Organic Apprenticeship Scheme is a two-year course involving a work-based placement with an organic farmer or grower and eight structured seminars per year.

Quality of food

In July 2009 the Food Standards Agency published a report[11] which concluded that there were "no important differences in the nutrition content, or any additional health benefits, of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food." The Soil Association issued a statement[12] criticising the report for not taking into account existing studies on the subject and noting reasons other than nutrition for consumers to choose organic food, such as environmental and animal welfare concerns.

BOOM Awards

The Soil Association awards annual BOOM Awards (Best of Organic Market) for businesses, producers and brands. In 2017 there were awards in 21 categories such as "Bakery", "Best Organic Box Scheme" and "Best Organic Blogger", and "The Nation's Favourite", won that year by Island Bakery of Mull for their "Lemon melts" (lemon biscuits dipped in white chocolate), out of 3,000 public nominations.[13][14]

Farmers and growers


Soil Association standards set strict benchmarks for organic food production, packaging, animal welfare, wildlife conservation, residues and additives to reassure the buying public over the quality of products labelled organic. It was an early adopter of organic production standards to exclude nanomaterials.[15] The standards cover agriculture,[16] aquaculture,[17] ethical trade,[18] food processing,[19] forestry,[20] health and beauty products,[21] horticulture,[22] and textiles[23]


Soil Association Certification Ltd (SACL) is a not-for-profit subsidiary of the Soil Association charity, independently providing organic certification services and advisory support on all aspects of organic certification. SACL is one of the organic certification bodies in the UK,[24] approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Business support

The association provides general, legal, trading, marketing and training advice and support to existing businesses and those considering going organic. This includes tailored support for livestock, arable, horticulture, processing and forestry.

The Soil Association has been at the forefront of establishing alternative routes to market for organic produce. Projects have included creating producer groups to optimise trade in conventional market systems, nurturing UK Farmers' markets and box schemes, promoting community-supported agriculture schemes and better public catering, and encouraging visits to a network of over 100 farms.

The Soil Association provides a host of financial and economic information, including yearly [] ( market reports) and monthly agricultural price data. It created Organic Marketplace, the UK's largest searchable directory of organic livestock, feedstuff, forage and grazing, a free online service available to all.

Data and organic action plans are available for each UK region.

The Soil Association is a major supporter of the Organic Trade Board, a commercially focused body, representing about 100 organic businesses and acting as an industry voice. The Soil Association complements the board by acting as the voice of the organic campaign movement.

Key Personnel

Helen Browning serves as chief executive;[25] Gabriel Scally is the chair of trustees (succeeding Dennis Overton in 2017); broadcaster Monty Don served as president from 2008 to 2016;[26] honorary vice-presidents include Jonathan Dimbleby, George McRobie, and Charlotte Mitchell; and The Prince of Wales is a royal patron[27]

See also


  1. ^ "Our history". Soil Association. Archived from the original on 27 March 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  2. ^ Conford, Philip. (2001). The Origins of the Organic Movement. Floris Books. p. 252. ISBN 978-0863153365
  3. ^ Lockeretz, William. (2018). Organic Farming: An International History. CABI. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-85199-833-6
  4. ^ Paull, John (2009). "The Living Soil Association: Pioneering Organic Farming and Innovating Social Inclusion" (PDF). Journal of Organic Systems. 4 (1): 15–33.
  5. ^ Conford, Philip & Holden, Patrick (2007), "The Soil Association", in William Lockeretz (ed.), Organic Farming: An International History, Oxfordshire, UK & Cambridge, Massachusetts: CAB International (CABI), pp. 187–200, ISBN 978-0-85199-833-6, retrieved 10 August 2010 ebook ISBN 978-1-84593-289-3
  6. ^ Macklin, Graham (2007). Very deeply dyed in black: Sir Oswald Mosley and the resurrection of British fascism after 1945. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-284-4.
  7. ^ "Alastair Sawday: the green travel pioneer". The Simple Things. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  8. ^ Paull, John (2010). "From France to the World: The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)" (PDF). Journal of Social Research & Policy. 1 (2): 93–102.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Food For Life website
  11. ^ Organic review. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  12. ^ Soil Association response to the Food Standards Agency's Organic Review. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  13. ^ "The BOOM Award Winners 2017". Soil Association. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  14. ^ "The 2017 Nation's Favourite Shortlist". Soil Association. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  15. ^ Paull, John (2011) "Nanomaterials in food and agriculture: The big issue of small matter for organic food and farming", Proceedings of the Third Scientific Conference of ISOFAR (International Society of Organic Agriculture Research), 28 September – 1 October, Namyangju, Korea., 2:96–99.
  16. ^ "Agriculture standards committee". Soil Association. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  17. ^ "Aquaculture standards committee". Soil Association. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  18. ^ "Ethical trade standards committee". Soil Association. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  19. ^ "Food processing standards committee". Soil Association. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  20. ^ "Forestry standards committee". Soil Association. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  21. ^ "Health products standards committee". Soil Association. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  22. ^ "Horticulture standards committee". Soil Association. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  23. ^ "Textiles standards & trade group". Soil Association. Retrieved 27 October 2010.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Soil Association website Archived 21 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 8 October 2015
  26. ^ Monty Don: ‘I like dogs because they are not humans’, The Guardian, 11 Dezember 2016
  27. ^ "Who We Are". Soil Association. Retrieved 26 September 2016.

Further reading

  • Conford, Philip (2001), The Origins of the Organic Movement, Floris Books, ISBN 0-86315-336-4
Sayre, Laura (4 March 2004), Review: The Origins of the Organic Movement, Rodale Institute, retrieved 14 August 2010 (provides useful overview and commentary on the book's contents).

External links

Video clips

This page was last edited on 7 April 2021, at 11:02
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