Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Alara Wholefoods and the Kings Cross Harvest Festival Feast 2014

by Agnes Troszt, Alara Wholefoods

Alara Wholefoods, located in Camley Street, King’s Cross, is more than just a cereal manufacturing company. They are passionate about breakfast, natural food, nourishing gluten free food and last but not least, they care about their local community as well as their environment. Founder, Alex Smith says: “I have always been passionate about sustainability and believe that the food supply is the most important element in our society to become sustainable.” Following his ethos, Alex and people at Alara achieved some remarkable firsts and kept being an exceptional company on the cereal scenery ever since.

Early days and achievements
Alara was established in 1975, after Alex Smith spent a year living in squats without money. When he decided to use money again he found £2 on the street, which he used to establish the foundations of what we know today as Alara Wholefoods. Since then, the company has achieved more than he has ever dreamt of. Alara became the World’s first cereal company to be third party organic certified by the Soil Association, also it was the first company, which was registered with the Coeliac Society and was pioneer using renewable energy sources & green practices, which led to become a zero-waste food manufacturer in 2008.

Ambitious mission

With such exceptional firsts in many fields, their mission statement, to be the most sustainable food manufacturer on Earth, came with no surprise. In order to achieve this noble mission, the company measures their activities within three areas, namely financial (cash on delivery service to their customers), environmental and social.

A hidden, urban garden

Keeping the environment in mind

Manufacturing their products without any additional waste is just one within their green activities palette. Their factory also runs on solar panel and they are waiting for the arrival of a new anaerobic digester, which will supply the factory with gas and compost. To balance and nurture their relationship with Nature and to set an example that you can grow food anywhere, they have created a beautiful, permaculture garden by removing over 50 tonnes of rubbish and planted fruit trees, berries and flowers. This hidden garden made use of otherwise unused piece of land, helps to reduce the effects of global warming and educate young people about where their food is coming from.

Socialize and localize

Socialize and localize

Beside being active participant of the community, their social mission also involves hosting parties twice a year, where they can meet with their business partners, nurture local relationships, show their way of working towards a sustainable future and of course, commit some mischievements throughout the evening. Throughout the last couple of years, these parties became a must and well-awaited events among Alara fans and local residents.

And what other place would be best for their bespoke annual parties, in order to achieve their social mission, if not their thriving, green garden?

Bespoke Alara Parties

Every February, when their first party takes place, they wassail in the garden hidden behind their factory, to secure harvest will be rich and the plants wake up from their winter sleep and wait for spring. To see how successful their wassailing had been at the end of cold winter months, their annual Harvest Festival Feast takes place in September.

Harvest Festival Feast 2014

This year it was the perfect occasion to close Organic September and celebrate organic, local food and produce with Urban Food Fortnight, Urban Orchard Project, Soil Association and Wholefoods Action.

Preparing apples from the orchard
The event has started with warm, spicy welcome drinks in the decorated gardens, where benches, tables and twinkling lights gave a magical atmosphere right at the start. Later on Strayhorn, a classic blues band, took over the stage and entertained the crowd, whilst chefs were busy grilling delicious meat burgers, Dee’s bespoke vegetarian patties and vegan sausages, which were accompanied by huge, organic wholemeal buns from the Flour Power City Bakery and many superfood-infused salads and greens. To make sure everyone had their pudding at the end of the event, they served sweet & juicy baked apples, straight from the garden, topped with their deliciously crunchy gluten free granola.

To keep the children occupied Wholefoods Action, a fresh initiative against genetically modified food, organized potato printing with many shapes and colours.
Soil Association was also present with the aim of educating people about the advantages of organic farming, produce and lifestyle not just on their health, but on the environment as well as on future generations.

Every year, the Urban Orchard Project helps Alara to organize the party by bringing volunteers, their signature spicy cider while welcoming donations for their cause, to create and plant as many fruit trees as possible across the country’s empty green spaces and it wasn’t different either this year. The incoming donations were shared with Camley Street Farm, a food growing start up, which provides green spaces for local residents, who wish to enjoy natural & home grown fruits & vegetables.

Future Plans

Although their last party has just ended, Alara is already planning their next wassailing in February 2015, where everyone who would like to join them is welcome in this tradition and to let their hair down on a casual Friday evening.

Also, you can visit their garden throughout the year, the Alara Garden is registered in many open day events, such as Open Garden Square Days.

If you would like to find out more about Alara, Alex and how all this successful organic cereal business has started, The Guardian was filming throughout their Wassail Party this year and released a short, 3-minute video.

For more information, visit their website www.alara.co.uk or find them on Facebook.com/AlaraCereals. Alternatively you can tweet them and get the latest updates on what are they up to at @AlaraCereals.

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