A COMMUNITY co-op that received a five-star hygiene rating now wants people in the county to join it on an ambitious new journey.

Cultivate, which sells organic fruit and vegetables at market stalls and online, is on the cusp of acquiring 50 acres of land that will serve as a ‘blank canvas’ for food production.

Those who want to get involved and find a livelihood in food production are urged to get in touch with their ideas for the site, near the group’s new office space at Hinksey Heights Golf Club.

Chairman of the co-op’s board Tom Carman spoke to the Oxford Mail about Cultivate’s future plans.

He said: “It’s a really exciting proposition: 50 acres of land for people who want to make their livelihood in food production.

“It’s an opportunity to put Cultivate at the heart of where Oxford gets its food from.”

Though the future of Cultivate – which has 400 members – seems bright, there is still plenty the co-op has to shout about now.

It offers fruit and veg sourced from local producers, generally no more than 30 miles away from its Hinksey base.

The produce is then sold to the public either at foodie events, at a Sunday stall at Summertown Market or through a new online delivery service.

This rapid turnaround offers it an advantage, in hygiene terms, over many commercial enterprises that have their fruit and veg sourced from all over the world.

Mr Carman said the fruit and veg is only ever touched by three people: the producer, Cultivate and the consumer.

He added:”Hygiene is so important. One of the key things that we do is ensure out food is hygienic.

“There’s a difference between what we deal with and what restaurants deal with. We’re dealing with potatoes straight out of the ground and freshly plucked broccoli - so it’s different to some of the more processed foods that others deal with.”

The focus on local and organic produce is a crucial part of the Cultivate message, which is underpinned by a desire to change how people think about food.

Mr Carman continued: “It’s nice to show that food grown within 30 miles of Oxford can be as good for your health as food grown around the world.”

Cultivate Oxford’s base in Hinksey was inspected by Vale of White Horse District Council's hygiene team on May 9.

Inspectors praised the group’s 'very good' standards of complying with obligations and industry codes of practice.

They also said they had a high level of confidence in its management.

Cultivate describes itself as a co-operative social enterprise that believes in strengthening the local food system and empowering communities.

The group will have a stall at Oxford’s Big Green Day Out in Broad Street on Saturday - and in its usual spot at Summertown market on Sunday.

For more information see cultivateoxford.org