Pura Verdura: An engaged and award-winning vegetable cooperative

02. Feb 2023 Guest entry from: Pura Verdura - Simone Busch

Since its inception in 2019, members of the Pura Verdura cooperative have worked with an experienced team of gardeners to grow their own vegetables in Zurich's District 8. In addition to an excellent harvest in 2022, Pura Verdura also scooped an award – top motivation for their coming operational year.

Be it beans, spinach or mangold: At Pura Verdura, organic vegetables come fresh from the field straight into the kitchen. Since 2020, the fledgling Zurich-based cooperative has been cultivating a field at the Lengg garden complex and three small polytunnels at the Psychiatric University Hospital below Balgrist. Another space at Quartierhof Wynegg in Riesbach was added in 2022. It is tended to, cared for and harvested by a team of three gardeners in collaboration with members of the cooperative. A seven-member operational group takes care of organisational issues. Claudia Keller, who is responsible for communications, explains, "We realise that seasonal, local organic vegetables are in great demand. So much so that we even have a waiting list for our 180 harvest sacks."

Everyone pitches in together
The Pura Verdura concept is based on solidarity agriculture. Members not only become part of the cooperative and pay an annual fee, they also get stuck in. They get out onto the field to help out eight half-days a year and receive a sack full of veg every week throughout the summer and every two weeks throughout winter for their efforts. "As a rule, there are five or six different varieties, depending on the weather", explains Claudia Keller. Most of the time, the sacks are filled with vegetables harvested the very same day. "Freshly pulled from the earth, as it were – you can see it and taste it, and that's what distinguishes them from supermarket products." The sacks are delivered each Thursday to a total of eight depots in the city's districts 1, 7 and 8 – including to Riesbach Community Centre, Klusplatz, Tiefenbrunnen, Balgrist and Witikon. "We also offer the option of sharing a subscription with other members," says Keller. This is perfect for those who don't need a lot of vegetables or don't want to pay the annual subscription fee alone. For those who are unable to work the field due to time constraints, there is now also a limited number of so-called "silent subscriptions" available. These cost a little more, but there's no hands-on work involved.

Team of engaged specialists
A permanent team made up of the gardeners Noe Schlatter, Rose Hiquet and Silvia Bianchi plans the respective operational year's cultivation, calculates fertilizer quantities, adjusts the irrigation system for optimum watering and ensures that the carrots and co are sown at the right time and at the right distance. They also guide the cooperative members in their operations. "You don't need to have experience with organic vegetable production to be a member. We're happy to explain what's important, such as what bits are weeds and what bits are freshly sprouted onions, or the best height to cut rocket," says Noe Schlatter. His colleague Rose Hiquet adds, "Much of what we do can be done by hand, without the use of fossil energy – be it planting seedlings, sowing seeds or weeding." However, we can't get away entirely without using machines. "For the past year, we've been renting a tractor, mainly to prepare the soil for the vegetable beds. However, only the three of us from the garden team are allowed to get behind the wheel of it," laughs Noe Schlatter.

Promotion and biodiversity
Since its inception, Pura Verdura has worked closely with the association «Natur im Siedlungsraum – NimS» (Nature in Settlement Areas – NimS) to promote biodiversity through the building of dry-stone walls and branch piles, the planting of native shrubs and wildflowers, and the scything of green areas. Jonas Landolt, managing director of the association and member of Pura Verdura, says: "The improved farmland has been colonised by wall lizards, common toads, and quite a few wild bees and butterflies. We were particularly pleased to discover the rare violet-winged mining bee" This shows that our joint commitment is worthwhile and that organic vegetable production and the promotion of
biodiversity go hand in hand.

Networking in the district
"With Pura Verdura, we not only want to do something to promote biodiversity and the cultivation of local vegetables, but also to bring people in the neighbourhood together," emphasises Claudia Keller. Whether it's planting, weeding, harvesting or packing together, people who are committed to the nature found in their immediate surroundings and who want to know where the vegetables they eat come from meet on the field. Since a popular trail runs past the Wynegg field, many local residents also get an indirect impression of how solidarity agriculture works, says Keller. In addition, Pura Verdura collaborates with Quartierhof Wynegg, among other things for the cultivating of young plants or the joint use of machines and premises.

Innovative and sustainable
The Pura Verdura cooperative was even honoured recently for its special commitment: It received the award for innovation and sustainability presented by the Zurich media company Tsüri.ch together with SENS Suisse and the University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration Zurich HWZ. "We were thrilled to receive the award and would like to express our sincere thanks to all our supporters and members," says a delighted Claudia Keller. "The award spurs us on to continue to get out onto the field with the fullest of vigour in order to hopefully reap a bountiful harvest together with our cooperative members."

Discover more about Pura Verdura

On February 4, 2023, from 14:00, Pura Verdura invites you to a get-to-know event with mulled wine at Quartierhof Wynegg. Everybody is welcome!

Register your attendance via kommunikation@puraverdura.ch

Further information about Pura Verdura is available at puraverdura.ch, where those interested can already put their names on the waiting list for the coming operational year, which begins on April 1, 2023.