Organic life revolves around the fruit and veg stall

For more than 10 years, Michael Render has brought fresh produce to South End Green and provided an important place for people to meet. Sadly, he s leaving – but all is not lost, discovers Matilda Moreton One stall can make a village. The Organic Fruit

For more than 10 years, Michael Render has brought fresh produce to South End Green and provided an important place for people to meet. Sadly, he's leaving - but all is not lost, discovers Matilda Moreton

One stall can make a village. The Organic Fruit and Vegetable stall outside the House of Mistry pharmacy and health food shop on South End Green has become a hub of the local community.

This is largely thanks to two people - Mr Mistry, the shopkeeper, and the current stallholder Michael Render, both of whom are not only committed to the environment and healthy living but are also making a contribution to the local community.

The shop itself, known locally as Mistry's is an extraordinary institution and has been there for 37 years. It provides a myriad of health-giving food and drinks, herbal supplements and remedies and other natural chemist's products.

Mr Mistry is an award-winning pharmacist who has spent many years researching and developing ayurvedic and herbal remedies. He is also a key community benefactor, generously providing free consultations on Saturdays and supporting the summer festival.

Apart from providing the community hub, he donates the proceeds from renting out the pavement in front of his shop to Make A Wish, a charity for sick children and the International Animal Rescue charity. They also receive a percentage of profits from Mistry's brand natural products.

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The stall has been there for 12 years and Michael has run it since 2000. All the produce is seasonal and wherever possible grown in Britain.

He picks out the best organic produce from the market in Covent Garden, which has usually been harvested the day before. The equivalent in a supermarket, as well as being more expensive, would have been hanging around being air-brushed, packaged and shelved for three to four days before it is sold.

In other words, you can't get it fresher unless you grow it yourself. Michael only buys enough for one day's sale at a time (taking the leftovers home) so his stock is constantly being renewed. Apart from all that, you are not paying for a shop to refrigerate the produce - it "does better outside (unless it is a very hot summer) - fruit and veg like the rain".

The conversation on the pavement by Michael's stall turned constantly to the model of shopping habits in Italy, Spain or France, in particular, where people shop every morning for the meals of that day, or at least the next few days.

Unfortunately, the recession has affected sales as organic isn't the cheapest fruit and veg around, for good reason - they are harder to grow - this food does not contain chemicals.

Local businesses have been badly affected by Camden Council's recent tightening of parking regulations as well as the credit crunch. Even more catastrophic was the closure of the local post office.

"A huge shame!" says Michael, "the area has been decimated by the closure and the parking restrictions."

Decimated is not entirely true, I am happy to say. While I stood there, a number of regular shoppers came up to chat, many of them knew each other and a little party atmosphere was created on the pavement for a moment.

The spirit of a village, where members of a community all know or at least recognise each other, had been created and, without the stall on the pavement, this would be not be happening.

As we were chatting, one lady tenderly enquired: "Is this your last day Michael?"

"Oh no!" piped up another, "your stall brings South End Green to life! And, anyway, you can't buy kale or lovely spring greens or Jerusalem artichokes anywhere else."

"You can't go!" somebody wailed, "you're a community hub!"

It is clear that Michael has been providing more than fresh food to his customers for the last 10 years. He has been providing a place to meet, someone to talk to, an excuse for people to get to know each other.

In fact, Michael even talked of his match-making and networking role, putting an actress looking for work in touch with a film producer, for example. As he took down his banner for the last time, I hope he knew that he had made a difference.

Supporting a stall like this is more than just a foodie's shopping treat, it is a chance to meet your neighbours, find out how they are, cheer them up or be cheered up - make friends...

Michael will be missed, but all is not lost.

Mr Mistry is positive: "We need to find another Michael! He is not only committed to the environment and organic produce, he is a nice person.

"We will continue to trade here because we believe in selling organic fruit and vegetables."

Mr Mistry promises to find another stallholder within a month and hopes that trade will continue and thrive.

Here is the important point: it is up to locals to create their own communities by supporting these small businesses.

If people continue to rush by these street traders and do all their shopping in supermarkets, stalls such as these will cease to exist and places to shop and chat to one's neighbours will dwindle to nothing.

Slow down, shop locally, and you will be creating your very own village.

The Organic Fruit and Vegetable Stall outside Mistry's will resume business soon! Open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from11am-6pm (approximately)

House of Mistry,

15-17 South End Road

Open Mon-Fri 9.30am-6.30pm and Sat 9.30am-6pm

Tel: 020-7794 0848

Mistry's chosen charities:

International Animal Rescue

The Make-a-Wish Foundation