Fit for a king

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Box schemes have become a very popular way for the food-conscious punter to buy locally and organic- ally grown fruit and vegetables and have them deli- vered to the door. But there are box schemes and box schemes. If you fancy having your vegetables plucked from royal soil, that of the Duchy of Cornwall no less, then you might not have to wait too long. Prince Charles has initiated a pilot project from his Duchy Home Farm estate and it's going like a palace on fire.

The trial project is currently running in the Tetbury area, close to the Prince's estate, with the farmer testing out its popularity on a pilot group of 50 lucky families. A spokesperson for the farm noted: "We've had no problems finding families to join the scheme." And since the press picked up on the project, the farmer has been inundated with calls from members of the public keen to get on the list for a royal box. No such luck, though, as the scheme is well and truly full and those of you with a whim for vegetables from stock fit for inclusion in Debrett's will have to wait to see the outcome of the project's assessment at Christmas.

The farm started growing vegetables for the royal enterprise in July, and the chosen few can expect to receive a wide range of vegetables, including dwarf and runner beans, cabbages, spring onions, beetroots, radishes, courgettes, chard, onions, leeks, swedes and parsnips. According to Kiloran McGrigor, press officer for the Duchy of Cornwall, the point of the scheme is that "people know where the food has come from. It hasn't been transported for days or kept refrigerated for hours on end, it's straight from the local soil, like food you might gather from your own garden." Local box schemes are a sustainable and environmentally friendly way of providing people with pesticide-free fruit and veg. Critically, they avoid clocking up ridiculous food miles that, say, a Kenyan carrot will travel before it comes under your peeler. However, the rush for blue-blooded vegetables does suggest the likelihood of a highly lucrative black market transporting royal produce all over the country.

The Prince's Estate has been farmed organically since 1985 and the Prince was a stalwart supporter of organic produce long before the food-obsessed middle classes jumped on the bandwagon. And since the emergence of BSE and the scandals concerning genetically modified foods, his approaches to farming are no longer a cause for ridicule and have even become a trendy feather in his cap.

Along with growing and selling vegetables, the Prince has herds of sheep, Ayrshire dairy cattle and Aberdeen Anguses. Meat from the royal estate is sold through local butchers and milk from the royal herd is added to other organic farmers' output. Clearly, Charles doesn't need the money the farm generates, but he must enjoy the publicity it generates for a cause dear to his heart. Unfortunately, organic farming is usually less profitable than conventional farming and most of us still have to pay a premium for such products. But for those who can afford aristocratic produce, the Prince seems to be succeeding in producing food fit for everyone.