In the heart of rural Manikata, with sandy beaches to one side and the national Majjistral Park on the other, lies The Veg Box. The building that houses it had been previously abandoned and its origins date back to 1939, during Malta’s British period, when it was used as an armoury. Emanuela, the founder of The Veg Box, has given the former armoury a new identity and it has been transformed into what she calls ‘The Farmoury’—a space “to arm people with the tools they need to lead more sustainable lives”. It has become the sustainability hub in Manikata that gives Maltese farmers social, economic, and environmental support, while also encouraging people to live differently by giving them a local alternative to imported foods.
Emanuela’s journey into the agricultural sector only began in adulthood. Ten years ago, she left her hotel management career to run a small urban farm in Attard. It is here where she laid the foundations for The Veg Box. In June 2019, she made the move to Manikata where the project grew into a community-focused initiative which connects the consumer to the farmer. Today, her shop is stocked with locally grown produce from across Malta and Gozo. Emanuela emphasises that “farming and good food is very important”. She adds, “If people don’t want to eat good food, there is no point in growing it.” She has turned The Farmoury, which she affectionately calls a “green każin”, into a social space promoting “food, nature, and rural life”. The Veg Box has become a cosy and colourful place for the wider community to engage with sustainability, buy organic produce, and participate in flea markets and workshops.
The farmers are still at the centre of The Veg Box’s values. Emanuela provides farmers with a space for them to sell and receive fair pay for their produce. This ensures that they are valued for their efforts and have the income to be able to continue their work.
From an environmental perspective, The Veg Box supports organic farmers and increases awareness of farming methods that are good for the environment. Emanuela has offered encouragement and support to local farmers who were not convinced about their prospects as organic farmers. Many of them have since taken the plunge and converted to organic farming.
Emanuela comments on the need for the Maltese government to provide more incentives, emphasising that such incentives need to begin on a small scale to value local organic produce. Encouraging small-scale organic farming is important on both a national and EU level.
She firmly believes that farmers are stewards of the land. Incentivising good farming practices helps protect pollinators and biodiversity, and it also encourages the restoration of rubble walls and soil maintenance. She also highlights how local farming supports food resilience locally and protects residents from potential future fluctuations in multinational food trade and production.