Community Supported Agriculture – 7th & 8th March

Press release for Community Supported Agriculture events on 7th & 8th March involving Transition initiatives in Falmouth, Truro and Penwith follows. Click here for a poster and booking form for these events in Adobe PDF format.

Calling communities to support agriculture. Or is it agriculture supporting communities?

Peak oil, climate change and the resulting threats to future food security are creating an urgent need to re-localise food production systems. These issues are raising individual and community awareness of the importance in developing more active links with local food production.

A positive response to some of these concerns is the development of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives. So it is great timing that the Soil Association has recently succeeded in winning Big Lottery funding to promote and support the development of Community Supported Agriculture across England.

To support developments in Cornwall, local Soil Association office, Organic South West (OSW), is running a CSA event in City Hall, Truro on 8 March; in collaboration with Duchy College Rural Business School and Organic Studies Centre, Social Economy & Co-operative Development Cornwall and Transition initiatives (www.transitiontowns.org) from Truro, Falmouth and Penwith.

Nick Weir, CSA specialist from Stroud will be facilitating the day to encourage and assist the development of local CSA initiatives in Cornwall. Nick said, “there are now over 200 families in Stroud who are sharing the responsibilities and rewards of a farm. They pay to support the farm, some of them work on the farm and they all receive a share of the harvest. Many of them also feel that they receive much more than just food. They feel part of a new movement in food production.”

Nick added, “they are part of a community that is making small-scale agriculture successful in 3 ways – economically, socially and environmentally. We are keen to support a group in Cornwall to develop their own Community Supported Agriculture project and hope it will be as transformative for you as it has for us”.

But what is Community Supported Agriculture? How does it work? CSA is a generic term that encompasses a host of arrangements that do not fit neatly into any other direct marketing category. It is not exactly a box scheme, although some CSA’s might use this method to deliver produce; it could involve sales from the farm gate, or even deliveries across the UK. What is common to them all is a degree of mutual support between the producers and those consumers involved.

What can farmers and growers gain from CSA?

Greater customer loyalty and financial commitment? What about physical labour at key times of the year? Perhaps local communities could bring completely new skills and opportunities, such as financial or business expertise, newsletter writing, or maybe experience in organising events?

What can communities gain from a CSA?

There are a number of different motivations and rewards for the communities involved eg. high quality products that are produced locally – and sustainably; good husbandry of the land and the landscape that they live in. Perhaps they are looking for more, such as a personal connection to the land and the food that they eat. What about access to green space and exercise? Or even a social network and the opportunity for celebrations?

“The day promises to be both interactive and inspiring, with an opportunity to learn about CSA’s and how they could be developed in Cornwall. As well as hearing from some very informative and inspiring speakers it will also be a great opportunity to meet food producers and other individuals interested in developing local food links where you live,” said Traci Lewis, manager of Organic South West. She added, “this event is for anyone who cares about how their food is produced and wants to develop closer links and involvement in that process. Come along and find out more!”

Event takes place on 8 March in City Hall, Truro from 10 – 4pm. The whole day, which includes a light local lunch and afternoon workshop sessions, costs just £5; tickets for the morning session only, from 10 – 1pm, cost just £3. There is also an evening event on 7 March at the Queens Hotel, Penzance from 7pm. Tickets cost £3. Booking essential to avoid disappointment; to book call Duchy College on 0845 458 7 485.

For all press enquiries call Traci Lewis, manager, Organic South West on 01208 78988.

Co-operatives UK is the central membership organisation for co-operative enterprise throughout the UK, promoting co-operative and mutual solutions, working in partnership with our members to build a stronger and increasingly successful co-operative movement. www.cooperatives-uk.coop.

CSA & Organic Buying Groups Project

A partnership project on local food and social enterprise, ‘Making Local Food Work’, led by the Plunkett Foundation, has received £10 million from the Big Lottery Fund. The project is designed to run for 5 years from October 07 to March 2012 in England only. The partnership is made up of The Plunkett Foundation, Soil Association, Food Links UK/Sustain, CPRE, Country Markets Ltd and Co-ops UK.

Duchy College Rural Business School combines education, training, business support and applied research for rural industries. The Rural Business School also hosts a number of Objective One and Defra funded initiatives such as Rural Progress, the Vocational Training Scheme, and the Organic Studies Centre. www.cornwall.ac.uk/rbs.

Organic South West is a regional Soil Association programme which works to develop sustainable and profitable organic food and farming in the south west www.organicsouthwest.org.

The Plunkett Foundation is an educational charity, based near Oxford in the UK, which supports the development of rural group enterprise world-wide. The Foundation draws on 80 years’ practical experience of working with partners from the private sector to promote and implement economic self-help solutions to rural problems. www.plunkett.co.uk.

The Soil Association is the UK’s leading environmental charity campaigning for sustainable, organic farming and championing human health. www.soilassociation.org www.whyorganic.org.

CASE STUDIES

Stroud Community Agriculture: A community owned farming enterprise. In this case, it was the consumers who took the initiative. They wanted to be involved in a farming venture and change the way they got their food. A public meeting was arranged, and a vision for a community owned farming business was proposed. With clear support from the start, the group rented some land and committed to employing a part-time farmer to grow vegetables. The enterprise now farms approximately 20ha, producing meat and vegetables and employing two farmers, paying a guaranteed salary plus bonuses. There are regular community farm work days, activities for kids and a lively calendar of social activities. “I grew vegetables before, but growing as a farmer within a CSA is far more challenging – and rewarding. The feedback is immediate and as well as being a farmer, I am a member of an extremely dynamic and forward thinking network of people”. Mark Harrison, vegetable grower and treasurer.

Visit www.stroudcommunityagriculture.org.

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