Do you want fresh local food at affordable prices? Do you want to support the local farming economy? Then you may be interested in a scheme to set up a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project in West Somerset.
A CSA scheme helps to combat some of the problems we are all aware of: low farm incomes, obesity, rising food prices and future food security. Community Supported Agriculture takes many forms, but all are a partnership between farmers and consumers in which the risks and rewards of food production are shared. Consumers and producers make a contract to grow the vegetables, meat or diary produce that they know they want over the coming year and agree on the level of payment. This takes the guesswork and risk out of the situation for the farmer. The environment also benefits as it can increase the diversity of local crops and provides an alternative to repeatedly growing large acreage of the same crop. If the CSA is organic it will overcome the problem of rising prices for fuel and oil based fertilisers, which is one of the threats to our future food supply.
Benefits for the consumers are that they can eat fresh local, seasonal produce for which they pay a fair price. CSA also involves learning about food growing through Open Days and, in some cases, working on the land, so members are able to connect with the source of their food and with each other.
The farmer receives a reliable source of income and can develop a secure market. He or she can grow food which is wanted by the local community and become part of a local community based around food which will value the farmer’s role in their lives.
The CSA movement started in the 60’s in the USA in response to the massive industrialisation of food production and there are now thousands of them in the country of every size and configuration. In Vermont, a new village is being developed on a former dairy farm with low energy housing, with small farms on site and a built-in CSA system. In the UK no two CSA’s are the same: they can be farmer driven, a farmer-consumer cooperative, a community based scheme or any combination that works for the people involved. A successful example of a CSA in the UK is Stroud Food Hub which is jointly owned by both producer and consumer. For more information and examples go to www.soilassociation.org/csa.aspx
Local groups Forum 21, Transition Minehead and Alcombe and the West Somerset Organic Group are all working to promote a future which is community based, resilient, healthy and fun! They are holding a meeting to discuss the potential for a local Community Supported Agriculture project on Thursday 1st July at the Methodist Hall, The Avenue, Minehead at 7.30 pm. There will be a presentation on CSA and a speaker from Agrarian Renaissance, a group promoting environmentally friendly community food production.