I was prompted to write this Post about Community Supported Agriculture for three reasons: -
1. June has arrived and that means the first harvest at Farnham Local Food is soon upon us. Hurray, hurray!
2. The Best of Farnham is promoting ‘Buy Local Week’ and
3. The British Nutrition Foundation has announced the findings of their recent survey today and suggest, amongst other slightly disturbing data, that nearly 1 in 10 secondary school pupils think tomatoes are grown underground (.. they didn’t mention with or without the can – although with, I suppose, or they would get a bit squashy when harvested, doesn’t make sense otherwise…..) Plus the BNF are launching their Healthy Eating Week this week 3rd – 7th June.
As I mentioned in my Post Those born in the Year of the Slug I joined a local community-run food project called Farnham Local Food – FLF for short which is pronounced ‘fluff’ and the members, whether they like it or not are dubbed ‘fluffies’. It could be worse …. I suppose.
FLF is part of an international organisation or system called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and the website of the Soil Association is a good place find out more information particularly regarding UK and Ireland groups. Their definition of a CSA is ‘a partnership between farmers and the local community, in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared.’ The most common produce of CSAs are vegetables but can also include eggs, bread, fruit, dairy products and meat.
Of course CSA groups all differ and people become members for a variety of reasons. FLF here in Farnham, Surrey was set up to produce vegetables that are grown, following organic practices, by volunteer members and are available to purchase by members on the day they are harvested, the profits being returned to the scheme. Rather than being a farm FLF cultivates two market gardens guided by the Grower who is a part-time employee of the initiative, she in turn is helped - well usually if you don’t count the crop of newly planted broccoli erroneously cleared to make way for a new crop of … oh dear - by a magnificent team of volunteers who join her two days a week FLF is made up of members, most of whom do not volunteer but buy a share of the produce each week and occasionally help with the harvest on a Saturday. The members and their families are not amongst those that believe that tomatoes are grown underground as they get to see and pick the tomatoes in the polytunnels!
There are too many wonderful reasons why you should become a member of a CSA to list them all here. The growing and eating of the produce is one part; the joy and satisfaction of volunteering as I mentioned in Ten pressed men… and women, is another; the feeling of being part of a community that is benefitting the local area as highlighted in my Posts, Salad dressing hits the runway and Guerrillas in the midst of Farnham and, of course,the chance to learn new skills and find out more about food.
As I mentioned earlier the CSA scheme is worldwide, throughout Europe for example French groups can be found under the name of AMAP, GAS in Italy, Reciproco in Portugal, Solidarische Landwirtschaft is the name used in Germany, and Andelslandbruk is the Norwegian name for CSA. Urgenci is an international network for CSAs and may help give details of more European groups – they also have a Facebook page.
The idea of setting up CSAs is considered to have started in Japan with their Teikei initiative. I enjoyed this article written by Elizabeth Henderson, an American CSA farmer who was invited to Japan to meet and talk to Teikei members and farmers.
There are numerous CSAs in the United States of America but there are three that have caught my eye and I think worth a mention. I have included links so you can have a look if interested. There is the Brooklyn Grange in New York City, delightful in the fact that it is the world’s largest rooftop soil farm. There is Milk not Jails operating in New York State that champions the cause of the local dairy farmers whilst campaigning for local prison reforms. Theirs is the best ‘powerpoint’ presentation I have ever see – and I have seen many! And there is Gabe the Fish Babe which is a CSF supporting the local fishermen on Rhode Island; it also offers the opportunity for you to become a Mermaid Ninja. Mmmmmm.
I would be interested to hear from those in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa with regards the CSA groups that they know about or perhaps are members of. I couldn’t find as much information as I hoped via the Internet.
Well this post has been longer than the usual – I think I ran away with myself… until next time, cheers KN.