I visited Canalside Community Food, a community supported agriculture (CSA) organic vegetable scheme based just outside of Leamington Spa, to attend the annual CSA Network UK Gathering.

For those unfamiliar with CSAs here is the wikipedia definition..

Community-supported agriculture (CSA; sometimes known as community-shared agriculture) is an alternative, locally based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production. CSA members or subscribers pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they periodically receive shares of produce. In addition to produce, some CSA services may include additional farm products like honey, eggs, dairy, fruit, flowers, and meat. Some CSAs provide for contributions of labor in lieu of a portion of subscription costs

CSAs are popular in North America with upwards of 12,549 CSA farms in the US in 2007. Unfortunately they haven’t really caught on over here but things are beginning to change. There are currently around 80 CSAs in the UK and the CSA Network UK (which launched around 2 years ago) are helping support a new wave of small-scale growers and farmers setting up and tapping into local demand for quality food and a regular secure income.

So what’s the difference between a CSA and a box scheme like Riverford or Abel & Cole you may ask? One of the main differences is that unlike conventional farming systems where the farmer or grower bears all the risk (i.e the cow dying, crop failure due to disease or bad weather etc) CSA members support their local farmer by sharing in the risks and rewards of agriculture. CSA members do this by paying a fixed monthly or annual fee for a share of produce. Whilst CSAs aren’t a perfect solution for everyone they do offer a unique opportunity for consumers looking for a closer connection to their food and interested in supporting a local farm. For more information on CSAs check out the CSA Network UK website

Photo Story

Arriving at Canalside Community Food an organic veg CSA scheme with 130 members just outside of Leamington Spa.DSC02237

Farm tour led by head grower Will..

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Will explaining their crop rotation..

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Some enthusiastic growers…

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The main stage in the communal barn.

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Is Community Supported Agriculture the UK’s most efficient food system? Nigel Baker (pictured below) from Coventry University ran through his findings from a short study of Canalside Community Farm.

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Incorporating livestock into CSA’s – PhD Student Richard Gorman (pictured below) from Cardiff University talked us through his research into livestock CSA’s.

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The CSA AGM discussion.

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Jo Barratt and Abby Schlageter interviewing one of the CSA board members for a new farming podcast (more info to follow).

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Summer party signage.

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The party in full swing!

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