Wales has all the ingredients for an innovative new approach to farming known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to thrive, a new study from the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens has shown.
The five month study looked at locations in every corner of Wales, from Monmouth to Wrexham, Bangor to Aberystwyth, to identify communities and land owners who could come together to run a successful CSA. Community Supported Agriculture is a partnership between producers and the local community which gives the producer greater security while reconnecting the community with their food and the land on which it is grown. It comes in all shapes and sizes, from farmers renting land to members of the community to cultivate, to fully fledged cooperatives where the community shares responsibility for food production with the farmer. While the UK currently has more than 200 working CSAs, only six of these are in Wales.
Caldicot was identified as one of the places in Wales with the potential to support a CSA, and since the report was completed plans for a new community farm in the town have been announced. Caldicot Community Farm will initially have a site in the grounds of Caldicot Castle to educate local people about growing produce. Kate Edwards and Gillian Brooks, who are behind the project, are also seeking a larger plot of land around Caldicot on which to launch the farm in full next year.
Gillian, who is communications coordinator for the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Network UK said: “This is a really exciting time for CSA in Wales and I think the success of the model is really down to the community which often forms around these farms.
“There are so many benefits when people come together like this, for both the farmers and the members.
“You can source great food, swap recipes, learn new skills – we want Caldicot Community Farm to be somewhere that people can come to enjoy being outdoors, for the farm to be part of their lives.”
Emma Williams, FCFCG Wales Manager said: “The CSA model creates a close and mutually beneficial relationship between the producer and the consumer, and means that the risks and rewards of food production are shared. At a time when we need to support our producers, increase the amount of fruit and veg grown in Wales and make sure good fresh food is available to everyone, community growing projects like CSAs are needed more than ever. We hope that the findings of this study can lead to the creation of a formal programme of support for CSAs in Wales.”
Welsh farms who have adopted the Community Supported Agriculture model have already seen the success and financial sustainability it can bring. Gerald Miles runs his family farm in Caerhys, near St Davids. Caerhys used to be a dairy farm, but in 2003 Gerald had to sell his herd as the farm was losing £10,000 a year – a common tale still today, with many dairy farmers taking on the ‘Milk Trolley Challenge’, clearing supermarket shelves of milk in protest to cuts in the price of milk dropping further below the cost of production. Gerald worked with the local community to create COCA (Caerhys Organic Community Agriculture) using the CSA model, which allowed his son to return to the family farm as a paid grower.
Gerald said: “Having a CSA on this farm has brought a community spirit back to the farmyard. We’re doing the job a farmer was born to do: producing food from our farm to local people. This is the way to feed the world; this is the way to feed Wales. If every small farm had their own CSA in their own area, you wouldn’t need food packaging, you wouldn’t need supermarkets and you’d be feeding people directly.”
The study also concludes with a recommendation for a 3-5 year CSA development programme to be created in Wales, similar to the Making Local Food Work programme that ran in England and had a significant impact on the development of CSAs. This development programme should support both existing and emerging CSAs and promote the concept to the broader population.