September saw the annual Wales CSA Gathering. The gathering was held on Ty’r Eithin’s beautiful farm just outside the village of Bancffosfelen, where the Banc Organics CSA box scheme is based.
The three day event was action packed with people arriving on the Friday night, a full day of workshops and activities on the Saturday and half a day of workshops on the Sunday. Eating a delicious and hearty meal on Friday night around the campfire, prepared by Banc Organics’ very own grower Sue, meant that we were sufficiently rested and satiated for Saturday’s activities. The day started with a walk around the market garden at Ty’r Eithin, led by Martin Samphire Banc Organics’ other main grower. The site at Ty’r Eithin farm is one of two where produce is grown to furnish over 40 veg boxes. Rupert Dunn a director of the Welsh CSA network and founder of peasant bakery Torth y Tir, led a CSA update session with an overview of the CSA Scoping Study. The study was conducted by Jane Clough in partnership with Flintshare and explores the potential for CSA projects in Wales. The study outlines several locations where CSAs could have potential including Wrexham, Swansea, Bangor and Monmouth. Louise Cartwright Wales Membership Services Worker for FCFCG, then went on to deliver a catch up session. The CSA projects present were asked to reflect on what’s gone well at their growing projects and the challenges they’re currently facing. It was clear from discussions that the Welsh CSA network needs to work towards raising awareness of what CSA is. There was an agreement between participants that everyone involved should target people in their local area, to spread the word and help advertise the concept of CSAs more widely. After a well-earned tea break Tony Little chaired the AGM for the Welsh CSA network. Two new directors were elected. Colum Pawson from Old Lands CSA in Monmouthshire and Louise Cartwright representing FCFCG. The newly elected board have a whole host of actions from the meeting and are keen to work on next steps to develop the network. The next meeting is planned for November and any interesting developments will be posted on FCFCG’s social media channels. Tony Little then went onto to detail how the Wales CSA network could potentially apply for the next round of Welsh Rural Communities – Rural Development Plan 2014 – 2018. This would be applied for in partnership with FCFCG and would lead to exciting developments for the network.
After a morning of intense discussion and head scratching, we all clubbed together in a shared lunch titled ‘Bring Your Share’. All participants brought delicious food to share ranging from crates of apples from Flintshare, to baked mixed fruit cheesecake from Banc Organics.
After a veritable feast, Gary Mitchell FCFCG’s Growing Together advisor delivered a workshop focusing on how to make CSAs more enterprising. During the workshop he gave a brief overview of what’s worked well from Cwm Harry’s perspective. In the afternoon there was a choice of workshops including a Producers Round Table led by Martin Samphire and Growing Your Membership led by guest speaker Gareth Davies. Gareth is from the very successful Canalside CSA in Leamington Spa, who have over 150 member shares and 2 full time equivalent staff posts. After an action packed afternoon Tony Matthews farm manager at Ty’r Eithin, led a guided walk across the farm leading onto Bancffosfelen’s rugged and wild common land. As people were enjoying walking across the common a team of dedicated cooks got together to make a delicious vegetable stew, using produce from the CSA and beef from Tony’s cattle herd. The communal meal was a great example of community action and resourcefulness. A make shift ‘haybox’ was created to cook both a veggie and meat stew and several people made delicious salads using their own produce. After dinner, Tony’s Twmpath band worked us up into a frenzy of dancing and we were all dosey doeing and knee slapping well into the night.
The morning after the night’s revelries Rupert facilitated an Open Space session where he spoke about Food Sovereignty, which allows communities control over the way food is produced, traded and consumed. Food Sovereignty could create a food system that is designed to help people and the environment rather than make profits for multinational corporations and is a global alliance of farmers, growers, consumers and activists. Amber Wheeler then went on to deliver a session about establishing a vision for fruit and vegetable production in Wales and how CSA’s could contribute. As a result of discussions Amber agreed to research how many CSA’s would be needed if every town in Wales had a CSA. She also agreed to look into how much fruit and veg would need to be supplied and the potential for job creation. After this inspiring session, Louise facilitated a ‘Future Plans Workshop’. The general consensus was for all CSAs to continue to keep each other informed of their activities and to organise both a study tour and annual gathering for 2016. The venue for the next annual gathering has been confirmed, with Tom O’Kane from Cae Tan CSA volunteering to host it.
The event was officially drawn to a close with the transference of ‘Moron’ the Wales CSA network mascot from Flintshare to Banc Organics. Moron has had an eventful year with Flintshare being part of many events including a ride in a tractor in the centre of Aberystwyth to promote CSA, amongst other escapades. Moron is now entrusted to Banc Organics who, we’re sure will provide him with an eventful year!
If you’re interested in becoming part of the Welsh CSA network or are a new CSA looking for advice or support please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.