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Community Supported Agriculture - The Brexit Proof Food Revolution

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Community Supported Agriculture - The Brexit Proof Food Revolution

 

Written by Ben Raskin, Chair of Community Supported Agriculture Network UK

I write this in the run up to Brexit Dday. Whether you are remain or leave, the uncertainty of Brexit is a reality. Community Supported Agriculture has potential benefits however that apply to any uncertainty, manmade or otherwise.

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First some challenges facing horticultural businesses in the run up to Brexit, and in particular to the threat of a No Deal Brexit.

·      Labour –Solutions may be found in time but there are widespread fears that securing the necessary workforce when we have left the Union will be more difficult.

·      Availability of Produce – with no trade barriers, gaps in UK supplies can be easily met with imports of a wide range of products all year round. With barriers it may be harder to source the range of produce that is currently on offer.

·      Pricing – The flipside of a global supply of produce is continual downward pressure on prices. As a result, many mid-size growing businesses have disappeared. We now see a polarisation between larger and larger businesses that use scale to meet supermarket demand, and a proliferation of very small-scale operations that supply specialist high value products direct to local customers. At both ends of the scale tiny margins are a real threat to business sustainability.

Here are some thoughts on how Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) might offer a Brexit proof business model, but firstly what is the CSA model?

Direct Connection

Find out more about The different types of csa
in the UK

Consumers, often described as CSA members, are closely linked to the farm, and provide support that goes beyond a straight forward marketplace exchange of money for goods. They might have invested in the farm or business or share the costs of production. They may instead accept a share in the harvest or providing labour.  

The most common produce for CSA farms is vegetables, but anything can be produced with the CSA model for instance eggs, poultry, bread, fruit, pork, lamb, beef and dairy produce. CSA farms are even developing around woodlands for firewood and more recently fish.

Benefits for all

Farmers receive a more stable and secure income and closer connection with their community, and consumers benefit by eating fresh healthy local food, feeling more connected to the land where their food is grown and learning new skills.

CSA helps to address increasing concerns about the lack of transparency, sustainability and resilience of our food system. It is one of the most radical ways that we can re-take control and ownership of our food system.

Read more about the


benefits of csa

The proposition of consumer and producer sharing risk and reward may not seem particularly attractive in an environment where food is cheap and plentiful. Why pay money up front or commit to a long-term arrangement with a farmer when you can pop to the shops or login to your favourite online retailer and get what you want whenever you want it.

Imagine instead a situation where lorries are delayed, or tariffs are high. Prices may shoot up. Importers may seek easier markets. Having a guaranteed supply of food (weather permitting of course) begins to make a bit more sense.

Beyond the practical, being a CSA member brings a whole range of social benefits. Opportunities to join in with farming, learn more about how your food is produced and perhaps even improve your physical and mental health.

While the CSA business model is still in its infancy in this country with 100 + CSA farms, new ones are starting all the time. You can find out your nearest one here. In USA and France there are thousands of CSA farms, helped perhaps by not having a developed organic box scheme market. In these and other countries many CSA farms are even supplying into cities and feeding urban populations.

While I accept of course that the CSA model will not suit all farms or farmers, it does offer a genuine vision for transforming our relationship with food and a way of shaping a future proof food supply.

CSA NETWORK UK : https://communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk/

 



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Small Farm Profits

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Small Farm Profits

by the Ecological Land Cooperative

The Ecological Land Cooperative’s short publication, ‘Small Farm Profits’, demonstrates that small farms are successful.

‘Small Farm Profits’, a short booklet made up of small farm case studies, demonstrates that small-scale, ecological farms in the UK can, and do, make a profit.

 In light of the proposed Agriculture Bill which recommends supporting public goods and improving agricultural activity, it is essential that new policies support small farms which produce healthy food. These kinds of farms are exactly what this booklet showcases.

 Small Farm Profits provides proof that small-scale doesn’t mean uncompetitive and that ecological agriculture can create economically viable, highly productive and sustainable enterprises on small acreages.

 The proposed Agriculture Bill, which will enforce UK policy post-Brexit, does not refer to small-scale, ecological farming or local food. This needs to change.

Vegboxes of the CSA, Cae Tan, at the ELC’s site in Wales .

Vegboxes of the CSA, Cae Tan, at the ELC’s site in Wales .

Oli Rodker, Executive Director of ELC, says: “Our booklet shows what can be done on small acreages even in today’s challenging economic climate. The new Agriculture Bill is a chance to put policy behind Michael Gove’s words and provide the financial and technical support to ensure we see thousands more of these types of businesses in the coming years.”

 Agroecological Small Farms should be supported because:

·       They produce fresh, local & healthy food free from pesticides and other chemicals

·       They have high employment figures per land area

·       More farmers means more innovation

·       Of their environmental stewardship: small farms promote biodiversity, good soil care and low carbon emissions.

·       They can adapt more easily to local conditions.

·       Of their positive Social Impact: focused on local economies and local people, small farms provide opportunities for community engagement

Busy harvest for workers and helpers at the CSA Cae Tan on the ELC’s site in Gower, Wales.

Busy harvest for workers and helpers at the CSA Cae Tan on the ELC’s site in Gower, Wales.

·       They make profitable businesses!

 The Ecological Land Cooperative works to create new opportunities for small ecological farms. For small farms to remain competitive and viable in today’s markets they need to be long-lasting and sustainable — financially as well as ecologically. Small Farm Profits illustrates that such farms are financially sound and that ecological and economic objectives can sit side by side productively.

 The Ecological Land Cooperative (ELC) is a social enterprise, co-operative in structure, established to address the lack of affordable sites for ecological land-based livelihoods in England and Wales. Set up in 2009, the ELC purchases land, obtains planning permission, and installs the infrastructure to create clusters of three or more affordable smallholdings for future farmers. The ELC’s first project, Greenham Reach, in mid-Devon, was granted permanent planning permission in 2018 after five years temporary permission. Home to three thriving smallholdings, each operating as independent businesses but working co-operatively to manage the whole site. Greenham Reach is a living example of ecologically managed land providing truly sustainable land-based livelihoods. The ELC’s second site in Arlington, East Sussex has secured temporary planning permission and is the process of recruiting tenants to join the cooperative and start farming.

The ELC has also purchased land on the Gower in Wales and in Sparkford, South Somerset, both have planning applications in process.

The Booklet can be read here: https://ecologicalland.coop/small-farm-profits and for more info about the ELC please visit: http://ecologicalland.coop

 

Read More: CREATING CHANGE WITH THE ECOLOGICAL LAND COOPERATIVE

 



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The A Team's consultation response to Defra's 'Health and Harmony'

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The A Team's consultation response to Defra's 'Health and Harmony'

 

 

It has been announced that Defra has received over 44,000 consultation responses from various institutions, businesses and individuals. Each, has critiqued the Government's vision; Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit. The consequences of which, are going to influence the forward trajectory of agriculture, food, public wellbeing and the environment in the UK.

The A Team Foundation are grateful to have our views heard by Government.  Our advice echoes the sentiments of many other voices, it has been formulated by the experience of our grantees on the ground, and from the knowledge of the wider food movement at large. 

Firstly, we champion agroecology and have expressed with great care its many benefits. And so too, we have flagged the holes that appear in the Government's vision.

But furthermore, we have given emphasis upon how we are in the flux of an agricultural revolution. One that envisions an enlightened food system where food is diverse, nutritiously complete, locally sourced, sustainably produced, and access to it is equal. 

 

"The agricultural bill is evidence that there is no longer a status quo, the time to create a brave new world is upon us. One built on humanitarian, and ecological ideals .... Solutions that we develop now are the bedrock, on which, our future generations will thrive."

 
 

Please take the time to read our consultation response in full (by clicking here or on the image below).  However, If you are short on time, our key messages are below. 

 

Our key messages

  • Agroecology is the answer. We advise Defra to make the UK a world-leading example of the enlightened agricultural practice. When aligned with local supply chains, the rights for worker’s and technological innovation, it is the panacea for our paradigm shift.
     
  • The A Team Foundation requests official recognition that food is not a commodity but a basic human right.
     
  • Apply the four easy-to-implement schemes as proposed by the Land Worker’s Alliance; 1) A Sustainable Farming Transition Scheme. 2) A Local Food Fund. 3) A New Entrants Scheme. 4) Horticulture Livelihoods Payments
     
  • Reinvigorate the Horticulture Sector to make easy gains on healthy and accessible food, healthy food, behaviour change, community integration, strengthening local livelihoods and development of our nutritionally complete food security.
     
  • Diverse, culturally appropriate and nutritionally complete food, should take precedence over establishing export markets for commodities.
     
  • Create short supply chains through supporting horticulture farms in urban and peri-urban locations. This would provide a multitude of benefits for urban society, such as education, engagement, health, urban biodiversity and community cohesion.
     
  • Implement simplified Environmental Land Management Schemes for agroforestry, orchards, and particularly; Community Supported Agriculture.
     
  • To talk about ‘Public Goods’ and resilience is at its most fundamental is to talk about seed and agrobiodiversity. This is a vital area that is not acknowledged through Health and Harmony. 
     
  • We strongly request a reverse of the decisions by BEIS and DEFRA not to extend the role of the groceries code Adjudicator to cover more of the food supply chain beyond direct supermarket suppliers.
     
  • Food labelling must be reformed to a mandatory and uniformed system that champions our high food standards, the nutritional quality, the Public Goods they create, and the method of production.
     
  • Public health is a Public Good, and one that should be delivered by farming and food policy. Although inherently interconnected, there isn’t a focus on how agricultural policy will change the course of diet-related illness in the UK and ease the burden on the NHS.
     
  • All Public Procurement should run through a food assurance scheme, we propose the Soil Association’s ‘Food for Life’.
 


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