What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
The current global food system is broken and the impact of this can be seen in the health of our soil and our population. We have become increasingly disconnected from the source of our food while expecting it to be produced cheaper than ever. Farmers and growers bear the brunt of these pressures and many of the risks associated with food production - increased cost of fuel and other inputs, extreme weather, market fluctuations and more. We need to build a new type of relationship with our food and the people who produce it.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
We’ve been working with organisations that are experts in food and farming, including the Soil Association, Organic Centre Wales and the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens. We know that:
• 30,000 tonnes of pesticides and herbicides are used in the UK each year, over 95% of which reach destinations other than their intended target.
• Since 1970 employment in UK agriculture has more than halved and in the last year farm incomes have dropped by 14%.
• 80% of the UK population now live in towns and cities and have little or no connection to the food and food producers.
• With year on year food price inflation at 5% and falling real wages, the number of people in the UK who can't afford a good diet is rising rapidly towards 5 million.
• In 2012, three fifths of the UK population were overweight and a quarter obese. Type 2 diabetes, which is related to a bad diet, affects more than 2 million people in the UK.
What is your solution?
Our solution is community supported agriculture (CSA) - a partnership where the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared between farmers and the local community.
We know that there is massive interest in this idea, but most farmers and growers in CSA projects are really busy producing food and don’t have much time to help other people set up new projects. Our new network aims to do just that and make it easier for people to find and join a CSA, and give real support to farmers, growers and communities who want to create new schemes.
How will you deliver this?
We have just launched a new national network to promote community supported agriculture schemes in the UK. It is really in its early stages, we have a board and some funding for a coordinator but need to raise the cash to create a new website, set up events, develop online tools to help projects and organise a big national conference.
Here is what we will do over the next year with the money we raise:
Website Phase 1
We will create a comprehensive resource of all our factsheets, case studies, manuals, videos, reports and more that will be ‘easy to search’ for new and existing CSA projects. The new website will include a map with ‘shop windows’ presenting CSA projects in the UK, allowing them to list their areas of work, expertise and key documents.
This online resource will allow people interested in joining a CSA to find their local scheme, those interested in setting one up to have a range of tools to help guide them, and will help all CSAs to know where to go for specific expertise, knowledge or advice.
Regional CSA events
We know that getting together in person is even more important than a good website! We’ll work with CSA projects in six regions across the UK to bring people together to learn, share ideas and be inspired. Our regional networking events will all feature a workshop on a key topic, open space time to just pick each other’s brains, a farm walk to admire the crops and the chance to make new friends over good locally produced food and drink. These events will help to generate new CSA projects and making existing schemes even stronger.
Website Phase 2
We will build into our website loads of interactive networking tools to help CSAs communicate with each other. We’ll introduce a forum and start to facilitate discussions on hot topics and use this information to generate more fact sheets on issues that we know are important. We’ll create mechanisms for projects to post their own events and news. These tools will help us to stay in touch between events, enable CSA initiatives to support each other, and encourage peer to peer learning.
National CSA conference
We will finish off the year with a national conference to shout about our achievements. This event will mirror our regional events but on a much bigger scale. We will support a local CSA initiative to play a major role in hosting the event, giving them a national platform to talk about what they are doing to change the food system from the bottom up. We will bring in inspirational speakers, include training workshops to help new people set up new projects and of course make time to celebrate our community and share food together.