What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
• Poor nutritional health/ affordable food.
People are increasingly disconnected to where their food comes from and what has been done to it before it reaches their mouths. Food poverty in the UK is an increasing problem with low income families struggling to afford access to healthy produce.
Youth unemployment increased by 15,000 to reach 973,000 this year. But the way growers are remunerated and treated means that most young people don’t see the traditional model of farming as a real career option.
• Destruction of our wildlife and land
Over the last 50 years the UK has lost a phenomenal amount of its native wildlife. The State of Nature report compiled by 25 conservation groups found that three in every five of species analysed for the report have declined in the last 50 years and one in 10 are at risk of extinction. And the evidence pointed to intensive farming practices, especially the use of pesticides, as one of the causes for this loss.
• Climate change and food in the future.
The global population is over 7 billion and we urgently need to consider how our food systems will cope in the coming years. We need to find methods that aren’t dependent on high energy inputs like oil and that are resilient to an increasingly unpredictable climate.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
• Some 45% of all food consumed in the UK is imported from overseas. Much of it is only made possible due to the low wages and poor working conditions of workers in those countries. Supermarkets account for 97% of UK grocery sales, squeezing producers and pushing smaller local retailers out of business with aggressive pricing.
• In the UK the average age of farmers is almost 58 and there are few new entrants.
• In the UK our soil is eroding at a rate of more than 2 million tonnes a year, having been steadily degraded by 200 years of intensive farming and industrial pollution. It’s estimated that half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years.
• The present food system is responsible for some 30% of world greenhouse gas emissions, with significant impacts from the use of fossil-fuel derived pesticides and fertilisers, as well as transportation and packaging.
What is your solution?
• Putting power back in the hands of the local community.
In the CSA model food travels straight from farm to fork. Our community benefits from receiving fresh food from a known source, which has travelled less miles, with less packaging. They understand more about varieties of food, its production methods and costs.
We benefit from the security of having members, who pay in advance, which allows us to spend less time on marketing and more time on trialling new ecological methods of producing food and training future generations.
• Boosting the local economy.
Our local economy is enhanced by higher employment, local consumption and a re-circulation of money through 'local spend'. The New Economics Foundation has calculated that every £1 spent on a local organic box scheme generates £2.58 for the local economy, whereas the same £1 spent in a supermarket generates only £1.40 locally.
• Promoting healthy communities. In the Soil Association publication The Impact of Community Supported Agriculture it was noted that CSA members reported a significant effect on their quality of life, skills and other aspects of wellbeing with 70% of CSA members saying that their overall quality of life had improved.
• Using and trailing sustainable farming methods.
We know it is vital for the future of food that we trial different growing technologies and methodologies and then bring them to a wider audience. Our purpose is to demonstrate these new ways of farming to others to show their economic and environmental potential.
We use low-carbon methods of organic production such as no-dig gardening and want to be able to try many, many more in the future such as using horse power.
• Creating futures through apprenticeships/training opportunities.
We aim to demonstrate a career choice and model of producing food that is attractive to new farming entrants who may be put off by low pay, isolation and a future of decreasing stability. A number of studies have suggested that the future of farming lies in small scale food production. A study released in May by Britain’s Soil Association concluded that organic farming provides 32% more jobs per farm in the United Kingdom than conventional agriculture does.
• Using a farming model which is proven to benefit the environment.
On average wildlife is 50% more abundant on organic farms and there are 30% more species than on non-organic farms.
How will you deliver this?
In the last year we have
• held 46 volunteer growing days though out the season (each concentrating on a specific area such as bed preparation, propagation and harvesting).
• provided training and education for horticulture students from a local college.
• Run a beginners ‘no dig’ gardening course of eight monthly half day gardening sessions for up to 15 participants.
• Held two seasonal events for up to 50 people (but one actually attracting some 600 visitors).
• Provided fresh, local, seasonal vegetables and fruit for the community, delivered via a weekly vegetable box to 20 families and direct to local shops.
• Started outreach work through posters, leaflets, a regular newsletter and social media page and are developing a website.
In the future we will continue to do all of the above as well as to:
• Expand our growing area into a 2 acre field above our current site.
• Double our CSA membership from 20 to 40 households
• Support at least one full-time equivalent grower position
• Develop the necessary infrastructure in the 2 acre field including edible windbreaks, sheds for crop storage, a compost loo and new community space.
• Offer educational experiences including apprenticeships in partnership local colleges.
• Continue to help new entrants into farming by providing space where students and apprentices can put into practice their learning and acting as a place where new entrants into farming can trial their own business ideas.
• Reach the wider community, particularly those most affected by the economic downturn, investigating the possibility of offering CSA membership on a sliding scale.
• Continue building the involvement of the local community through membership, volunteer opportunities, educational experiences and our events program.
• Continue to experiment with and demonstrate different growing techniques.
• Continue to develop networks and partnerships locally with other growers and organizations.