BOBL takes Community Supported Agriculture on Tour
Wales' first Community Supported Agriculture study tour took place this month, organised through Organic Centre Wales as a part of the Better Organic Business Links (BOBL) project.
The study tour was comprised of a trip across the border to the West of England for the Soil Association Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Conference in Bristol, followed by a visit to Stroudco Food Hub in nearby Stroud.
The tour was formed to engage and enrich attendees with further knowledge of Community Supported Agriculture and highlight projects that have been successful on an international platform.
CSA was initiated to encourage partnerships between farmers and the local community, providing mutual benefits and reconnecting people to the land where their food is grown. Wales has some examples of great CSA projects, many of which are based on organic land including Caerhys Organic CSA in Pembrokeshire, Flintshare in Flintshire and Hill Cottage Market Garden in Powys. However, the number of projects in Wales is still very small and the tour hoped to engage with further potential projects and communities throughout Wales.
The first day of the tour was spent at the conference and aimed to celebrate all that is CSA. It explored the diversity of enterprises, heard from overseas CSAs and looked in to the future of CSA development in the UK.
International case studies of successful CSA projects spanning the last twenty years were key features of the conference. The conference also boasted fresh ideas about credit facilities, variable pricing and flexible payments to get low-income families involved in CSA. Good examples of home grown CSA and the experience of sharing were also highlighted on the first day.
Tour Organiser, Tony Little from Organic Centre Wales, commented: The examples of successful milk and meat CSA projects were particularly interesting, given that all CSAs currently operating in Wales are vegetable-based, despite the huge dominance of livestock in Welsh agriculture. Based on the examples demonstrated the hope is for CSA to become a driver for more mixed farming systems throughout Wales. The Soil Association put on a truly well organised, interesting and inspiring conference and has definitely provided some food for thought in terms of the development of CSA projects back here in Wales.
The study group moved on to Stroud for the second day to visit the Stroudco food hub and Stroud Community Agriculture, which is widely acknowledged as one of the most successful CSA projects in the UK. The visit gave the group an opportunity to learn more on the operation functions behind the project and the chance to speak with Nick Weir, one of the founding members of the project.
Tour members learnt about the history of the projects, challenges faced in getting them off the ground, and the process endured to reach a consensus on the direction and ethos of the project all important factors that need to be considered in the developmental stages of a CSA project.
Study tour attendee, Lisa Whitehead, a member of Flintshare CSA said: The tour was a fantastic opportunity to meet and learn from other CSA projects. It was also great fun against a backdrop of fabulous food and innovative farming.
BOBL now plans to implement a number of initiatives across Wales to encourage uptake of CSA, working with partners such as the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens. Plans include the roll out of networking meetings for those interested in CSA projects, working further with urban populations and to provide resources to help strengthen links between communities and producers.
Tour organiser, Tony Little at Organic Centre Wales, said: I am very pleased that the Better Organic Business Links (BOBL) project has been able to support this tour. This was a fantastic opportunity to learn from the experiences of some of the most successful CSA projects both in the UK and internationally. All those who attended thoroughly enjoyed the two days. The tour was extremely beneficial in understanding what is needed to be done to support the development of CSA in Wales.
For further information on the development of Community Supported Agriculture in Wales, call the BOBL project on 01970 621632
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Notes for editors
1. OCW is the national resource for consumers, farmers and policy makers committed to more sustainable food and farming in Wales. Based at Aberystwyth University and run by a partnership consisting of the ADAS, the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University. See www.organiccentrewales.org.uk.
2. BOBL is an Organic Centre Wales project and funded under the Supply Chain Efficiencies scheme as part of the Welsh Assembly Government Rural Development Plan. The project is designed to support the primary producer in Wales and grow the market for Welsh organic produce in a sustainable way. The project is developing new, emerging and existing markets for organic produce whilst driving innovation, at all levels, within the supply chain. The overall aim is to support a thriving Welsh organic sector so that the benefits of WG investment in the Organic Farming Scheme to generate agri-environmental benefits, and in the Welsh Organic Action Plan to support rural development and sustainable food production, can be fully realised.
3. The Organic Conversion Information Service is funded by the Welsh Government to provide information to producers, to enable them to make an informed decision on whether to change to organic management and certification the helpline, an information pack and up to three free on-farm visits are available. Contact the OCW helpline on: 01970 622100.