Community-supported agriculture (CSA) involves a network of local schemes around the country that link up local, small farms, smallholdings or market gardens with potential customers who pay up front to receive produce. This allows local small farmers to plan for the year, secure in the knowledge that they have a guaranteed customer base, and it allows customers to be sure that they’ll have a supply of locally-produced veg, fruit and maybe other things (depending on the local scheme) such as honey, eggs, bread, meat etc.
There are opportunities for customers to become more involved with the farms too – including farm visits, work days and children’s activities that allow local people to understand more about food production in their area. It’s obviously more difficult in large cities because of the distance to farms, but many CSA schemes are springing up in smaller towns all over Europe and North America.
What to do
1. Find your local scheme
Find your nearest scheme via the interactive map on the website of the Community-supported Agriculture Network.
2. Join your local scheme
When you find a scheme that’s local enough for you to join (via the link) above, click through to their website, to see how their scheme works.
For example, this one near Colchester requires you to become a member (£24 per household per year, which pays for admin, plus some social events etc.), then set up a monthly standing order for a bag of fresh vegetables each week, to be collected from local drop-off points. The prices for this particular scheme are:
- small – £34.23 per month (£7.90 per week) for an individual
- medium – £49.83 per month (£11.50 per week) for a family
- large – £72.58 per month (£16.75 per week) for a large (or hungry) family
There are also opportunities to volunteer at the farm and get to know the people who produce your food.
Schemes are unique, however, so check your local scheme’s website for exactly how it works.
3. How to start a local scheme if you don’t have one
If you don’t have a local scheme, you could start one. Schemes can be started by farmers or by consumers. The Soil Association have produced an action manual for farmers or community groups wanting to start a CSA scheme in their area.