Farm for change

Glasbren CSA (Carmarthenshire)
Industrial agriculture takes a heavy toll on the environment by polluting air and water, harming wildlife and producing greenhouse gases. The low retail cost of industrialised food obscures this high environmental price tag, unaccounted for by the industry and picked up instead by local communities and taxpayers.

The Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement began in the UK in the late 1990s to counter the negative effects of industrial agriculture, by reconnecting people with fresh local food produced with ecological farming methods.
CSA has low carbon principles at its heart, either in the form of organic farms or farms that are sustainably managed for community benefit. This type of food production does not contribute to the climate crisis in the way typical industrial food production does through pesticide use, heavy machinery use, packaging and transport.

Typically, CSA takes the form of farms that are set up in partnership or directly by a community. Many are owned or invested in by the local community members who become shareholders or volunteer their time. A particular CSA group could be initiated and led either by a farmer or by a local group (in which case it typically has more member involvement).

It’s about far more than growing vegetables. This alternative farming model changes the relationship between us, as the producer or consumer, to one of shared endeavour, sharing the risks and the rewards. As CSA farmers, we know all of our members. As CSA members, we reimagine how we buy food and how we value it. It’s a more ethical and democratic business model than conventional farming, one that supports community building and the regeneration of the land.

In building a kinder and more inclusive farming system, Community-Supported Agriculture could as easily be described as Agriculture-Supported Community. For years CSAs have also shown us how to build resilience within communities and the capacity to address localised food poverty and inequality – something that has only increased in importance with recent food insecurities and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Glasbren is a CSA group and an exemplar of sustainable agriculture, feeding 60 households between the Taf and Tywi rivers in West Carmarthenshire with a weekly share in the harvest. It’s one of around 100 CSAs in the UK, fewer than in other countries where it is more established and part of the farming landscape (for example, France has more than 2,000 CSAs). There’s plenty of room for more to grow.
Farm produce
Start something new…

Do you want to become more food secure locally and rely less on industrialised food? If there isn’t a local CSA group then perhaps you could start one. You probably know a lot of likely people in your area who’d be interested. You could begin talking to local farmers and tell them about Community-Supported Agriculture. Contact the CSA Network UK and arrange a visit to an existing scheme and get a feel for how they do it.

Inspired? Check out many lots more initiatives about land use, food & agriculture.

… or join an existing community project:

To play your part  in growing food that’s good for local wildlife and helps to develop a fairer local food supply, look up your nearest CSA group and become a member. The CSA Network UK has a map showing the location of all these types of farms in the UK.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert in farming or sustainability: a whole range of skills is needed to guarantee the success of projects like these and it’ll also be possible to learn as you go.

Other related community actions: Reduce food waste, Produce local food, Create a food partnership

What do we mean by community action?