20-03-2014 05:49 AM | Finance, News, Produce

New network aims to revolutionise local food production



The UK community supported agriculture (CSA) movement has launched a crowd funding campaign to raise £19,140 to support its work encouraging farmers and growers to work in partnership with their local communities.

The funds will give the new CSA Network UK, which launched in December 2013, the chance to support and promote CSA schemes across the country, building new relationships between farmers and consumers.

The crowd funding campaign is hosted by Buzzbnk and allows backers to support the network at a variety of levels and receive a huge range of rewards donated by CSA projects themselves. Rewards include free vegetable boxes, tours of successful CSA projects and even a year mentoring support from CSA expert Nikki Giles, who set up Flintshare Community Agriculture. All supporters giving over £25 will be eligible to become members of the CSA Network.

The CSA Network UK needs to reach its first target of £6,500 within 60 days or it receives none of the funds that have been pledged.

CSA is an innovative approach that encourages farmers and growers to build new relationships with consumers, sharing the risks, responsibilities and rewards of food production. Widely known in France, Japan and the USA, CSA has been growing in popularity in the UK over the past five years, in large part due to the Soil Association’s lead in a Big Lottery funded project that saw the number of CSA projects increase from a handful to over 100 trading initiatives across the country. CSA often involves members committing for a whole season to buy a “share” of produce.

The Network now needs to mobilise funds from CSA members and supporters to create a new website with tools that will make it easier for existing CSA groups to connect with each other, access resources and promote their work. The campaign will also fund CSA projects to run events in their regions that will help other CSA projects get off the ground and bring new members on board.

The Soil Association is a founder member of the CSA Network. Helen Browning, Soil Association chief executive said: “We are immensely proud to support the launch of the new CSA Network UK and this crowd funding appeal. It signifies a hugely important next step in the growth of community supported agriculture – an initiative we have championed since its beginnings in the UK. CSA is such a simple solution in reconnecting people to food and farming and has far reaching benefits for farmers and growers, as well as individuals and communities.”

Rachel Harries, coordinator of the CSA Network UK commented: “There is a huge amount of knowledge held by the people who have successfully set up CSA projects across the UK, 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 make it easier for people to find and join a CSA, provide tools to existing CSAs to share their expertise and give real support to farmers, growers and communities who want to create new schemes.”

The CSA network is supported by the A Team Foundation, which has provided the Soil Association with funds to develop the network over the past year.

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