Community supported agriculture gains momentum under COVID-19

Community supported agriculture gains momentum under COVID-19

News
Packed produce: There have been many different Community Supported Agricultural models throughout agribusiness' history. It is particularly prominent in the USA. Picture: file

Packed produce: There have been many different Community Supported Agricultural models throughout agribusiness' history. It is particularly prominent in the USA. Picture: file

Aa

Community-supported agriculture: how it helps local producers.

Aa

COMMUNITY Supported Agriculture certainly isn't a new concept for those involved in agribusiness.

The model of food distribution has been adopted by producers worldwide, in particular the United States.

Largely, CSA refers to customers purchasing shares in a farm's forthcoming harvest in exchange for regular supply of the product.

There are many iterations of CSA across history, and a number of Tasmanian farms and businesses use a CSA model in one form or another.

Under the current pandemic climate, where consumers are being encouraged to buy as local as possible, CSA gives an insight into how consumers might build greater relationships with their farming community.

Food miles

ZOE Magnus was involved in a sustainable food cooperative in Tasmania's South that used a multi-farm CSA model for its organisation from about 2010 until 2018.

She said the group acted as a middle man between the consumer and the farmer.

"It was pretty intensely local, I think the furthest away the produce was coming from was maybe 30 kilometres and the subscribers were all within 10 or 20 kilometres of Woodbridge itself," she said.

"The way we ran ours was that we had about 30 different growers providing produce.

"We had a system where each grower would say what they wanted to grow and we could note there were gaps in silverbeet and see if someone could grow that."

VARIETY: Seven Springs Farm at Lorinna grows about 70 different products using a single-farm CSA model.

VARIETY: Seven Springs Farm at Lorinna grows about 70 different products using a single-farm CSA model.

Ms Magnus said one of the main reasons the co-op began to use CSA was to cut down on transport pollution.

"For example, we discovered that mushrooms being grown in the Huon Valley at the time, we were like, 'yay we can get those mushrooms, they're really close to us', but then we found out they sent them to Spreyton for packaging," she said.

"We realised the mushrooms we were eating were grown 20 kilometres away but had travelled 300 kilometres north and then 300 kilometres back again before we got to eat them.

"A: they've got all these carbon miles attached to them, and B: they're not as fresh as they would have been if we had access to them the day they were picked."

This then led to consumers building a relationship with the farms involved in the program.

"If you know the person who grows your food, you know what you're eating - it's not full of chemicals, or in terms of meat, you know it's humanely raised," Ms Magnus said.

"We used to do subscriber visits so they could come to different plots ... see where their food was grown and meet the farmers.

"It was really rewarding for growers too, I think that's a big thing - it's a very isolating profession to be growing things, you can't go away a lot of the time."

Flexibility

SEVEN Springs Farm at Lorinna uses a single-farm CSA model. It has a subscription model where customers can order veggie boxes.

Given the farm grows about 70 different vegetables, owner Wouter Sels said it allowed for the veggie boxes to be customisable.

"I use a bit of software to facilitate it because I'm very unique with the way I approach it," he said.

"A typical problem with veggie boxes is people always get sick always getting the same produce so with my system that doesn't really happen, people set their preferences so they don't get anything they don't want.

Kim and Daniel Croker of Fork It Farm, Lebrina, use a single-farm CSA model. Picture: Paul Scambler

Kim and Daniel Croker of Fork It Farm, Lebrina, use a single-farm CSA model. Picture: Paul Scambler

"It bypasses the traditional veggie box where you might end up with a veggie every week you don't like, that doesn't happen with my system, it's entirely customisable."

Mr Sels was involved in developing Belgium's first veggie box CSA model in 2010. He said establishing a CSA model was not easy.

"It's not easy because you grow a lot of products so you have a very intricate plan to do it actually," he said.

However, Mr Sels said his model worked to great success with his business, and being able to cater production to prepared demand allowed for minimal produce to be wasted.

"You have a strong connection with your customers and they're supporting you - for them it's like a reassurance that they're committed to buying on a weekly or across a weekly basis," he said.

"Consumers are more at ease knowing the farm can keep growing and thus production can be forecast a little better for what you need to plant and grow so you have far less waste."

It's just easy for people, they don't have to worry too much about looking around for produce and going to different shops

COVID-19

TASMANIAN Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive, Peter Skillern, said CSAs may see increased support given its emphasis on shopping as local as possible.

"I do think that what has happened on the back of COVID-19 ... there's a much greater community interest in food production and where it comes from," he said.

Mr Skillern added that a benefit of a CSA model was the transparency in knowing your product was produced in safe conditions.

"There's a correct view that locally produced food is much safer than food coming from certain places overseas and I don't see that changing in the short term," he said.

Mr Sels said CSAs were a great method for businesses to receive community support during the pandemic.

"It's just easy for people, they don't have to worry too much about looking around for produce and going to different shops," he said.

The story Community supported agriculture gains momentum under COVID-19 first appeared on Stock & Land.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by