Róisín Nic Cóil is coordinator of the CSA Network of Ireland. She attended workshops run by DP in Dundalk Ó Fiaich college on Monday nights recently. She is a student at DkIT and active with EnviroSoc in the college. DkIT Envirosoc are running EnviroTalks from January-April 2017 and Róisín will speak about CSAs.
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA for short, is a system of food production and distribution that is local but is happening all over the globe From Japan to the USA, from Bulgaria to Ireland and all across Europe. In 2015, a census was compiled of CSAs in Europe – 2,783 CSAs operating in Europe and producing food for almost half a million (474,455) eaters
CSAs are about farmers: giving them a good livelihood and a secure income.
CSAs are equally about consumers or eaters: giving them a trustworthy food-source with a clean conscience.
CSAs bring farmers and eaters together. Eaters become “members” of the farm for an agreed period – typically a growing season or a year. They pay upfront, or in monthly instalments so the farmer knows his income for the year and can plan his growing and infrastructure accordingly.
The food harvest is shared among the members, typically once a week. There is no middlemen so no fancy distribution vans – the members have to organise to collect their veg themselves. This might involve calling to the farm (and maybe chatting to the farmer) or arranging with another member to deliver the veg-share.
Because of the simple distribution method, CSA members and farmers get to know each other. There are open-days organised on the farm where members can help out if they wish and learn about growing food.
Some parts of the CSA can be managed on behalf of the farmer by volunteer members who form a core-group. The members might take on the responsibility of recruiting new members, or running the open-day, or packing the veg shares each week, or managing the accounts… every CSA does it a bit differently… whatever suits the community of farmers and members.
CSAs become more than food production and distribution – they foster resilient communities, skill-sharing, composting, active citizenship and so much more!
If you’d like to learn more, there are some excellent resources on the website of Urgenci, the international network, and you can learn about the Irish CSAs on www.communitysupportedagriculture.ie