An impact assessment of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in England – entitled 'The Impact of Community Supported Agriculture' – has found that CSA schemes are providing multiple benefits to thousands of members, their communities, local economies and the environment.
The report was commissioned by the Soil Association as part of the ‘Making Local Food Work’ programme. It found that CSA schemes in England comprise of at least 5,000 trading members and feed around 12,500 people a year.
CSA scheme community farms help enable communities to take control of their food supply by providing their members with a variety of local, often organically produced food from vegetables and meat, to milk, bread and honey. In fact, two thirds of members are supplied with all, or nearly all, of their vegetable needs through the community farms. In addition the report shows that CSA schemes deliver many other benefits.
Bonnie Hewson, CSA Project Manager at the Soil Association, points out that “this evaluation report confirms that CSA is powerful on many levels. It is a proactive response to concerns around resilience and transparency in the food system and provides a logical step for consumers towards reclaiming sovereignty over the way their food is grown, processed and traded.”
Indeed, the report highlights the remarkable power of community farms to positively influence a wide array of important social aspects. Many members report feeling significantly happier, with over 70% saying their quality of life has improved with the name proportion saying their cooking and eating habits have changed through using more local, season and healthy food.
Community Supported Agriculture schemes are even helping people to develop and share skills, with over three-quarters offering training programmes. Local employment is also boosted, with CSA’s showing high levels of employment relative to the land available (equivalent to 0.14 employees/hectare compared with a mean of 0.027 employees/hectare across UK agricultural as a whole).
Finally, farmers themselves are reaping the benefits, providing a life line to many and an opportunity to diversify. Turnover for CSA schemes is over 0.2% of total farm income for England, reflecting high productivity per acre of CSA farm and additional income from traded produce and other services.
And to them go the final word. Gerald Miles, a farmer at Caerhys Farm in Pembrokeshire says “CSA is the best thing I’ve ever done as it has connected the farm with the local community.” Endorsements don’t come much better than that!