Soil Association : Community supported agriculture conference speakers


Helen Browning

Helen Browning is Chief Executive of the Soil Association. She runs a tenanted 1,350 acre organic livestock and arable farm in Wiltshire, which supplies organic meat to multiple retailers. The business recently diversified to take on the running of the village pub, successfully adding a restaurant. Before taking up her current role, she was Director of External Affairs at the National Trust and prior to that Food and Farming Director at the Soil Association for many years. Helen is also Chair of the Food Ethics Council and has been a member of several important commissions concerning British agriculture and food, including the Curry Commission on the Future of Farming and Food; the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission; and the Meat and Livestock Commission. She was awarded an OBE in 1998 for services to organic farming.

Elizabeth Henderson

Elizabeth has been producing organically-grown vegetables for the fresh market at Peacework Farm in Wayne County, New York for over 30 years. Peacework Organic Farm supplies vegetables to the 300-member GVOCSA, and is in its twenty-third year. 
She is a founding member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) in Massachusetts, has been on the Board of Directors of NOFA-NY since 1989, and represents NOFA in the national discussions of organic standards and on the Management Committee of the Agricultural Justice Project. She chairs the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board in Wayne County, and helped organize the Domestic Fair Trade Association. In 2001, the organic industry honoured her with one of the first “Spirit of Organic” awards, and in 2007, the Abundance Co-op bestowed upon her the “Cooperating for Communities” award. In 2009 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from NOFA-NY.  Her writings on organic agriculture appear in The Natural Farmer and NOFA-NY’s Food, Farms and Folks. She co-authored The Real Dirt: Farmers Tell about Organic and Low-Input Practices in the Northeast, was lead author of Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (Chelsea Green, 1999, new edition 2007) and wrote A Manual of Whole Farm Planning (2003) with Karl North. With her former farm partner, she wrote A Food Book for a Sustainable Harvest for the members of the Genesee Valley Organic Community Supported Agriculture Project (GVOCSA). 

Joy Carey

Joy is a Bristol-based independent consultant on planning sustainable food systems and author of the recently published baseline research report ‘Who feeds Bristol?:  Towards a resilient food plan’ commissioned and supported by NHS Bristol and Bristol City Council. She has been involved in community development and local food initiatives for over 20 years, in the early 90’s growing Asian and Caribbean vegetables in inner city Birmingham and later working with an organic box scheme in rural Norfolk. She joined the Soil Association in 1998 and from 2004-09 was Head of Local Food and Market Development. While at the Soil Association she led work on re-localising sustainable food systems around the UK through building direct connections between food producers and their customers (box schemes, farmers markets, community supported agriculture, local food business networks and sourcing local and organic food for schools and hospitals). She is currently involved in managing research for the Making Local Food Work partnership to support the future development of community food enterprises and an evaluation of the Big Lottery Local Food Fund grants programme. Joy has produced a film about Indian organic cotton farmers, is a policy advisor to the Soil Association and is a steering group member of the Bristol Food Network.  

Perrine Herve-Gruyer

Perrine started her working life as an international business lawyer in Tokyo and Hong Kong before retraining in psychotherapy and massage. In 2006, Perrine and her husband, Charles, decided to start farming at "La Ferme du Bec Hellouin", in Normandy. They are certified organic and grow fruit and vegetables as well as producing apple juice, cider and bread.
In 2008 they discovered permaculture which Perrine describes as a "revelation". Working with nature in a wonderful environment (the village of Le Bec Hellouin is classified among the most beautiful villages in France) has given the meaning to their lives they have been looking for.  They sell almost all their products directly through AMAP (Associations pour le maintien d’une agriculture paysanne, the French term for CSA). They now work with three AMAP groups and supply 100 shares per week, using only 500m2 of their 16ha farm to do so.
Two years ago Perrine was elected as a Green party representative to the regional assembly, and is responsible for developing organic agriculture in Haute-Normandie

Wolfgang Stränz

Wolfgang Stränz, born 1948, studied chemistry in the seventies, worked as a schoolteacher during the eighties and works today in adult education.  His most important role was when he worked as a househusband, bringing up his two sons. It was then that he had enough spare time helping to establish a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme at Buschberghof farm near Hamburg in Northern Germany.  This was the first CSA in Europe, established in 1988 and from the beginning Wolfgang was Buschberghof’s treasurer and responsible for the finances.
During almost a quarter of a century Buschberghof and Wolfgang have been helping to promote the idea of CSAs in Germany, France, the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Serbia, Austria and the Czech Republic.  In 2010 Wolfgang was a co-founder of the new German CSA network SoLaWi (Solidarische Landwirtschaft), which was founded in July 2011.

Jim Brown

Jim is principal consultant at Baker Brown Associates, a policy research and development co-operative based in Bristol. His main areas of interest are equity investment, community engagement, innovation, business strategy and training. He was the lead consultant for Community Shares, a two year action research programme funded by the Cabinet Office and the Department of Communities and Local Government, which was completed earlier this year, and the author of The Practitioners Guide to Community Shares, published in July 2011.  He is also an enterprise support consultant for Making Local Food Work, and has worked with numerous CSAs on community investment and business strategy issues.  (