Stroud community agriculture
Stroud Community Agriculture (SCA) is a community-initiated CSA and began in 2001 when a group of local people took on the rental of a 23-acre biodynamic farm near Stroud. The business is an Industrial and Provident Society Community Co-operative, owned and controlled by its subscribers, who elect a core group of eight members to make management decisions and employ the grower and farmer.
It now has 270 members, rents a total of 19ha of which 3ha is planted with biodynamic vegetables, and also raises pigs, cattle and sheep, enabling members to buy meat when they collect their veg share each week. A basic share is worth £44per month, which includes a £3 membership fee to cover the administration of the CSA. Shares are paid for via a direct debit system, and the knowledge that there will be a regular monthly income makes it much easier to plan for labour and expenditure. Vegetables are collected from the farm each week, and sometimes members might be asked to pick part of their share, which they are directed to by a noticeboard in the veg patch indicating what quantity of vegetables to take. Members are not required to work in this CSA, but can take part in regular community workdays if they choose. A limited number of members can pay for their annual share by working on the farm for a certain number of hours each week, subject to a written agreement. The farm has a turnover of around £170,000 and now employs three full time equivalent workers and a couple of seasonal workers. During the last two years, a new starter farm initiative has enabled two new entrant growers to rent one acre adjoining SCA to grow vegetables, which are sold via the CSA and other outlets. The guaranteed market and mentoring service offered by the grower at SCA give the new growers the confidence to develop their skills, before moving on to their own project after1 to 2 years to make space for the next starter farmers.
Social events form an important element in building the community of SCA. Every month a social event of some sort brings members together, and many friendships have been formed during bar-b-cues, harvest suppers, bonfire night and even snail races! Many members have children, and value the connection with food production and the countryside that regular visits to the farm provide.