CSA Network UK's Spring Newsletter is packed full of useful information about the UK's CSA scene.
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Sean Ruffell and Radio Four's Sheila Dillon

Spring Newsletter

If you are a fan of BBC Radio 4's 'The Food Programme,' You may have heard the recent episode about wholesale food markets. Part of the program featured one of our sponsors, 'Organic North,' and their charismatic Managing Director, Sean Ruffell.
You may be wondering what a wholesaler has to do with CSA. Well, Organic North, based in Manchester, has been working with CSAs in ways that you may find useful. More of that later in this article.

Organic North set up its mission in the late 1990s. They are great ambassadors for Organic produce here in the North of England. Although they connect with the rest of the country and even import from abroad with regular lorry runs from the continent. They like to support local growers and are on a mission to make organic produce more mainstream. 

Even though they do import, their emphasis is on local organic produce. And as a certified organic supplier, they only handle organic produce.
Taking your surplus
Even with amazing planning, we all end up with surpluses occasionally. One of the main goals of a CSA is to produce just what you need for your customers. And, If you are like me, you hate seeing crops go to waste, ending up as animal feed, or worse still, finding their way to the compost heap.

Being realistic though, If you are to ensure that you have to enough for your customers, you'll always grow extra to allow for pests and diseases. Sometimes crops are unaffected, so you end up with a surplus. The more people you grow for, the larger this surplus could be. 

If you are certified as organic (or in conversion), Organic North are able to pick up products from small growers nationwide on the return journey from delivering to you or someone nearby. This does depend on where you are. Distribution costs are the killer in the food game. If you're not on one of the Organic North routes, your produce may not be economically viable.

Helping to fill the Hungry Gap
Retaining members for those CSAs who only produce seasonally can be a worry. This is why some CSAs choose to buy in from outside suppliers, supplementing what they can produce on-farm in times like the hungry gap.

Another consideration is whether you have the necessary field scale space and frost-free storage to grow the more space intensive crops like potatoes and roots. Buying these products in from external suppliers can be really beneficial.

Zero-waste model
One thing that separates Organic North from the supermarket model is its zero-waste policy. They don't stock anything that they don't have orders for. As Sean explains, "Our model is zero waste. We only buy what we need, don't stock anything that'll spoil, and stock very little. That's contrary to supermarkets' predominating model, where shelves always have to be full, and that inherently causes a lot of waste. I guess the way we procure the veg is still the main thing that separates us from some of our peers in the market."

Low 'Mark-ups'
Organic North only mark up produce passing through their hands by 15%. This is relatively low for any business, especially a food-oriented one. 
Sean explained, "The idea is to get the mark-up lower still because we want to make organics accessible to more than just the middle classes."

Pricing and packaging
Growers who sell through Organic North set their own prices. If a crop demands a specific price to grow it, then you name your price. Ultimately, if that price is too high, or there is competition within that week's offering from other growers, you may not sell your crop. So, you can take guidance from what others are charging, or Sean and his team are there to advise on what you should be charging based on their experience and knowledge of the market. Ultimately, the market sets the price; cold economics and capitalism rear their head when you are selling wholesale.

Occasionally, I've found myself pleasantly surprised by what our crops will sell for. Sean will also offer advice on how to package and present your produce should you need it. We have often thought of different weights and means of packing our products, and the team at Organic North are happy to try to help find what customers like.

Sean commented, "We can advise them (Growers) what that price is if they're interested, but we're not about beating them down because we see their job is hard enough."

Sometimes your produce could be going to a shop, and they sell it exactly as you have packed it. Sometimes, bulk items are re-packed for retail. Organic North are now supplying many restaurant customers who may want your product packed in a 'bulk' form, so looking at different options for packing your produce is useful.

I hope this doesn't sound like one long advertisement for Organic North. From my experience, they have a good reputation within the organic sector, and I feel they are genuinely contributing to changing our broken food system. The same cause that most CSAs want to be a part of.
If you are interested in working with Organic North, you can get in touch through their website here.

We hope to feature more stories about our other sponsors in future newsletters.
If you would like to be a CSA Network UK sponsor, or would like to recommend someone who you think would like to sponsor us and what we do, please get in touch.

Neil Hickson
CSA Network UK Comms. Manager
& Part-time Farmer
Agroforestry Open Weekend

Does your CSA use Agroforestry as part of its design? If so, this is your chance to join with other agroforestry projects in the UK and beyond that are opening their doors to farmers, gardeners, campaigners, foodies, bakers and a wide range of others who just want to look and learn.

From Friday, 19th to Sunday, 21st May, participating farms welcome visitors on organised tours or on self-guided walks learning from a leaflet or noticeboards. The days and times you are open are up to you, as well as if you decide to have an advanced booking, limit numbers, or serve refreshments.

If you are interested in taking part, email info@agroforestryopenweekend.org.
Irrigation Webinars
Hopefully, you will have seen the social media posts about our recent series of irrigation webinars. If you haven't you can watch the recordings via our YouTube channel. 
The GREAT CSA Incubator programme aims to support starter CSAs in Gloucestershire as part of the new Gloucestershire Regenerative Agriculture Transition (GREAT) Project run by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West and funded by the Thirty-Percy Foundation. 

The aim of the programme is to support new CSAs to start up successfully, and we have funding to support eight new CSAs until the end of 2023, working towards a vision of CSA as part of a thriving food ecology in Gloucestershire. It is aimed at CSAs ready to start and for whom additional support might make or break between success and failure.

The new Genetic Technology Act is now law in the UK; however, many safety regulations have been removed, such as labelling, traceability, ongoing monitoring, and environmental, health and safety assessments.

The bill extends beyond the usual agricultural crops into a more comprehensive range of plants, farmed animals, aquaculture and pets.  

Experts from the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming and A Bigger Conversation are running a webinar to explore these and other aspects of this new UK legislation from the perspectives of ethics, welfare and environmental impact. It will give their views on different aspects and answer audience questions to promote a greater understanding of what we might expect in the future.

The free webinar is on Wednesday, 10th May, from 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm.

Dairy Code of Conduct

We are among a number of organisations who have signed a joint open letter to the Secretary of State calling for action on the delayed Dairy Code of Conduct.
In 2021 it was announced that the new statutory Code would seek to “provide a guiding framework, establishing minimum standards but also providing businesses with the flexibility to adapt contracts to their individual circumstances.”

It is necessary to ensure fairness, transparency, cooperation and sustainability across the dairy supply chain and end abusive practices and unfair clauses in contracts.

Robust guidelines will allow the country to be more resilient to future shocks, the sector to contribute to net zero and environmental targets, and ensure access to good quality dairy that has been fairly produced. 

To read the letter, click here.

Actions on food for an incoming Labour government
This is a great piece by Tim Lang (Professor Emeritus of Food Policy, Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London.), It's all about what's needed for a sustainable food system. Read it and then get out there and talk about it to your local MP. 
A new film from Cornwall Climate Care, 'Food for Thought', looks at the effects that farming animals have on the planet. It also looks at some initiatives being taken in Cornwall designed to solve some of these problems. Can regenerative farming play a role in solving climate change whilst still producing food?
A Career in Horticulture?

Have you ever wondered how we could encourage younger people to consider food growing as a career? The Resilient Green Spaces Partnership has produced a short 6-minute video explaining different routes into and the positive effects of working in the sector.

There are currently over 60,000 full-time jobs in horticulture. The video has been partly funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government to encourage the expansion of local food growing on a small and large scale.

As anyone who grows food for a living knows, there is something special about that connection to the land, soil, people and community. We need more young people to consider the benefits of being growers not just consumers.

This film also features one of our CSAs, Cae Tan

Watch the film here 
Here is an opportunity to take over a ready to go State of the art Regenerative, No-Dig commercial market garden in the Exeter. The owner is looking for experienced growers to take over asap.

The growing area is 1/2 acre + a polytunnel (16x7m). The field has 142 permanent no-dig beds (10m x 30″) in great condition, and there is space and potential to add at least another polytunnel.

Find out more here.
The Community Farm is a hive of activity all year round, with groups on the land most days and a constant flow of delicious veg and local products arriving in our warehouse. We’re looking for someone who’s strongly self-motivated with enthusiasm for food, farming and the natural world to create engaging and effective content to help communicate all the brilliant activities, programmes and events we are so proud to happen at The Farm. You will also be responsible for designing and producing The Farm’s content and communications materials.

Click here to find out more.
The Community Farm is seeking new people for its Management Committee.

If you care about climate change and the state of nature and want to make a difference, why not join them? They are a non-profit, community-owned organic horticulture and veg box operation that welcomes over a thousand people annually onto The Farm for all kinds of activities. They are seeking up to four people, including a Black Lives Matter Champion, a horticulturist and more.

Click here to find out more.
CSA Network UK Chair Ben Raskin and 
Co-ordinator Suzy Russell on the Radio

Radio Gloucester's Kate Clark's Sunday show on the 23rd April featured pieces on seasonal food and CSA. You can hear Chair, Ben Raskin 44 minutes in, and co-ordinator Suzy Russell at 1hr 12mins.

You can find the show on BBC Sounds here.
11/03/2023 -Press & Journal Scottish Daily NewspaperFieldfare CSA subscriber - Reader's letters section - link

7/03/2023 - Belfast Telegraph - Cookbook and CSA farm.- link

18/03/2023 - The Global Herald - Black owned farm with CSA - link

06/04/2023 - ARC 2020 - Diversified Diversification in Action - CSA in Cloughjordan, Ireland - link

07/04/2023 - The Province - CSA Bakery in Canada inspired by a British version - link

11/04/2023 - Coventry Live - Coventry Telegraph - Five Acre CSA at Ryton Gardens - link

28/04/2023 - Rural Realities | Testing Grounds for Wellbeing - “Nos Campagnes en Résilience” (now the Rural Resilience project) looked at agroecological transition initiatives in France through a socio-ecological lens - link

28/04/2023 - Firefighters help community farm install new swift nesting box - Firefighters from Morriston have come to the rescue of a Swansea community farm, after they needed a ‘swift’ hand installing new nesting boxes. - link

29/04/2023 -The Student Union website - 14 Ways to be a sustainable foodie - link
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Southam Road, Radford Semele
Leamington Spa
CV31 1TY
United Kingdom
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