Community Supported Agriculture project update

Below is a summary written by Dani from the Food Group of the Open Meeting of Community Harvest Whetstone (CHW) on 15th June 2009 …

The meeting was attended by around 30 of you, coming from different parts of the county (+ Rugby) but mostly from neighbouring villages and the southern part of the city. For the benefit of those who couldn’t be there and to refresh the memory of those who were this is what happened…

After a few words of welcome from Sandra and Anthony Herbert – who own Whetstone Pastures Farm – we had a short introduction to the ideas behind Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes in general and CHW in particular.

We then played a game (Web of Resilience) to focus on the facts that different elements of a system (in this case a field) are all interrelated and only work when they are part of a web. A walk to the field then took place and we looked and asked questions about the area where most of the vegetables are going to be grown. Back at the tearoom there was time to grab a drink and a nibble before splitting into 5 groups to discuss questions such as: Why should I join the project? What are my doubts? What do I find exciting about it? The answers to the first question ranged from environmental and health benefits (fewer food miles, natural methods of producing healthy, fresh and seasonal food, traceability) to educational and social ones. Involvement in a local project and direct contact with those who grow our food were seen as very positive points. Also the building of food security in a future of environmental and energy insecurity.

Most of the doubts revolved around the financial commitment, the size of the project, how finances will be run, the possible failure of crops, what variety would be available, waning of enthusiasm and people dropping out.

The exciting points were: Being part of a new community project where others do the digging for you; eating locally produced veg that taste like veg; taking part in the social events that will be organised; learning new skills; and for some even the gambling thrill!!! We then finished with over half an hour of questions and answers.

The meeting finished around 9.15 and since then more work has been going on to further define the project and give more answers to your questions and doubts. This is what’s been happening since:

  • A small group of people have been meeting to work out a growing plan for the 2 acre field and the polytunnel. They’re identifying what vegetables we can expect to grow in the first year and also costs and methods involved.
  • Another small group has been working on a business plan for the project (if any of you has time, energy and/or experience in this area and would like to help please contact Sarah Higginson on sarahhigginson AT hotmail.co.uk)
  • Two more people have been looking at the legal side of things: structure, constitution etc (anyone willing to get involved please contact Pam Bellinger on Pam AT phonecoop.coop)
  • We’ve also recently heard from the Big Lottery Local Food Programme that we’ve been successful with the first stage of our application for funding to cover start up costs. We now need to get to work immediately on filling in the second stage application form. If you have experience in funding applications and have some time to spare please get in touch with Dani Pattuzzi on dani.pattuzzi AT googlemail.com.
  • At the moment around 15 of you have declared (in various degrees) an interest in subscribing to a share of the produce. This is pretty good. We’re aiming to have between 20-25 people buying shares in the first year. Unless you’ve already done it, can you please confirm to me (dani.pattuzzi AT googlemail.com) and to Sarah Higginson (sarahhigginson AT hotmail.co.uk) by 31st July that you really really, very very, seriously seriously intend to buy a share of CHW veggies, please? That means £12 a week paid quarterly in advance (about £155 every 3 months). No money will have to be paid for a while yet, as we’re hoping to have funding to cover initial costs but it would help our business plan to know how much money we can expect to be coming in.
  • Also if you don’t want a share but would like to be a supporting member for around £2 a month, please let us know.
  • If you want to be involved in driving the project forward especially in these initial stages but also once it’s up and running, you’re welcome to join a Core Group of around 12 people who are meeting about every 2 weeks at the moment while the project is being set up. (In the future there should be no need to meet more often than once a month.)

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