100 paying members secure the long-term future for Devon organic farm.
On seven rented acres at Chagford on Dartmoor, Ed Hamer grows about 100 organic varieties of vegetables, herbs and soft fruit that pay his wages and provides 100 families with year-round produce.
The 100 individuals and families are all members of Ed’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme. Most simply put, this scheme is a partnership between farmers and consumers in which the risks and rewards of farming are shared. Farmers involved in such schemes receive a more stable and secure income from the membership subscriptions, as well as a closer link to the community. His members benefit from eating fresh, healthy local food alongside feeling more connected to the land where their food is grown and, in some cases, getting hands on to learn new skills.
Ed loves the CSA model because it allows members to invest in the long-term future of the farm, and it assures the farmer of an income that would otherwise be jeopardized by the unpredictability of weather or market fluctuations.
The assured revenue stream of a CSA also allows the farmer to avoid the need for pesticides and herbicides that are applied with the aim of protecting crops, while subscriptions nurture members’ connection with the farm.
“From the consumer’s point view, the CSA gives a level of connection that you really can’t get otherwise,”
he said, adding that there are now about 250 such schemes operating in Britain.
Ed, 34, grew up on livestock farms in the Chagford area, studied agriculture at university and spent a few years as an agricultural journalist for The Ecologist magazine. That assigned him to a story on CSAs, which convinced him to return to farming using that economic model.
One hundred members paying an average of 500 pounds a year generate revenue of 50,000 pounds, of which 20,000 is spent on running costs, leaving 30,000 for the wages of Ed, his business partner, and his wife, who works part time.
It’s not much but he never had illusions that he would get rich as an organic vegetable farmer. “You don’t get into this business to make a lot of money, you do it more for the quality of life,” he said.
Ed also has the satisfaction of knowing that every penny of what his members pay goes straight to the farm. That contrasts with most farmers who, due to distribution costs and supermarket markups, get only a fraction of what their crops are finally sold for.
Find out more at Ed's website: www.chagfood.org.uk.
For more information about CSA schemes please visit: www.communitysupportedagriculture.org.uk.