Richard Gorman discusses how animals can fit within the CSA model in this two part blog.
There’s been a great deal of research on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and related models of alternative agriculture, but very little attention has been paid as to how animals fit into such systems.
Horticultural forms of CSA have dominated research despite a growing number of projects in the UK farming and keeping animals simultaneously to vegetable cultivation such as, The Oak Tree Low Carbon Farm or Cae Tan, or even in some cases, applying the CSA model of sharing the responsibilities and rewards of farming to livestock production by itself, such as Chagfarm or Jollyfarm. There’s even some great examples of applying a CSA style model to beekeeping – Bungay Community Bees and Canalside Community Bees are just two more examples of the innovative ways people are integrating animal life into community supported food production, as a way of moving towards creating a more socially just, locally based, and sustainable food system.
However, there are numerous barriers and challenges facing CSAs who want to innovate and expand to include animals and animal products as part of their share offer. Challenges range from dealing with livestock and slaughter regulations, to managing expectations and values of existing vegan and vegetarian members.
Access to land is a huge challenge for any CSA, however, when including animals in the mix, it becomes an even larger struggle to find the perfect site. Finding the room and grazing space to keep animals is often simply not possible, particularly when combined with finding a site that is accessible enough to comfortably keep animals in a safe and secure manner.
“Animals need caring for, veg doesn’t need letting out every morning”
Despite these challenges however, there are huge rewards to be had from having the animals on site and as part of a CSA farm’s share offer.
Perhaps the most obvious reason for including animals in a farming system is the food they produce. Meat, dairy, eggs, and honey are all being produced via a CSA model at farms around the UK. Often this arises from a demand for a local supply of food or a desire for a specific quality in the food (organic, biodynamic).
Although, food is not always the main goal that CSAs have when they introduce animals to the farm. Instead it is often the benefits and synergies with existing horticultural plans that necessitate adding animal life to the farm, for soil fertility, pest control, and even ground breaking.
“We just needed to restore the soil, that’s why we got chickens and geese. And the eggs and the meat are a good side effect; its just a benefit”
Some CSAs have added animals to their growing schemes as a way of encouraging new members, marketing contact with animals. Similarly, animal encounters are often cited as adding to a sense of place & improving the social element of the CSA.