COVID-19

Resources for CSAs

We know you’ve all been working very hard to maintain and ensure the local food supply during these challenging times. Many CSAs are experiencing an increase in demand and having to change their operations to maintain the safety of their workers, members and wider community… all during the hungry gap and beginning of the growing season!

As a Network, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate the hard work that you’re doing. The resilience of the CSA model seems especially relevant and encouraging in this collective moment. This is mutual aid and food security in action.

We’ve compiled a number of resources below that might be useful as you adapt to the current situation and these will be updated and added to as things progress. If you have any questions that aren’t answered here or are facing any challenges, please reach out and let us know how we can be of assistance!

Obviously, we are not experts and none of the following resources should be seen as guidance on how to proceed. Each CSA will need to inform themselves of the official guidance and take the best decisions for your own circumstances. This is also not meant as an exhaustive list in any way, but only an indication of some of the things you may want to be thinking about and addressing in creating your own response to COVID-19.

We are also running a series of webinars in partnership with the LWA and OGA as follows:

PLANNING FOR UNCERTAINTY: CONTINGENCY PLANNING FOR SMALL FARMS

Webinar has taken place

The Covid-19 pandemic has made us all aware of the impact unforeseen events can have on our food and farming businesses. Contingency planning is a way to plan for uncertainty so you’re better prepared to respond to shocks and adapt quickly and effectively. We’ll introduce the basic concepts of contingency planning so you can apply these tools to your own circumstances whether thinking about the continuing effects of the pandemic, looking towards possible impacts of the climate crisis and which crops will work best or just thinking about how you’d manage a long-term staff absence.

Watch here

HOW CAN CSAS HELP TO ADDRESS FOOD POVERTY IN THE UK?

Wednesday 21st October 7-8.30pm

A discussion of how, as small agroecological farmers, we can combat food poverty and increase access to food. Panelists include Humphrey from Edible Futures, Jocelyn Parot from Urgenci and Dee Woods from Granville Community Kitchen

Watch here

BUILDING RESILIENT SEED SYSTEMS: LESSONS FROM LATIN AMERICA AND EUROPE 

Wednesday 16th September 7pm
A walk through various international grassroots seed systems and how we can use these lessons to build our seed network here in the UK.
Watch here

BUILDING AN ANTI-RACIST FARMING MOVEMENT WITH LEAH PENNIMAN

Weds 9th Sept 7:00 – 8:30pm

In partnership with Land In Our Names (LION) we are excited to be hosting a webinar with Leah Penniman from Soul Fire Farm to explore how we build an antiracist farming movement in the UK.

More info & tickets here 

 

WHY THE CSA MODEL WORKS FOR EVERYONE; PEOPLE, PLANET AND PRODUCERS

Webinar has taken place

Are you interested in setting up or converting to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model? Would you like to find out a bit more about CSA? Then this session is for you. We will hear from four different CSA growers about what CSA is, why they’ve chosen the model and how it works for them and everyone.

Watch here

IRRIGATION Q&A

Webinar has taken place

An informal Q&A session with Pete Dollimore sharing problems, solutions and ideas about irrigation and water management for small scale growers.

Watch here

SEED SAVING IN THE UK; A VIRTUAL TOUR WITH KATE MCEVOY AND BEN GABEL OF REAL SEEDS

Webinar has taken place

Join Kate McEvoy & Ben Gabel, co-founders of Real Seeds, for a virtual tour of their site in Pembrokeshire. Kate will give a guided ’tour’ in pictures of the Real Seeds land and seed crops, and talk about the challenges and joys of growing seed in west Wales, then Ben will take over and talk through the processing, cleaning and packing sides of being a seed company.

Watch here

INNOVATIVE DIRECT SALES OF MEAT – HOW DO YOU MAKE THE MOST OF THE WHOLE ANIMAL?

Webinar has taken place

Selling direct to customers can have multiple advantages; you miss out the middleman and make more on the carcass, you get to make more of a connection with your consumers and enjoy the benefits of community spirit.  What are people doing around the country to sell their meat products? We hear from initiatives around the country that have tried innovative direct sales techniques.

Watch here

RACE AND FARMING IN THE UK – WHAT ACTIONS CAN WE TAKE TO ADDRESS THE ISSUES?

(Webinar has taken place)

Dismantling systemic racism is central to the work of creating healthy, just food and farming systems for all. From the days of the colonial empire to the current industrial food system – so much of our food is produced with the sweat and blood of unpaid or vastly undervalued labour. Join us for a discussion about what actions we can take to address the issues.

Watch here

TIME TO CHANGE WITH VANDANA SHIVA
(Webinar has taken place)
Join the LWA with world famous environmental activist Vandana Shiva, alongside panelists Jyoti Fernandes from the LWA and Vicki Hird from Sustain. To discuss the need for radical change in our food system. As landworkers, farmers and growers, we will look at what we need to disrupt, and what to build and strengthen to support a real transformation in our food system.

Watch here

 

SETTING UP AND RUNNING COOPERATIVE SALES AND PURCHASING MODELS
(Webinar has taken place)
This webinar is to explore setting up and running cooperative sales and purchasing models for farmers and food systems. How can different farms work together to run cooperative sales / purchasing systems? What are the benefits of these systems? How can we make them sustainable? How can we make them successful?

Watch here

BUYING IN IN SCOTLAND: THE WHYS, WHERES AND HOWS

(Webinar has taken place)
Monday 15th June
7:00 – 8:30pm
Watch here

EXTENDING THE SEASON AND GROWING OVER WINTER IN SCOTLAND (Webinar has taken place)
Monday 1st June 7:00 – 8:30pm

Watch here

A LANDWORKERS GUIDE TO DIGITAL MARKETING AND SOCIAL MEDIA

Wed 27th May
(Webinar has taken place)

What precisely is digital marketing and why do you need to do it? Should you put your time into tweeting or get on the gram? Marketing and social media can be a bit of a minefield, but this webinar will take you through communications basics and help you work out where to put your energy. Whether you are an established business looking to up your game or just getting started with your new farm business, we’ll talk you through comms plans, blogs, newsletters and the pros and cons of the various social media channels.

Listen here

KEEPING OUR FARMS AND OUR PEOPLE SAFE NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE  Weds 20th May

(Webinar has taken place)

An open conversation to hear and share tips on what farms are doing and how they are interpreting government advice.
We will cover the various areas of farm work: on farm safety including people, tools and equipment, physical spaces; adapting for social distancing; produce including picking, packing and packaging and interaction with customers including collection, distribution and communication.

Listen here

SELLING YOUR PRODUCE ONLINE Weds 13th May

(Webinar has taken place)

In these strange COVID-19 times, the importance of having a way to sell your produce online is even more important than before.  However, it is a bit of a minefield out there and can greatly depend on whether you consider yourself tech-savvy or a digital luddite.
Do you go with an existing platform that does all the admin for you (but which one do you choose?), develop your own system with the aid of a web developer or compile info from emails into a good old excel spreadsheet?

Listen here

ADAPTING YOUR CROP PLAN FOR YEAR ROUND GROWING Wed 6th May (Webinar has taken place)

Listen here

SO YOU’RE STARTING A BOX SCHEME IN A PANDEMIC Wed 15th April 2020

(Webinar has taken place)

Listen here

Government Advice

The official government website has a lot of basic information and more detailed guidance on things like keeping employees safe, hygiene in the workplace, and so forth. It is a good place to start: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Guidance for employees, employers and businesses

Guidance for food businesses

Food Safety and Food Delivery from the Food Standards Agency

Food Handling Guidance

To the best of our knowledge there’s been no specific guidance on hygiene and other safety precautions around COVID-19 and the harvesting, handling or packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables and no food handling guidance issued in England as it is not considered a food safety issue.

However, the two resources below, issued by the Scotland and Ireland Food Standards agencies offer some good guidance that can be easily adapted to a CSA context.

https://www.fsai.ie/faq/coronavirus.html?fbclid=IwAR2AUjn8tfEKslPbGxZnyHSfSU27fD7-ZNkfmnfxSsE0pyViymCt3k-l2Oo

https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/consumers/food-safety/coronavirus?fbclid=IwAR2QTK8wfVpPUx0PlBsIDnSzlZOrLc2TxiPEQ4D-K6z_JenUYVg-NjlggYU

This is a recent article with experts discussing the evidence on whether COVID-19 can stay on food and other surfaces and for how long.

Meeting Increased Demand, Supporting Local Food

Many CSAs are reporting increased demand while many other market gardeners and local food producers have seen a disruption to their markets such as restaurants and pubs. If you have seen increased demand but aren’t able to grow more produce as a CSA, you may consider reaching out to other local growers to see if they have produce they need to sell.

The Organic Growers Alliance (OGA) has started a Covid Marketplace google spreadsheet to connect people who have excess supply or increased demand for local produce. There’s also a tab to post jobs in case anyone has a position to offer.

Some CSAs are also working with other local food producers to see how they can work together to support each other. If you’re looking at offering products from other producers such as meat, bread, etc. the Open Food Network may be a useful online platform. This is their Covid-19 resource page which has details about how to set up Online Sales through the OFN platform. https://community.openfoodnetwork.org.uk/t/covid-19-how-is-your-enterprise-responding/460

Volunteers and coronavirus

Lots of CSAs rely on volunteer labour to grow and distribute their produce. Many have asked questions about whether volunteers are allowed to continue working under the current government ‘lockdown’ rules. The National Council for Voluntary Organisation (NCVO) has spoken to the government and looked at the guidance and states:

  • People can go out to volunteer if they’re providing help to vulnerable people or if their volunteering cannot be done from home.
  • If volunteers must leave the house, they should spend as little time away from home as possible and follow government advice on social distancing.
  • Any volunteer may be stopped by the police and will be expected to explain why they are not at home. Send your volunteer a text or email listing their activities/tasks with your name and contact number, so they can show them. Be available on the phone in case the police call you to verify any details.

You can find more information from NCVO on involving volunteers during the coronavirus outbreak and Are volunteers on lockdown?

Of course, all of the guidance in the other sections about workplace precautions, such as personal hygiene and social distancing should apply to any volunteers and you should take measures to ensure all volunteers are made aware of and follow these new procedures.

Resources from other Organisations

Here are some other organisation’s resource pages that may be of interest to some CSAs.

Plunkett Foundation’s Community Business and Coronavirus: https://plunkett.co.uk/community-business-and-coronavirus/

NCVO, Your organisation and Coronavirus: https://www.ncvo.org.uk/practical-support/information/coronavirus

Sustain, Coronavirus food alert: https://www.sustainweb.org/coronavirus/

Land Workers’ Alliance Coronavirus support resources: https://landworkersalliance.org.uk/coronavirus-support/

 

Areas of Concern for CSAs, things to think about

For a CSA, it may be easiest to think through different areas of concern and how the risk for CSA workers, members and the wider community can be minimised in each instance. You may also want to start planning how you would handle the absence of any key staff members or volunteers should they become ill or need to self-isolate due to a member of their household showing symptoms.

Below are some areas of concern and potential things to think about as well as possible approaches or resources. This is not an exhaustive list by any means and nor is it meant to be prescriptive.

On farm

  • Hygiene measures
    • Hand washing facilities on site (NHS Handwashing guidance poster)
    • Sites can be large, if possible adjust work routines to allow for regular visits to hand washing facilities
    • If hand washing isn’t possible, use hand sanitiser before and after using commonly touched surfaces like door handles or padlocks
  • Cleaning
    • Common spaces and any frequently touched surfaces cleaned thoroughly and regularly. This may include things like door handles, gate latches, shed padlocks, tool handles, weighing scales and so forth.
    • Reduce tool sharing if possible. Work routines may need to be adapted to ensure any tools, etc. are cleaned before another person uses them.
    • If you have a smaller work force and multiple tools you may be able to ensure tools aren’t shared between workers by storing them separately and identifying the tools with different coloured electrical tape on the handles for each worker.
    • There’s specific guidance for cleaning after someone suspected of having coronavirus has been in the area.
  • Distancing in work areas
    • Wherever possible, social distancing should be maintained on site. This might be relatively easy in the field but may require more organisation or creativity when it comes to smaller spaces like propagation areas, packing sheds, polytunnels, etc.
    • One approach is to have two or more ‘teams’ that work on different shifts and never together. This would reduce the number of people on site at any one time but also isolates the work groups from each other, thereby reducing the possibility of the entire work force falling ill at the same time. One CSA in Australia has split their workers into the ‘chicken’ and ‘cow’ teams. The chicken team only ever works at the same time as other chickens and the same with the cows. Although they still take measures to maintain hygiene and physical distance while one team is on site, this reduces the likelihood of the entire workforce falling ill at the same time. If one ‘cow’ unfortunately infects several other ‘cows’, at least the ‘chickens’ are unlikely to be infected and they can carry on with work while the cows recover and complete any necessary self isolation.

Distribution

  • Changes to the distribution model can be time-consuming and costly but you may want to consider whether you’re able to make any temporary changes to your distribution model to reduce risks.
  • Some CSAs who have not previously offered delivery are now offering this option to all or some of their members. You may consider making arrangements for delivery to members who are self-isolating or vulnerable.
  • Some CSAs who usually have a ‘self-serve’ collection are now pre-packing shares to minimise the number of people handling produce.
  • If you do have members coming to collect on farm or collection points you may want to consider measures to ensure social distancing is followed such as only allowing a certain number of people in collection point at any time and designating a place for queuing with distance between people. You could also lengthen collection times or divide members into more collection time/day slots to reduce chances of several people collecting at the same time.
  • If you can’t deliver but want to minimise the number of people coming on site you could ask people to text from their car and have someone bring the share out and leave it next to the car for them.

Access for the most vulnerable

  • Many CSAs have some facility for those experiencing financial difficult to access a share. This may be through reduced rates for those on low income, voluntary donations from members allowing for subsidised shares, or providing vegetable donations to local charities. At this time when so many are experiencing financial uncertainty, any provision such as these that are able to be offered may be especially needed.
  • As stated above, you may also want to consider making special arrangements for members not able to leave their home to continue to receive a share.
  • The LWA has compiled a list of food banks and organisations working with those experiencing food poverty

Examples and Inspiration from other CSAs

Finally, here are some examples of communications on COVID-19 that have been sent by CSAs in the UK and elsewhere in the world to their members. You may find some useful ideas and even some inspiring words:

Camel CSA, Cornwall: http://camel-csa.org.uk/2020/03/25/how-camel-csa-is-dealing-with-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

Rocksteady Farm & Flowers, USA: https://www.rocksteadyfarm.com/news/resilience

Trumpeter Swan Farm, USA: http://www.trumpeterswanfarm.com/covid19_plan.htm

If you’re interested in examples of risk assessments or volunteer guidelines for COVID-19 from other CSAs please get in touch as we have some we can share with you.

 

Funding

There are a number of organisations making funds available at a local, regional and national level to support responses to Coronavirus. The following compiled lists may have funders who would be suitable for CSA responses or other local initiatives.

Grants Online: A number of Community Foundations and other organisations have launched funding programmes to assist local organisations in responding to the challenges of the Coronavirus Pandemic.  On this page you will find a list of organisations and the types of funding they have made available. This list will be updated over the next few days and weeks as and when information becomes available.

Sustain: Emergency funders list

Good Finance: Funder updates, articles, programmes and schemes supporting charities and social enterprises with financial resilience.