Canalside Community Food
Canalside Community Food provides seasonal, fresh and organic produce for people in the Warwick and Leamington Spa area. It is run by a small and committed group of people, who have been meeting since 2005.
The land and production
Canalside grow a large variety of vegetables and fruit on ten acres leased from Leasowe Farm, a certified organic farm on a rolling five year lease. They have seven polytunnels, a self-built polebarn and a geodome. They have access to farm machinery including a small tractor, included in the rent.
Founding members Tom and Caz Ingall met Judy Steele and Gareth Davies from the local environmental group Action 21, who for many years had been keen to start a CSA farm. They held their first public meeting to which 80 people came and in their first season 60 signed up for shares. They started full scale vegetable production in spring 2007.
None of the founding members had any growing experience and so they mostly taught themselves. Tom volunteered at Ryton Organic Gardens for four months to learn from experts. They also employed a consultant from Ryton on a part-time basis to assist with crop planning, disease control, choosing varieties and planting schedules. This expertise was crucial in the early days to ensure they got off to a strong start.
Canalside was set up as a separate entity to the farm and is a company limited by guarantee. A steering group is made up of 10 Canalside members including the main grower, admin and finance assistants and representatives of the work and veg share members. They make the key decisions for the smooth running of the CSA.
Canalside currently supplies 150 households with vegetable shares all year around, supplemented by seasonal fruit. They grow all their own field-scale vegetables including potatoes, carrots and onions. They offer three sized shares to their members: large (£65 per month), medium (£43.30 per month) or small (£29.80 per month).
Members visit the farm to collect their produce on a weekly basis, where the vegetables are freshly picked and placed in crates in the polebarn. For an additional £2.20 per month, covering packing and delivery, veg shares can be collected from a cooperative retailer in the nearby town. They have developed strong links with local shops where they sell their surplus and advertise their CSA scheme.
General membership is £2 per month (£1 for concessions) which partially funds administration and events. The farm actively encourages members to attend bi-weekly work mornings, social farm events, workshops and the AGM.
Canalside was initially funded by a £10,000 interest-free loan from a member combined with a number of members paying for whole year’s vegetables in advance. The farm has now paid off the loan and it is now financially self-sufficient through membership fees and vegetable shares. The CSA received a capital grant from the local food fund in 2010 to establish an orchard and is now integrating the orchard management and produce into the CSA business as a whole.
There is one full-time grower and one part-time grower working on the farm along with an admin assistant (part-time) and finance assistant (part-time) who are all paid £10 per hour.
The steering committee recently produced a business plan with a number of strategic aims including an investment plan for the farm to become more self-sufficient in resources and machinery, provide incremental pay increases in line with inflation, and a resolve to build up a strategic reserve.