Friends of the Earth (FOE) Brisbane recently launched a new publication called Towards a Community Supported Agriculture. The report details a vision of a responsible food system completely different to the mainstream market. It is a vision that replaces fast food with slow food, and the 'global supermarket' with local and seasonal produce. In this system the important motivator of the current food system, private profit, is balanced by responsible agriculture and nutritional and cultural goals.
FOE builds the case for an alternative way by reporting on the problems of industrial food systems, including pesticide use and genetically modified organisms. They cite spiralling debt, reducing net farm income and increased risk of production for the farmer. Environmental problems caused by thie food system are increasing and land degradation feeds back into the system, placing more pressure on yields and profitability.
According to FOE, community supported agriculture is a concept that encourages local, environmentally sustainable food production, and offers support for both farmers and consumers. It is expressed in different ways and forms, depending on agreements between producers and consumers, but a central idea is that consumers will in some way share the risks of food production. They do this by buying shares, paid at least partially in advance, and these funds are used by the farmer to grow crops, alleviating debt and market uncertainty.
The benefits of community supported agriculture include:
Support for the biodiversity of the region and the diversity of productive agriculture, because the smaller farms grow a wider range of crops
Protection of farmland from urban development, because it helps smaller farms to remain financially viable
Reduced waste because produce is sold locally (less transport) and with minimal packaging
It encourages a sense of social responsibility and land stewardship
Support for sustainable farming techniques
Consumers also benefit by:
Access to fresh, organic produce, often at less than retail price
Shareholders get in touch with the land
De-commodification of food, because they become learn where and how it is produced
Farmers benefit because:
They can obtain a reliable income, including financial contribution by shareholders at planting time.
They have a guaranteed outlet for produce
Business risks caused by climate are shared by all
Debt is reduced
Harvest losses or wasrage can be reduced
They have direct contact with consumers, who appreciate their efforts
Time saved in marketing can be diverted to better management.
Towards a Community Supported Agriculture is a well researched, easy to read report. It clearly describes some of the problems of conventional agriculture and food systems, and a clear picture of how these may be tackled, to advantage the producer, consumer the environment and society at large, It contains some case studies and reference.
Friends of the Earth Brisbane can be contacted at PO Box 5702 West End, Queensland 4101, phone 07 38465793 or email firstname.lastname@example.org website www.brisbane.foe.org.au