I was directed to this fab article about the Martin food cooperative this morning. This is exactly the kind of thing I would like to see happening all over the world. People taking responsibility for their own food. Now I'm not suggesting for a moment that we all need to start growing our own. It would be great if we could but in our industrialised country it's not possible everywhere, let alone the fact that not everyone has the time or skill to do so. No what I mean is supporting things like CSAs. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Basically you pay a set amount per month which gets you a share in the farm. For this you get a veg box every week during the growing season. Your money goes on equipment, seeds, paying the growers and improving the site. You can also volunteer to help out at the farm which obviously helps them out a lot. The one we have joined also runs social events for all share holders. Ours is also split into full shares, which would feed 3-4 people, or half shares which are for 1-2. Half shares cost slightly more as there is more admin work involved but this was very clearly explained before we signed up.
These schemes encourage small agriculture. I think that small agriculture is an important thing. Currently all our agriculture in this country is geared towards selling in large amounts. Farms focus on one product and market it to the supermarkets or to people who will turn it into something for the supermarkets. Communities don't see what is actually produced right on their doorsteps. It's not like you can find it in the supermarkets either. I have had days where I've struggled to find reasonably priced English bacon. Now I'm sure we have pigs in this country, I've seen them. But it makes more money to sell our products abroad and then import stuff. How nuts is that?!?
With the global markets for food we have lost all touch with what is seasonal. Why worry about it when you can have whatever tickles your fancy just by picking it off the shelf. Never mind that it's travelled half way around the world to get to you. Never mind that it was grown in a hot house so you could have it in December. Never mind that it has been hybridised to be plentiful and hardy without any consideration to the taste. Me and Spadger try our best to eat in season and in Europe at the furthest. We have a few exceptions, our sin foods if you like. One of these is bananas and the other is Sweet Potatoes. Everything else we look at the labels before we buy. English food is obviously preferable. Then comes Europe. We try to keep even the European food close to home. So if it's a choice between a french product or an Italian on the French would win. It means that we have to think more about what we are eating and it means we are expanding our culinary repertoires.
This weekend we went and collected our first share from the CSA. In it we got potatoes, carrots, sprouts, salad leaves, beetroot, celeriac, baby turnips and parsnips. We also got 2 bonus parsnips that were in the "gift box". I think they were there because they were too big, so wouldn't fit into the weight you were allowed, and also too ugly. I like ugly veg :o)
Now as you can see it's not a mountain of veg. It certainly won't last us a week. However this was the haul at the height of the none harvesting season. I'm quite chuffed with it. Now I just need to find celeriac recipes.