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  • We’re enjoying local Cornish veg in spite of the freeze

    Posted on December 24th, 2010 charlotte No comments

    Camel CSA members are enjoying an awesome selection of fresh, seasonal produce from north Cornwall in their Christmas veg boxes.

    Our commitment to eating local food and reducing food miles has paid off. We can blissfully ignore rumours of a national Brussels sprouts shortage and avoid supermarket mayhem.

    Happy Christmas everyone!

  • Our veg boxes are well worth it

    Posted on August 25th, 2009 charlotte No comments

    The media reports constant debates among “experts” as to the true costs and intrinsic benefits of eating organic food.   Politicians have effectively copped out on this one.  They advocate consumer choice and say buying organic produce should be seen as a “lifestyle” decision.

    Small-veg-boxes camel csa 03-07-09We have our own way of assessing the value at Camel Community Supported Agriculture. 

    Each week one of Camel CSA’s expert growers calculates the “worth” of each box size in terms of retail value. So far, both the small and standard veg boxes have been “worth” more than £5 or £8 in retail terms. The problem is, they don’t necessarily look it.

     What we have to remember is that our vegetables are absolutely fresh. Our volunteers grew a significant proportion of them.  We use organic principles, which means no artificial chemical fertilisers or pesticides.

    They may look a little muddy at times (in spite of washing!) but they’ve suffered very few food miles. We can offer smaller, tastier veg, which carry a premium as they have scarcity value.

     We can all easily be sidelined by the two-for-one offers in the supermarkets, but these will conceal a price rise somewhere else in the store and the price cut is always met by the grower – not the retailer. We can’t realistically expect to meet the own brand, so-called “Value” products either.

    One of our core group members had this anecdote to tell after his family received their first veg box:

    “With regard to value, when one of our children took a look at the standard £8 box this week (our first) they thought it looked like poor value, at which they were challenged to compare the cost with produce on Tesco’s website.

     

    “Thirty minutes later, with everything weighed out and the computer consulted, they came back saying the contents would have cost over £11!  So no complaints from us.”

    Surpluses

    Our very first boxes contained an incredibly generous amount of produce and looked wonderful as a result.  Since then, we’ve had to be a bit more realistic.

    Amounts will always vary from week to week depending on gluts, famines and weather conditions (but not locusts, thank goodness!)

    Standard-veg-box camel csa 03-07-09In summer there is likely to be more to share out in terms of surpluses. During the “hungry gap” in late winter, there is likely to be less.  But it will even out over 52 weeks of the year.  So loyalty pays off.

    Box presentation

     A lot falls down to how the boxes are presented.  In the initial stages of Camel CSA’s vegetable box scheme, this definitely could have done with some improvement.  For some of us volunteers it’s been a steep learning curve!

    The core management group has discussed at length how to make our weekly share look more attractive.  For instance, we are busy sourcing shallower boxes and useful things like paper bags, string and rubber bands so we can bunch up some of the smaller veg like spring onions and parsley.  But we do have to be mindful of how much time this can take and we’re reluctant to introduce wasteful packaging. 

    It’s worth bearing in mind that members of the well-established Stroud Community Agriculture project have to pack (but not pick) their own share – a big saving on time for the growers and volunteers.

     Our expert growers, who have their own businesses to run, can’t stand over us all the time.  For the moment, they are drawing up some “box presentation guidelines” to help the picking and packing team.

    Watch our latest video: Camel CSA – Our first harvest

  • How we’re securing veg supply

    Posted on August 20th, 2009 charlotte No comments

    Camel Community Supported Agriculture is starting to source vegetables from outside suppliers.  Up until now the contents of our weekly veg boxes have come from our own site at St Kew Highway and from our three expert growers.

    camel-csa 09-08-09Our business plan allows us to buy in up to 40% of box contents over the course of a year, but during the rest of Year Zero we may have to increase that proportion.  Provided our bid for external funding is successful, this should not need to happen in the future.

    This new move has led to some debate among members.  It’s proved impossible to source sufficient organic vegetable supplies within a 30-mile radius.  However we are in contact with some reliable small-scale local suppliers whose vegetables are not grown to organic principles.

    Compromise

    So we have a dilemma.  Do we insist on organically-grown vegetables that could come from afar or do we buy local vegetables that may not be organic?

    Either way, we have to compromise: either by clocking up extra food miles or temporarily abandoning our organic food-growing principles.

    We’ve been sounding out the views of members at our recent volunteering sessions and over the ether.  The response has been interesting.

    weeding-camel-csa 09-08-09With a couple of exceptions, members feel they would rather eat local food that is not strictly organic provided it comes from within our own immediate community in north Cornwall.  They don’t like the idea of clocking up food miles by using suppliers who are some distance away – maybe as far as east Devon. 

    Local food

    Ideally, the membership would like to source organic veg locally but realise this is not practicable in the short term.  They say they’d rather keep our veg box scheme going over the winter months and use the opportunity to start building up important local networks of small vegetable growers.  

    Some responses from our members: –  

    “Very happy with that – a pragmatic response to a short term problem.”

     

    “We would definitely support the option of buying in local non-organic veg over shipping it in from further afield or taking a box holiday.” 

     

    “Buy from local, especially small-scale local, rather than organic from further afield if necessary (fewer food miles).”

     

    “We’d be happy with local produce even if not totally organic rather than shipping it in.”

    Green manure

    weeding-carrots-camel csa 14-08-09 Our volunteer teams have been busy weeding row after row of carrots.  We’ve also begun the laborious task of pulling up the plastic mulch from the disused strawberry beds in preparation for sowing a crop of green manure. 

    Thanks to Sunday’s volunteers – expert growers Jeremy and Mark N, helped by Carmen, Charlotte, Danny, Ian, Kitty, Mike H and Mike S, plus Finn aged five and three-year-old Keira.  

    A special mention to Steve, who singlehandedly weeded a whole 29-metre-long carrot bed on Friday.  Trish masterminded the packing of the boxes along with pickers Charlotte, Mike H and Penny. 

    Watch our latest video: Camel CSA – Our first harvest