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  • My holiday with vegetables

    Posted on September 15th, 2009 charlotte No comments

    Holiday nightmare or domestic dream?  Frances is back home after a visit to her parents, who are enthusiastic members of Camel Community Supported Agriculture’s growing-our-own-food project…

    pumpkin 15-09-09“Who’d have thought I’d spend my first morning visiting my parents helping Mum make three lots of soup, the easiest and quickest way to make sure all the vegetables from the box got used.

    “Dad incidentally was out of the way, sorry, too busy up at the farm helping out with the other volunteers.

    “My favourite soup was the roast tomato and basil (see below), as the tomatoes actually tasted like tomatoes unlike the ones you get from the supermarket in Newcastle!

     “The fun didn’t stop there, with another vegetable box arriving towards the end of my visit. This box contained a wonderfully orange pumpkin which we roasted to make a pumpkin and sage risotto with blue cheese.

    “I made up the recipe, simply adding the roasted pumpkin to a basic risotto, adding chopped fresh sage leaves to the stock and cubes of blue cheese on top of the risotto at the end.

    “Although the pumpkin ended up being a little bit watery (perhaps we should have stuck to making soup!) the risotto turned out to be very good energy food for dancing the night away at the barn dance in St Mabyn that evening which was a lovely, if not exhausting end to my Cornwall visit.”

    Roast tomato and basil soup (adapted from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book)

    Preparation and cooking time: 40 minutes.  Serves 4

    Ingredients
    2 lbs fresh ripe tomatoes
    1 onion
    1 medium potato
    1 stick of celery
    1 carrot
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 litre of vegetable stock
    1 tablespoon tomato puree
    1 bunch of basil

     Method
    Halve tomatoes and place in baking tray. Sprinkle with oil and a few basil leaves. Cook in a hot oven for 30 minutes.  Chop onion, carrot, potato and celery finely and sautee gently in oil in a large pan for 10 minutes.  Add stock, salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.  When tomatoes roasted, remove skins and add to pan.  Chop stems of basil and half the leaves and add to the mix with tomato paste.  Simmer for a further 5 minutes.  Puree in a blender. Serve with a garnish of basil leaves.

  • Camel CSA hosts Soil Association mentoring event

    Posted on September 11th, 2009 charlotte No comments

    Camel Community Supported Agriculture has been chosen to host a new type of training event being organised by the Soil Association. 

    Volunteers  - cropped 12-07-09A total of 23 grow-your-own-food enthusiasts in the south-west, from Land’s End to Totnes, are taking part.  It’s proved so popular that more than 10 would-be participants have had to be turned away.

    The horticultural mentoring event for existing and prospective CSA groups and growers in the south west is on Monday 14 September at our site at St Kew Highway behind St Kew Harvest Farm Shop.

    It will give us an opportunity to consider soil fertility, crop planning and other important aspects of community supported agriculture.  It’ll also help us build all-important networks with other growing groups.

    Advice

    onion harvest-Camel-CSA 09-08-09The event’s being organised by Ben Raskin, the Soil Association’s learning manager and horticultural advisor, with the financial backing of the Making Local Food Work project.  Ben says:

    “The idea is to put growing groups with similar aims into mentoring groups where they can get help and advice.

     

    “There’s been a massive response to these mentoring events from Cornwall and Gloucestershire in particular, which is fantastic. We’ve had to turn people away from next week’s session at St Kew Highway and there is a waiting list of 10.

    Cornwall is already playing a leading role in the Making Local Food Work programme led by the Plunkett Foundation.  As Jan Trefusis of the foundation says in a recent magazine article:

    “Cornwall really is the star of this programme, with a high proportion of our uptake for the project coming from across the region.”

    Tim Deane from Northwood Farm near Exeter in Devon, who founded the UK’s first organised vegetable box scheme, will share 30 years’ experience of crop planning, labour and machinery needs at the event.  

    Dedicated

    Weeding-brassicas-camel csa 08-09-09Camel Community Supported Agriculture’s own team of expert growers – Jeremy Brown, Jane Mellowship and Mark Norman – will describe the ups and down of the initial six months of our own local food project.

    The initiative to grow our own food and to share the risks and rewards would never have got off the ground without their combined skills and dedication.  They’ve willingly devoted many hours of unpaid work to what’s often been an uphill task.

    Jeremy, Jane and Mark have been brilliant; there’s no other way of putting it.  Camel CSA members owe them a big debt.  We cannot thank them enough.

    • See and hear what our expert growers have to say on Camel CSA’s latest video – Our first harvest
  • 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

  • We’re getting to know our onions

    Posted on August 11th, 2009 charlotte No comments

    Camel CSA - 09-08-09One vegetable that Camel Community Supported Agriculture members can rely on this season is the humble onion.  There should be enough to fill the veg boxes until the New Year.

    The growing team got on their hands and knees on Sunday and pulled up hundreds of red and white onions and a row of shallots before the heavens opened and the rain poured down (yet again).

    Our onion harvest is now in dry storage in shed space kindly provided by Camel CSA volunteer Mark Malcolmson.

    The expert growers have been taking an audit of what’s going to be available from our site at St Kew Highway over the next few weeks, apart from onions.  We can expect more chard, beetroot, carrots, potatoes and parsley in the short term.

    In November we can look forward to cauliflower and two varieties of cabbage, followed by parsnips and kale.  In December we should get some purple sprouting broccoli, with Jerusalem artichokes in January.

    Pesky predators

    Unfortunately the runner beans, the French beans, the courgettes and our third crop of peas are all looking very sorry for themselves.

    Camel CSA 09-08-09We’ve been overrun by voracious rabbits.  It’s been a bad year for them.  They’ve even been taking chunks out of the onions!  The newest predators on the block are a family of partridges, which seem to love the peas.

    Our financial wish-list includes predator-proof fencing and additional protective fleece, but we don’t have enough money at the moment to do anything more about this.  Hence our bid for external funding.

    Continuity of supply

    In the meantime, we will continue to fill the gaps by buying in vegetables from our three expert growers.  Mark Norman has plenty of courgettes, with leeks and swedes to come.  He will also have celery and celeriac plus parsnips, potatoes and onions, if need be.

    Jane Mellowship will continue to provide salad bags throughout the autumn and winter months.  Jeremy Brown can supply salad leaves, tomatoes and cucumbers as well as peppers, chillies and pumpkins. 

    We are also busy looking locally for new partners who can supply us with potatoes, carrots and other mainstay items to help fill up our veg boxes during the autumn and winter.

    Big effort

    Camel CSA 09-08-09Volunteer growers, pickers and packers are making a fantastic effort at the moment on Friday and Sunday mornings. 

    Apart from harvesting the onions, the growers have made a concerted attack on the weeds, as well as pruning and tying up the boysenberries.  All under the guidance of expert growers Jane, Jeremy and Mark N, helped variously over the two days by Charlotte, Danny, Fiona, Kitty, Mark M, Mike H, Mike S, Penny and Trish. 

    Friday’s picking and packing team comprised Callum (10), Leonie, Mark M, Mike H, Robert,  Tom (11) and Trish, who packed the boxes.  They harvested, sorted, counted out and bunched up enough vegetables to fill 23 boxes for grateful members.  But they still need more rubber bands!

    Many thanks to Jeremy G, who took the pictures.

    Watch our latest video: Camel CSA – Our first harvest

  • Sharing the Big Lunch surrounded by yurts

    Posted on July 22nd, 2009 Danny No comments

    Bad weather meant we had to move Camel Community Supported Agriculture’s first Big Lunch event from our site at St Kew Highway to South Penquite Farm on Bodmin Moor, home of Cathy our treasurer.

    We sheltered in the farm’s education centre from the strong wind and the rain which was getting even heavier. Our members mixed with campsite guests to enjoy a delightful lunch with a huge variety of delicious dishes. 

    Camel CSA 19-07-09Everybody made such an effort to create amazing homemade food for all of us to share.  Broad bean salad, vegetable stir fry, pea soup, seasonal spelt salad, tortilla, quiche and lots of cakes disappeared quickly.

    The children were able to enjoy themselves on a bouncy castle and play football in the barn.  Then they disappeared to seek further adventures in the campsite’s three yurts. 

    Adults enjoyed folk music entertainment on harmonica and guitar.  There were smiles, laughter, singing and talking all around the table.   Jonny Blenkin, one of the campers, said:

    “Thank you so much for inviting us. We had a fantastic time.”

    (This post was written by both Danny and Antonina.)

  • Reap the rewards

    Posted on June 24th, 2009 charlotte No comments

    It’s that moment we’ve all been waiting for!  We’re about to harvest some of our own food.

    Camel Community Supported Agriculture’s first vegetable boxes will be ready on Friday 3 July.  Any member who would like to share in the harvest should contact our treasurer Cathy Fairman as soon as possible.   

    Camel CSA 14-06-09

    The first boxes have been allocated to members who have paid in advance.  They will be ready to collect on Friday 3 July from St Kew Harvest Farm Shop at any time between 12 noon and 5 p.m.  Cathy says:

    “We are all hoping that these boxes will meet expectations. Please, please, if for any reason you are not totally happy let us know.  We really want to get this right so your input is crucial.”

    We also need volunteers to pick vegetables and pack the boxes.  Cathy adds:

    “We will be picking and packing the vegetables on Friday mornings.  Times will vary and we would like to form a rota of volunteers to help the growers in this. Any members who would be able to help please let me know.”

    Volunteer growers

    If any members would like to help on the site at St Kew Highway outside the normal volunteer times on Thursday and Sunday mornings, please contact expert grower Jeremy Brown on 07971762227 or phone St Kew Harvest Farm Shop on 01208 841818.  There’s lots to do as usual!

    Last Sunday we constructed more growing beds, spread compost, sowed extra carrots, did loads of hand weeding, spread concentrated chicken manure on the potatoes and dug up scores of dock leaves that were threatening to go to seed.

    Many thanks to expert growers Jane and Jeremy B and to volunteer members Carolyn, Cath, Charlotte, Diana, Mark M and Mike S.

  • Camel CSA goes on show

    Posted on May 15th, 2009 charlotte No comments

    making-local-food-workWe have an incredible opportunity to publicise our exciting new community food growing initiative at this year’s Royal Cornwall Show near Wadebridge from June 4-6.

    Camel Community Supported Agriculture has a stand in the show’s Cornwall Food and Farming Pavilion.  This is thanks to the Plunkett Foundation, which manages the nationwide Making Local Food Work campaign, and also the support of the Soil Association.

    The pavilion is a must-see feature which hosts 60 local producers and their displays of Cornish food and drink.  It attracts thousands of show visitors every year.

    If you are a Camel CSA member and would like to help out on the stand for a few hours please get in touch with Antonina at St Kew Harvest on 01208 841818.

  • Camel CSA sows the first seeds of success

    Posted on March 12th, 2009 Pickle Design No comments

    We’ve started to get stuck in!  Camel Community Supported Agriculture’s first vegetables are now in the ground.   We’ve planted several rows of broad beans and Jerusalem artichokes, guided by our team of expert growers.  Parsley, cabbage and calabrese seeds are all germinating in the poly tunnel. 

    We’re inviting volunteers to come along and get involved every Sunday morning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on our site behind St Kew Harvest Farm Shop at St Kew Highway.

    Remember to bring wellies, waterproofs, drinks and a snack.  And don’t forget a pair of gardening gloves! Also bring any tools, ideally wheelbarrows, shovel, spades, forks and rakes.   You’ll be made very welcome.

    Find out more from Alex at alex@olivetreeevents.co.uk or Antonina at St Kew Harvest on 01208 841818.

    Click here for directions to the site.

  • Welcome to Camel CSA

    Posted on February 5th, 2009 Pickle Design No comments

    logo-for-web

    Who are we? We are a group of people interested in helping to produce our own food using organic farming principles.

    Where? We are based at St Kew Highway in north Cornwall on land around St Kew Harvest Farm Shop. The project welcomes new members from within approximately a 10-mile radius of St Kew.

    What is a CSA? Camel CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is all about connecting people with the land where their food is grown.

    Volunteers work with experienced farmers and growers on land managed by the group to produce food they can  share with their families.  A CSA is committed to the community by providing employment, education, recreation and supporting local farmers and producers. Our CSA is non-profit taking so all money is ploughed back into the project.

    What are the benefits?

    • You will be eating fresh, healthy and nutritious food from just a few miles away
    • You know where your food comes from and the people who grow it
    • You get to enjoy fresh air and fun (and exercise!) by sharing in the work and the harvest
    • You get a say in how your food is produced and the chance to take advice and learn from professional growers
    • You can help to make your community a better, healthier place

    How does Camel CSA work? Each member has an equal vote in how the group is managed. Members can also purchase a weekly share of the produce, which can either be collected from the site in St Kew or at drop-off points that we hope to establish in surrounding areas.

    When we are successful with our funding bids, we will use local professional growers to develop the main site and provide advice and assistance to any volunteers who participate. Initially a small site is being developed with voluntary help to start the growing process. Any extra vegetables needed for the boxes will be bought in from farmers in the area.

    How much does it cost? Membership is £24 per year. Weekly shares in the vegetable harvest will be available for members. Small box (feeds 1-2) – £5; Medium box (feeds 2-4) – £8; Large box (feeds 4+) – £15