Camel CSA’s volunteers are doing an amazing job

October 2, 2011

I’ve not long returned from a Soil Association conference where we looked at the future of community supported agriculture schemes in the UK, like ours in north Cornwall.

One of the recurring themes of any CSA get-together is: How do we attract volunteers? And, once they’ve started, how do we keep them on board?

Camel CSA is like any other voluntary group. We have a dedicated core membership who can be relied on a week-by-week basis to administer the project, grow the food and pick and pack the veg.

But what’s proved interesting is the total number of hours worked by volunteers – not just the regulars. And this total is always far more than we think.

We keep a tally to pass on to our funding bodies – Local Food and East Cornwall Local Action Group.

Over the last year half our members have actively volunteered at some point. They’ve contributed a total of 1,500 hours’ hard graft – the equivalent of nearly 200 working days. The highest point – equivalent to 25 working days – was in May . The lowest, not surprisingly, was in January (eight working days).

All this ties in with the work that Exeter University / Volunteer Cornwall researcher Becky Harrison is doing with us and other social enterprises in Cornwall. Her research into environmental volunteering and well-being involves looking into why people are motivated to volunteer and how they can make the most it.

All I know is that it’s important to remind volunteers how valued they are, to keep them informed, to include them in decision-making and to remind them that we’re all in it together. 

Most of all, we need to remember that belonging to a CSA has all kinds of benefits. Which means making sure the dull and difficult jobs are not always done by the same people.

So a special mention for all the dock weed diggers, bean pickers and leek trimmers out there!

And grateful thanks to this week’s picking and packing team – Anne, Bob, Charlotte, Jax, Mike H, Mike S, Sophie, Steve, Sue, Trish F, Trish G and our expert growers Bridget and Mark N.

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