Thursday 18 November 2010

Norwich Community Supported Agriculture

Welcome to the first Theme Week update from Norwich’s newborn Community Supported Agriculture scheme. For those new to the idea, here’s more about what one is. We’ve been in the process of setting up a CSA for Norwich for around 18 months, and now things are really starting to happen...

Firstly, that’s our new tractor there on the left, isn’t it handsome? Now, hold onto your hats, because this all gets terribly technical from here. On Monday night 5 of us gathered to sign the subscription papers which comprise the company formation documents. (Or possibly, to sign the company formation documents which comprise the subscription papers... I’m still not quite clear about that.)

Either way, those papers will now be sent to the Financial Standards Authority to be ratified- which will finally make us official.

We discussed lots of different forms we could take- and decided on the wonderfully named “Industrial and Provident Society”. Even more wonderfully, the second article of the rules of an I&PS state that we:

“shall have regard to promoting the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being of the community, especially those who participate in the activities of the Co-operative”.

This seemed to fit our purpose nicely, and it gives us the space to be something quite different from a ‘limited company’.

Norwich CSA is based upon a vision of doing something really different-something not yet available in Norwich.

To help us develop that vision, we’re holding a visioning meeting at 7.30 next Wednesday (24th) in Room 5 at the Baptist Church on Duke Street. The meeting will be open to absolutely everyone with an idea about what the CSA should be, do or strive to achieve. The more people who come and contribute to this vision, the more fully the CSA will be able to meet the desires of our community. As Tully said: “Please do come along- and bring your wildest dreams with you.”

Incidentally: if you’ve heard of the CSA and would like to buy our veg but haven’t yet told us so, you can
sign up quickly and easily.

On Tuesday night our focus shifted as the Growing and Environment group met. We discussed lots of intricacies, but the big excitement of the night was Jason (a local forester) unveiling his tree-planting plan. We’ve room at the CSA site for an astonishing 1,100 trees- which will provide vital functions to the CSA: acting as windbreaks and shelter belts, hedging and bugbanks (giving home to beneficial insects); as well as giving us wood from coppicing, willow for courses and crafts and of course fruit for our members- all whilst making the place look pretty & being good for wildlife.

Jason has chosen the tree species with care- selecting mostly native trees which will do well in the area, but also with an eye to climate change: our native oaks and beeches are unlikely to thrive as the climate changes.

Which brings us neatly back to our reasons for developing a CSA. Local food requires less transport and packaging. Organic growing methods lock up carbon instead of emitting it.

A CSA lets us think in new ways about our land and food and the way we work with both. As just one example of what we can achieve by thinking differently: our hedge will lock up around 7 tonnnes of CO2 in its lifetime- but cutting and maintaining it by tractor would emit 3-4 tonnes. So we plan to do it by hand. That in turn gives us the opportunity to run courses in the traditional skill of hedge-laying.

After our visioning evening, the next big event will be on the weekend of 29th and 30th January (Just in time for Bridgid’s Day) when we will all gather at the Farm in Postwick to plant our trees. All 1,100 of them. So you’ll understand when I say we’re hoping that you all join in! You can tell us you’d like to be involved here, which will help us in planning the weekend. Please do come along, we think it will be a wonderful celebration of everything we’ve achieved so far and an opportunity to look forward to all our future successes.

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