Cambridge CropShare is an innovative producer-community partnership CSA in the east of England, seven miles outside the city of Cambridge. The community formed as a result of the local Transition Town Food Group, and the producer involved is Waterland Organics, a long established 65 acre organic veg farm, who have since set up their own producer-led CSA scheme.
Cambridge CropShare runs throughout the growing season, when a small group of volunteer co-ordinators, the CropShare Crew, organise weekend farm days for volunteers who sign up in advance. Typically there are around 20 Saturday farm days from March to October.
Volunteers help with whatever is happening on the farm: mending polytunnels, seeding, planting, weeding, harvesting, , enjoy a bring and share lunch and get to take home whatever seasonal veg is about on the farm on the day. In 2016 over 100 different volunteers joined in on the farm days, lift sharing to the farm or joining a group who cycle the seven miles from Cambridge city centre.
Founder member Helen Holmes writes: “When we started talking about setting up a local CSA in the Transition Food Group in 2010, I think the only output on my mind was the opportunity to get out and grow fresh organic veg that I would be able to take home. In our first official Cambridge CropShare season in 2011, I and the other volunteer members got 25 kg onions as well as a good sun tan.
I didn’t appreciate the social output the project would have and how providing access to land would positively affect the community of volunteers that formed round the farm. Several members have been profoundly influenced by their practical involvement in the farm. One member, a scientist studying microbiology from the University decided that she would apply her training to agricultural research. She is now volunteering on an organic veg farm in California to get some more farm experience. A trainee lawyer is now convinced that agricultural and land law will be a part of his future.
CropShare has exposed people to the farming industry that weren’t necessarily from farming backgrounds and helped them fully realise the variety of fulfilling jobs in the sector.
And as for me, I was able to go part time in my very fulfilling job as a crop scientist at RSK ADAS Ltd early in 2016 and take up a paid one day a week position at Waterland Organics as a grower. This opportunity has arisen from my friendship with farm owners Paul and Doreen Robinson. I’m not from a family who owns a farm or land (but I inherited green fingers from my gardener Mum and tree surgeon Dad). Although I have been an amateur veg grower for a while now it feels absolutely great to be in part supporting myself by growing organic veg, something I didn’t think would ever be possible before getting involved in CSA.”
This case study is included in the study Access to Land and CSA: stories from Europe, 2017
Members and volunteers from CropShare CSA group