Community Supported Agriculture Conference Tipperary

The aim of the conference was to introduce the concept of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to communities and growers in Ireland. As someone with an interest in environmental matters and a growing interest in community sustainability I was excited about travelling from Dublin to Cloughjordan, Tipperary with two friends for this conference. I was also very interested to see Ireland’s only Eco Village which is also situated in Cloughjordan.

The conference ran from Friday the 17th February to Sunday the 19th. I attended the Saturday’s full day of talks.  The amount of information presented throughout the day was fantastic leaving me with much food for thought. The topics covered on the Saturday included; the role of CSA’s in increasing community resilience and food sovereignty, why CSA’s play a vital role in the future of food production and growing for your community. We were also brought to the Eco Villages community farm by the community’s grower.

At the conference I learnt that CSA began in Japan in the seventies by women who were concerned about the poisoning of their food by Mercury in the water and soil. Although there are many ways to develop a CSA in essence CSA is a business transaction where a farm produces food and the community pays the farmer. The community will be involved in collective ownership of the process of producing the food. The extent of community involvement in the process will be decided collectively by the stakeholders (community and farmer). Various guest speakers who are actively involved in CSA spoke about their different experiences of CSA. It was interesting to hear of the vastly different approaches to this method of community growing. Some of the guest speakers spoke about very little community involvement whereas others had active involvement and participation within the community farms.  Essentially my understanding at the end of the day was that there are many different ways that a community can go about CSA and there is no wrong or right way to go about it. Effectively it is all about what suits the community and the farmer.

Within CSA methods of food production can be; consumer/producer driven, organic or non organic, can grow; seasonal vegetables/full diet/ single staple crop/single luxury crop. The length of the agreement (between the farmer and the community) can be for one season/a full year/ one harvest/ monthly/ multi annual. Payment can be in the form of; a full payment at the beginning of the season (better for the farmer as most of the cost is at the beginning of the season), a monthly payment, capital investment or contribution of labour.  Benefits of CSA are empowerment of communities and farmers, risk sharing and diversity in farming as opposed to the farmer shouldering serious financial burden and the risk of supplying single crops to large chains. CSA’s can experience difficulties in managing cash flow with so many ways of payment and satisfying a whole community’s needs and wants. Possible problems with CSA’s can be deficiencies in the soil of the area where a CSA is set up, contamination issues (e.g. mad cow disease) can wipe out a whole CSA and environmental damage (floods, drought, pests).

Another topic which was considered was the difference between food sovereignty and food security. Representatives from international groups including Urgenci and Trocaire spoke on the importance of this. Food sovereignty being the right of people to grow and eat culturally adapted food of their choice which involves empowerment of local communities and farmer and consumer rights. Food security meaning having enough food to eat and can include imported Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), factory farmed foods, food miles and can involve monopolization of the food market and destruction of farmers livelihood by large scale chains.

There was a sense of urgency during the talk on bringing CSA to the wider community as a method of ensuring communities remain resilient in the face of economic collapse/seed monopolization by large private companies. Currently Ireland has 4 CSA’s, 80 in the UK. As well as providing invaluable information the conference served as a a networking opportunity for communities and farmers. It was mentioned that a website should be set up for CSA as an information point as well as a point of contact for farmers and communities who wish to get involved in setting up a CSA.

During question time the former Minister for Agriculture addressed the crowd and stated that the Irish people need to make it their business to fight for the right for land to grow food.  This coming from a former minister says a lot. I for one would like to see a movement whereby communities begin demanding that disused land in their area is utilised as a space for growing food. Things are changing and government bodies must start supporting community resilience projects as is their duty under the United Nations Agenda 21 (related to sustainable development).

By Leeanne Timony


  1. Lovely article! Let’s hope the conference marks the start of a movement in Ireland! Also you meationed there are 4 CSAs in Ireland, aprt from Cloughjordan and Skerries what are the other ones you know of? Thanks!

      • Leeanne
      • February 26th, 2012

      Hi Mary, There are CSA’s in Cork and Tipperary as far as I know…. thanks a mill for your comment. Kind regards, Leeanne

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