branch a couple of miles away from the farm that grew it. Food which is treated like this
can hardly be described as organic.
Meanwhile, there are many people, both in cities and elsewhere, who do not have the
opportunity to grow their own food, but would like to be able to buy food they can trust at
a price they can afford. Organic food is expensive in the supermarkets and no amount of
labelling can substitute for knowing first hand where your food comes from.
Veggie-box schemes are a simple way of connecting farmers with producers. Each con-
sumer agrees to buy a box of produce once a week at a standard price. They form them-
selves into delivery groups of about ten, the farmers deliver all the boxes to one member of
each group, and the others collect from that person. Box schemes are usually for vegetables
only, but they can include meat, dairy produce, flour and so on.
The farmers have an assured outlet, at something over the wholesale price, while the
consumers have a supply of food they can trust at about the same price they would pay
for non-organic in the shops. Transport is kept to a minimum and all packaging can be re-
turned. The consumers are usually encouraged to visit the farms to see what is going on
there and sometimes social events are organised.
Subscription farming requires somewhat more commitment than a simple box scheme.
Each subscriber either makes a single payment at the beginning of the year for the year's
supply of produce, or agrees to pay by instalments, or pay in kind by working on the farm
as either full or part payment.
An important advantage of subscription farming to the farmers is that they get finance
when they need it, at planting time. This can help them to be free of the need to go to the
banks, another situation in which farmers have little bargaining clout. The consumers can
become more involved in the farm, often having a say in deciding what will be grown, and
the distinction between producer and consumer begins to be less distinct.
In Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), the farm or farms are actually owned by
the community, often in the form of a trust set up for the purpose. People who want to par-
ticipate become members of a Farm Community, which may involve buying a share in the
farm. All the characteristics of subscription farming are present, but the level of involve-
ment by ordinary members in the running of the farm is much greater. This may include
having regular monthly meetings at which each delivery group is represented.
The increase in mutual understanding between farmers and the people they grow food
for is one of the most important benefits of CSA schemes. For city dwellers, having a place
in the country where they can always go to enjoy nature, in an active as well as a passive
way, can be important too. But most of all they provide a framework in which farming can
be seen not primarily in terms of making a living, but in terms of providing a healthy living
base for people, animals and plants.
Box schemes and subscription farming can be seen as the first and second steps on the
way to a full-scale CSA system. Individual systems may not fall neatly into one of the three