Ben Raskin On Community Supported Business
GUEST blog post by BEN RASKIN
A group of Thai industry and academic representative came to see us this week, visiting the UK to learn about organic farming and the market here. We took them to visit The Community Farm. This is a community owned organic vegetable growing and distribution company near Bristol. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTX8hbZw0YM&feature=player_embedded#! They were clearly very inspired by what the farm was doing and in the taxi on the way back we were chatting about the difficulties of replicating something like this in Thailand. Despite a growing desire for organic food there, one of the reasons they thought it would be difficult was a growing culture of individualism and greed. In the UK it could be argued that we have been through that under Thatcher and Blair and that people are now questioning the validity of infinite economic growth as a basis for running our lives. The boom in Community Supported enterprises in the UK suggests a desire to put our money and time into something other than quick return and immediate profit, and more towards a social investment. The ongoing horsemeat scandal is causing continued worry about food providence while increased environmental awareness, particularly amongst the younger generations, is encouraging.
Image source: here
For producers meanwhile, tapping into this zeitgeist can be profitable in ways not just financial. Many farmers – particularly those that produce meat and grains – have traditionally sold the produce from their farm as a commodity, often with no forward contract or price guarantee. Industrialised and specialist farms means that farmers may spend all day in a tractor rarely seeing other people. Meanwhile their neighbours will be buying bread and sausages from the supermarket that has been manufactured on the other side of the country or even further afield. Community supported models of business can provide a stable and guaranteed market, they can improve cash flow, and they can bring back a sense of community into rural areas that has often disappeared. No wonder they are becoming more popular!