Yes, it’s true… We rely on all of our members (except our Armchair members) paying money towards the farm and contributing a minimum number of work hours to the farm each year. So yes, our members pay money and work too.
We operate in a different way to other Community Shared Agriculture schemes in the UK. Most of them provide a veg box in return for money and they have staff and a dedicated team of volunteers growing and harvesting the food.
At the Oak Tree we do things differently. Members get to grow their own food! We are fairly unique. Our scheme is like a shared allotment – a large one! The great thing about this that we know exactly what food is being grown and how it is grown – because we help to grow it 🙂 We have a real, tangible connection with the earth and with our own food. We know it is fresh, nutritious and that it is not full of artificial chemicals like supermarket food.
And, we find that people get to know each other as they hoe leeks together or weed carrots together or plant out sweetcorn together at the farm. New friends are made and our members say that one of the great things about the farm is the social contact, the feeling of belonging. Many members find working at the farm not only satisfying and rewarding, but also good fun!
Working in a beautiful green space with the birds singing around you is another aspect which people really enjoy.
We rely on members making both a financial contribution and a work contribution for another reason too. Farming in the UK is subsidised. But because we are a small farm we are not eligible for subsidies as we are considered too small by the UK government to receive them, (though the EU does not specify this). So we’re competing with cheap, oil-powered, EU subsidised, large-scale industrial agriculture…
In the long run, our costs will stay moderate as the cost of oil, and as a result, chemical fertilisers, grow, so the long term aim is to offer excellent value. In the meantime we do the very best we can. The farm is a not-for-profit social enterprise, so you can be sure that all your money goes into developing the farm to provide excellent food for the benefit of CSA members.