CSAs – a kindred model

Bulk buying clubs and community supported agriculture (CSA) schemes have several common threads – and anyone looking for more empowered ways of sourcing organic food may find the best solution in membership of a group of each type.

Both models create a means of accessing good food based on a collective approach. Rather than acting as individual consumers in the ‘marketplace’, members of these groups work together to create an alternative form of distribution. They are actively engaged and take part in shared decision-making.

With a CSA scheme, all members commit to buying ‘a share’ of locally grown produce through a partnership with a farmer, who thereby gains a secure income stream for the year and co-ordinates the regular distribution. The group becomes part of deciding what crops are sown and, in some cases, members may choose to become actively involved in volunteering on the farm. Thus, getting weekly fresh produce can feel very different to passively taking part in a ‘box scheme’, with a more collaborative and long-term approach.

Collaboration is similarly at the heart of the bulk buying club model, which will often focus on sourcing long-life wholefoods, such as rice and olive oil, which can’t come from local growers. As with a CSA, members pre-order and pre-pay for their food. Group members collectively decide what products they will – and won’t – source and who they will use as suppliers. Those who benefit from the group will be active volunteers in handling deliveries, working together to keep costs low and maximise their savings through bulk purchasing.

These two alternative food models fit together so well that it makes sense for bulk buying clubs to actively promote CSAs to their members and vice versa.

To find out more about community supported agriculture in Ireland visit the CSA Network Ireland website.

About this site

This site aims to encourage and support the setting up of further bulk buying clubs and small food co-ops in Ireland by sharing the experience of individuals who have operated a ‘pop-up wholefoods’ model over a number of years.