Vic­to­rian fruit CSA Aus­tralian first

Fo­cus on value, not cost

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - NEWS -

ANT Wil­son wants to com­bine com­mu­nity sup­port with eth­i­cal farm­ing, and has opened his or­ganic or­chard up to do­ing just that.

In­stead of tak­ing his pro­duce di­rect to mar­ket, Ant wants buy­ers to know their fruit; where it comes from, how it is pro­duced and who is farm­ing it. Now, Ant pi­o­neered the first ded­i­cated fruit CSA share pro­gram – an idea that brings to­gether the whole­some­ness of com­mu­nal liv­ing with sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture.

Com­monly called CSAs, a Com­mu­nity Sup­ported Agri­cul­ture pro­gram is an emerg­ing method of sales and dis­tri­bu­tion, used most com­monly in the sus­tain­able farm­ing sec­tor.

CSA mem­bers sign up for a ‘share’ be­fore the start of the grow­ing sea­son - which guar­an­tees them reg­u­lar de­liv­er­ies of fresh pro­duce for around 18 weeks.

“What makes a CSA dif­fer­ent to reg­u­lar box schemes is not only di­rect in­ter­ac­tion be­tween farmer and mem­ber, but also com­mit­ment and risk shar­ing,” Ant said. "It's mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial agree­ment – as the farmer, I can mit­i­gate my risk through pre-sales, and as CSA share-holder mem­bers can get the best pro­duce de­liv­ered to a cen­tral lo­ca­tion, but also know that their fruit comes with more story than just a sticker from in­ter­state.”

Ant runs Tel­lurian Fruit Gar­dens, an or­ganic or­chard in Har­court, Cen­tral Victoria.

Pre­vi­ously known as the Mt Alexan­der Fruit Gar­dens, the prop­erty was fea­tured in a re­cent North East and Goul­burn Mur­ray Farmer fea­ture when, along with three oth-er farm­ers, the state's first or­ganic co-Op was formed.

Like many, Ant is con­cerned about the fu­ture of agri­cul­ture – the need to blance com­mer­cial profit while min­imis­ing car­bon foot­print and food miles.

While the idea of a farm­ing CSA is not new – the scheme is pop­u­lar in Ja­pan and Amer­ica – Ant be­lieves his is the first fruit-only op­er­a­tion.

“I’m ex­cited to be in­tro­duc­ing a new way for peo­ple to con­nect di­rectly with the farm and get great value at the same time,” he said.

“By en­gag­ing with my CSA, mem­bers are get­ting own­er­ship over their food sys­tem – they have a chance to learn and par­tic­i­pate through our di­rect re­la­tion­ship.”

In a fur­ther break from tra­di­tional fruit-boxes, Ant is ask­ing peo­ple to nom­i­nate a price they wish to pay when they sign-on for the CSA.

If a box of fruit is $10 to pro­duce, mem­bers are asked to pay its value, rather than the cost.

The hope is, Ant said, that those that can af­ford to will pay more; with the ex­cess then used to help those who can­not af­ford even $10.

“Some peo­ple have a lot, and some don’t have enough – I’m ask­ing peo­ple to pay above the sug­gested price – so that I can of­fer the pro­duce to some at a lower price,” he said.

If the cur­rent fruit sea­son does not meet ex­pec­ta­tions, Ant al­ready has a store of stewed, juiced and pre­served fruit that will bol­ster fresh va­ri­eties in the weekly de­liv­er­ies.

The Tel­lurian Fruit Gar­dens CSA sign-up process is open un­til Novem­ber 25, with the forms avail­able at tf­gar­dens.com.au.

What makes a CSA dif­fer­ent to reg­u­lar box schemes is not only di­rect in­ter­ac­tion be­tween farmer and mem­ber, but also com­mit­ment and risk shar­ing. - ANT WIL­SON

PIONEER: Ant Wil­son, from Tel­lurian Fruit Gar­dens, is of­fer­ing CSA mem­ber­ships to his or­ganic fruit or­chard.

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