Caerhys Organic Community Agriculture

Gerald Miles farms land just north of St David’s on the extreme western edge of Wales. He used to be a dairy farmer, but when diminishing returns forced his son to make his living away from the farm, Gerald decided to set up a Community Supported Agriculture scheme offering organic vegetables to the people of St David’s. Now, that CSA is sufficiently robust for Carwyn to return to manage it! Small scale framing really can win!

Caerhys Farm extends over some 120 acres of rolling coastal land – its a beautiful land right on the edge of the United Kingdom. Nothing between them the USA other than miles and miles of Atlantic Ocean. Ideal dairy land. But that is where the brutal force of industrial capitalism comes in with the never ending need for bigger and cheaper. Such is its power that a mere 120 acres can only deliver a depressing ever diminishing return from small-scale milk production. Only those willing to swim with the endless drive for scale can survive. So it was that Carwyn sought his living out of farming and away from the idyllic location he had grown up in.

Carwyn’s departure though released the pressure on Gerald and gave the headroom to set up Caerhys Organic Community Agriculture. Run on run classical Community Supported Agriculture lines based on mutual benefit and shared risk – with members paying a monthly membership in return for once a week visit to Caerhys or a local pick-up point to collect a share of freshly harvested seasonal vegetables – the scheme made local organic veg available in this remote corner of Wales. Against all the odds Gerald managed to recruit almost 60 members from a population of less 2000 in neighbouring St David’s and surrounds. Its an astonishing market penetration. Just quickly do the sums and extrapolate to a population of say a couple of million as in a typical large conurbation and think, with same market penetration as Gerald is achieving in Pembrokeshire just what that would mean in terms of organic produce uptake in say Manchester or Birmingham for example.

Moreover the size of the CSA was also sufficient for Carwyn to return home and take the reins of the new business. Regular farm open days and social events encourage a sense of community and connection with the land, with members involved in the life of the farm, whether it is planting onions, picking carrots or just popping down for a cup of tea and a chat. Alongside the veg, Gerald now raises Welsh Black beef cattle and a few free-range pigs, and he and Carwyn jointly grow heritage grains, Black Supreme Oats and Emmer Wheat.

Large scale factory farming still remains threat to the community drive enterprise run by Gerald and Carwyn. Capitalism has not gone away. This is not least through the stranglehold that handful of large corporates – Monsanto and co – control commercial seed production and distribution, with genetic modification of farming crops aiding and abetting with only the largest corporates able to afford its use. Supported by intensive patenting of the resultant crops, GM, whatever its social and consumer benefits, is only for the rich and powerful. The result is that Gerald is one of the strongest and most active opponents of GM crops in the UK. A lilting rich welsh voice which is articulate and persuasive on the need to keep farming local and to do that to keep GM out of farming. A voice with genuine passion.

What better place for young people to come, listen, learn, work and see life in West Wales. Each summer, very re-assuringly, Caerhys sees a strong cohort of young volunteers come through its doors. When I was there there was a very lively groups which had come together through both WWOOF and the United Nations Volunteer Internship Programme for Young People.

 

For more on Caerhys see the farm’s website, Caerhys Community Supported Agriculture. The farm is also featured in Unlikely Heroes.

 

[Double clicking on any of the images below will open up that image up in a slideshow format. You can then run the slide show using ‘left’ and ‘right’ buttons.  Personally I prefer to go also to full screen having opened the slide show – F11 on my PC, don’t forget to get out of full screen is the same button , not ESC]

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