Tom O’Kane has been growing organic and biodynamic produce in community settings for the last 20 years. He is currently Director and Grower at Cae Tan Community Supported Agriculture project just outside Swansea on the Gower peninsula. As such he is as much involved in reformulating how the local food system works as he is in the simple supply of local food.
Cae Tan was set up by Tom in 2015 and operates from 2 sites, the main one being 4 acres of land owned by Gower Power Community Co-operative. The plots are within the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and next to a couple of Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Tom is an experienced follower of biodynamic principles who moved to the Gower from Pembrokeshire. He is supported by a small group of directors which he has recruited for their with diverse experience and skills, alongside a shared passion for grower-led community supported agriculture. Together they aim to blend the needs of the places they grow with the needs of the people they share the food with.
In the field Tom is supported by partner, Pascale and apprentice Liz, plus a large cohort of local volunteers. Launched in 2015, Cae Tan CSA is now producing enough vegetables to feed over 90 Gower households, all grown and distributed in alignment with the shared risk, shared benefits principles of Community Supported Agriculture.
Cae Tan CSA also works with local schools to raise awareness of sustainable farming and to reconnect children and young people to the land and their food. In particular the ‘seed to plate pizza’ project is about showing pupils how to grow wheat, tomatoes, onions, flowers and herbs – everything you need for a pizza. They winnow and grind the wheat to flour, then have a celebration day where they bake pizza’s for the whole school in a wood fired oven!
Beyond the immediate production of fresh local food, the Cae Tan project is a member of the Gower Power Co-op CIC, a group of enterprises based on the Gower which are working together to return ownership and management of utilities, food production and the means of exchange back to the community.
PS: Exciting recent news since my visit is that Cae Tan has taken ownership of a new site locally in partnership with the Ecological Land Co-op so that they can expand production to grow 100% of our members’ food.
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