South West Wales Connected

How Cae Tân CSA is helping people in Swansea to grow their own food

One of the initiatives to receive a portion of our Community Changemakers funding this year is Cae Tân CSA , a community supported agriculture project based on Gower. It grows vegetables on land at Ilston and Lunnon and supplies fresh, seasonal produce to locals who pay a monthly fee to have a share.

Cae Tân CSA is a not-for-profit community organisation working to shorten food supply systems, develop sustainable methods of growing, and support the development of other community supported agriculture projects. It welcomes volunteers and has a trainee programme to build skills locally and further afield – international trainees are welcomed. All surplus food is donated to a local foodbank.

Cae Tân CSA was founded in 2015 by Tom O’Kane, realising a long-held ambition to start a project of this type.

“I’d done a lot of research into it and worked on different ones in different places – and then this opportunity came up. I was offered the land, and that’s how it started,” he says.

It’s grown since then to supply 130 households with food. It’s also very active in the local community – and that’s where the Changemakers funding comes in.

Cae Tân CSA has worked successfully in Clase primary school in Swansea for a number of years, supporting growing projects and teaching the pupils about sustainable food production. Children get to help make healthy pizzas and delicious soups with ingredients they have helped to grow. Cae Tân CSA pays for trips to the Gower Heritage Centre to learn about bread making and the history of milling, and trips to Cae Tân’s farm, which are always a highlight. Although the farm is only five miles away from the school, most pupils have never visited Gower.

In order to spread awareness of sustainability into the wider Clase community, Cae Tân CSA started a Grow From Home project with five families from the year 5 class it was already working with. They built raised beds, provided tools and compost, and gave the families ongoing support from a dedicated grower.

Grow from Home enables families in a deprived area of Swansea with limited incomes to make healthy food choices for their families by growing their own veg to supplement and enhance what the family have to eat,” says Jessie Kidd, Cae Tân CSA’s Education Officer for its Sustainable Schools Programme. “Families in this area have been particularly badly hit by the pandemic and many are using foodbanks. This year funding has enabled us to extend our provision to work with 10 families.

Although delayed by Covid, our first growing season was very successful, and the 44 participants discovered that growing your own nutritious, seasonal food was not the only benefit of the project. Families spent more time together in nature, improved their health and well-being, built confidence and developed community links. We discovered that teaching both at school and at home embedded knowledge and increased motivation.”

The £612.92 Changemakers grant will support the project in several ways. Towards the end of the summer growing season Cae Tân CSA and the participants will celebrate their success with a pizza celebration day, and the funding will enable Cae Tân CSA to pay for Popty Pizza to bring in a wood fired oven for a memorable day at Clase primary when 150 pupils, 20 staff and 15 family members will make healthy pizzas using seasonal produce grown at the school, at home, and at the farm.

The funding will also pay for a portable induction hub enabling Cae Tân CSA to deliver a winter soup making session at school and at a “Grow from home” event. Thirty pupils and ten families will experience harvesting, washing, peeling and preparing their own produce to make delicious soups.

These events build confidence in using fresh produce to make simple, cheap and nutritious meals for the whole family,” says Jessie.

Participants of Cae Tan CSA's changemakers project

Finally, the funding will extend the impact of the “Grow from Home ” project, offering neighbours of the ten families the opportunity to be involved.

By providing easy plants to grow such as strawberry plants, lavender and blackcurrant bushes we can add an extra 20 families to the project, build a sense of pride, increase biodiversity, attract pollinators and improve community networks,” says Jessie.

She adds that this type of funding is essential for the project.

“We can’t run these projects without funding – it’s really as simple as that,” she says. “The funding has enabled us to do this lovely bit of outreach work. It’s built people’s confidence, got them to try new foods and enhanced community and school life. It’s amazing what an effect that growing plants can have on people – it can be very therapeutic.”

Now their sights are set on spreading the word further, encouraging more people to get involved in their project and to start growing food themselves.

The best thing about it all is the fact it’s functioning so well,” says Tom. “What’s really amazing now is that we’re seeing lots of other little projects springing up locally that have been inspired by the fact that it’s working here. We have lots of young trainees and volunteers and it inspires people to think, ‘I could do that’.”