Community Supported Agriculture (flourishing in Stroud) started in the USA in 1986 at Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, Massaschusetts, just a couple of miles down Jug End Road from the Library and offices of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, a partner of the British New Economics Foundation.
Their projects have included the BerkShares Local Currency Program and a SHARE Micro-Credit Program – The Self-Help Association for a Regional Economy (SHARE), a model community-based nonprofit that offers a simple way for citizens to create a sustainable local economy by supporting businesses that provide products or services needed in the region.
Community Supported Industry would be built on a strategy of import replacement, with more labour intensive, smaller batch production, transported over shorter distances. The goal would be to create more jobs, but not more “stuff,” with a smaller carbon footprint overall. The Schumacher Center asks:
“Can the Berkshires also model an ethos that would support a Berkshire furniture factory, a wool products industry, an applesauce cannery, a humane slaughterhouse, a water-powered electric generation plant, or that small-scale business that a resident of the Berkshires has already imagined?
“Can the Berkshires embrace “Community Supported Industry”? Can it build the “import-replacement” businesses that provide well-paid jobs for its youth and keep the Berkshires vibrant with a diversity of production, skills, and people while maintaining a commitment to a healthy ecology?”
Build a culture of citizen support
Meetings of business owners, retired persons, youth, investors, organizational leaders, public officials, and concerned citizens would be needed, to consider:
1. What products might be produced in the Berkshires that are not here yet?
2. How can citizens help create conditions to ensure the success of new enterprises?
3. What skills can be offered to help in the process? Development or review of business plans; market research; site selection; equipment identification; mentoring; financing; permitting; skill development?
4. How can the Berkshires leverage the wealth of community resources to support the budding entrepreneurs who will in turn run the new, appropriately scaled and environmentally sound businesses that are the foundation stones of a socially and environmentally responsible economy?
It will not be enough to only imagine the new green, fair, sustainable, slow, resilient businesses; not enough to build a library of good business plans; not enough to whet the appetite for regionally made goods and locally grown food.
To implement the new industries identified and fostered under the umbrella of Community Supported Industry will take securing affordable access to land, identifying (or training) skilled workers, and accessing appropriate capital.
It will mean maintaining an ongoing national dialogue about imaginative land tenure options, distributed ownership, and the democratized issuing of currency.