Connecting communities through food: the development of community supported agriculture in the UK


Principal Investigator: Professor Neil Ravenscroft
Co-investigators: Dr Niamh Moore; Dr Ed Welch
Collaborators: Tablehurst & Plaw Hatch Community Farms; Spitalfields City Farm; Likt Allotment project, Manchester
Duration: From 2010 to 2011

There is a convergence of the cultural and material worlds occurring in farming, driven by communities making connections between the production and consumption of food. This new civic agriculture is experienced in multiple ways, from small groups of allotment holders, to large groups owning substantial farming businesses and land. Although characterised as a consumerist response to industrial farming and mass marketing, this research suggests the emergence of a ‘new productivist’ agenda in which diverse communities take bodily, commercial and political control over the food that they consume. Through exploring the role that visual art and culture plays in the formation and expression of individual and community identity, the research found that the convergence between the cultural and material is driven by transition in the ways in which people practice development of the self in the context of community. This is not just about food security, but also about expressing commitment to sustainable everyday life practices, informed by a range of aspirations including: a desire to support particular diets through locally-sourced foods; an ambition to challenge conventional food growing stereotypes relating to (dis)ability, gender and sexual orientation; and a wish to make an explicit commitment to personal, family and community health.