Caerhys Organic Community Agriculture (COCA)

“We would not have managed without them”

COCA is all about a community of people sharing and supporting organic food production, in a spirit of friendship and trust. It is cultural and educational as well as productive. International volunteers pay a huge part in this. COCA has hosted two long term European Solidarity Corps volunteers per year for more than 5 years. They also have local and international volunteers from WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) on short term volunteering. Short term volunteers also come through the International Voluntary Service to help with a hugely successful annual community harvest festival.

ESC volunteer, Marta Anzilotti

“The volunteers stay with us on the farm; they learn and gain the experience of growing all vegetables from seed to plate. They bring a vibe, a young spirit, to our lovely farm. They share their knowledge, friendship and sense of fun to create a true sense of wellbeing.” Gerald Miles, COCA Manager. “Funding such schemes is vital to give the younger generation the experience and opportunity to travel and better their skills, their knowledge in languages and to find themselves”. 

The value of non-formal learning through international exchange cannot be underestimated. Apart from the many skills they learn through their placement, young people gain hugely in confidence and self-esteem, and gain key employability and entrepreneurial skills.

The experience of being a volunteer changed me. I have completely changed my plans for the future, thanks to the many things and skills I have learnt and discovered,” says 25 year old Marta from Florence. “I could take up this experience because it was low cost. If I had to pay for a visa and a health surcharge I could not have done this.” Marta and Mireia (from Spain) remained with the community during the pandemic.

I never even thought about leaving. COCA needed us,” said Marta. “We would not have managed without them” says COCA manager, Gerald Miles. “If the changes in the UK Immigration and funding mean we do not have the opportunity to recruit international volunteers this would be very detrimental to our Community Support Agriculture. COCA would not be able to supply the community of members with organic vegetables each week and might even have to stop growing vegetables.”

Written by Gill Peace & Santi, our Operations Manager and long term ESC Volunteer respectively

[1] The article can be found in the online version of the Western Telegraph:

[2] Marta Anzilotti, aged 25 years, Florence, Italy. Studied Economic Development, International Cooperation and Conflict Management. Plans to create her own CSA in Italy. Mireira Mera, Girona, Spain. Studies Food and Agricultural Engineering. Both are ESC Volunteers 2020.

[3] Caerhys Organic Community Agriculture (COCA) is 4 miles from St Davids, Pembrokeshire. Community Supported Agriculture or CSA. This is a partnership between a community group and a farmer. The aim is to produce local, seasonal produce, supporting local farmers directly and involving people in the life of the farm.

[4] Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) inspires people to learn and act on global issues so everyone in Wales can contribute to creating a fairer and more peaceful world. This includes building strong international partnerships and supporting international exchange and volunteering. Currently WCIA supports 12 ESC funded long term volunteers with charitable organizations in Wales and up to 20 young people from Wales to take short term volunteering opportunities in Europe a year. This funding will end with Brexit.

[5] European Solidarity Corps (ESC) funds non formal education opportunities for people aged 18-30 via international cooperation and exchange.

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