By Peter Volz, European CSA Research Group and Agronauten
Photo Courtesy: Sara Meissner
The Thessaloniki International, European and Mediterranean CSA meeting in November 2018 featured a workshop on “Financial Sustainability of CSA and other types of solidarity-based food systems in Europe”. Peter Volz from the research organisation AGRONAUTEN and Jocelyn Parot from URGENCI presented the results of an Europe-wide survey they carried out in the context of the SolidBase project together with the partners TVE from Hungary, AMPI from Czech Republic and the German CSA Network SOLAWI.
About 40 participants listened to the status quo of research on this issue and the findings of a detailed online questionnaire in 9 languages that was completed by about 120 farmers and CSA coordinators. These online results were backed up by live qualitative interviews with about 40 farmers and a consumer survey with 390 participants.
The results show that financial sustainability of CSAs is still an issue for many but that CSA has also helped to stabilize farms. In order to avoid financial difficulties it appeared to be important to establish realistic cost predictions, establish transparent and good communication with the members, and use a whole range of tools and approaches that already exist to ensure that the CSA runs without self-exploitation of the producer.
This includes such things as open source software for management and bookkeeping. What is more important is that the issue also has a socio-psychological dimension, whereby the farmer attributes the right value to his or her work. The context is also very different within Europe, e.g. in Eastern Europe. After the presentation there was a lively discussion – a clear indicator that the release of the final report and tailor-made trainings for CSAs in 2019 will be eagerly awaited by the European CSA community and hopefully also beyond.