Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between farmers and consumers in which they commit to support each other on a long term basis: consumers pay in advance for their produce, may commit to volunteering on the farm and agree on sharing the financial risks of food production with the farmer, whilst farmers commit to supplying their consumers with a share of fresh, high quality produce over a season. CSAs ensure farmers a fair return and a secure income for their labour and support a thriving rural economy. By sourcing their food direct from a farmer through a CSA, consumers enjoy produce with a known provenance and have a personal relationship with the person producing their food. CSAs can lead to stronger communities by bringing people together through food and shared ideals around agriculture, the environment and society.
CSAs are well-established in a number of EU-member states, including France, Germany, Austria and the UK, whereas in others, Hungary, the Czech republic, Slovakia and Greece, the movement is still in its fledgling stage.The “CSA for Europe!” Grundtvig project (2011-2013) aims to share learning between farmers and consumers in all partner countries, through knowledge exchange workshops and farm visits, in order to promote the idea of CSA as well as to share best practise throughout Europe. CSAs can help bridge the gap between urban and rural communities by bringing them together in a relationship of mutual commitment. Farmers are able to better understand what their consumers want, and consumers gain an in-depth knowledge of the issues facing farmers today, both economic and social. The project will extend this information-bridging across European cultures, to enable participants to better understand the opportunities and barriers encountered in in everyday practice through first-hand experience of CSA farms.
General objectives of the project
- provide knowledge and information-sharing on active citizenship and sustainable agriculture throughout Europe
- promote and empower active consumer–producer partnerships and urban–rural cooperation
- strengthen citizens’ involvement in achieving food sovereignty and supporting sustainable agricultural practises
- promote sustainable consumption patterns and community-based initiatives
- provide methods for improving knowledge and skills with respect to local development and citizenship issues (environmental and social awareness and responsibility).
• to investigate how the CSA model is best implemented in the very different cultural, economic, legal and social environments of the partner countries; this will involve information exchange on the issues facing small-scale farmers and local food consumers in each country;
• to redress the imbalance between the developed CSA movements in certain countries, and the embryonic movements in others;
• to address the lack of appropriate information on the issue of active citizenship and communities’ ability to influence local/regional food sovereignty, sustainable agriculture development and sustainable consumption choices (mainly in the “fledgling countries”, see below);
• to overcome the isolation of specific CSA activities in partner countries and the lack of broader communication on a European level on this issue.
CSAs operate in slightly different ways in each country, according to the specific economic, legal and cultural context of each country. Gaining a better and personal understanding of what these contexts are, and how they shape a CSA, will provide a valuable resource for anyone wanting to set up a CSA, whichever country they are in.
The trans-national learning will:
• widen the participants’, and therefore their countries’ CSA movements’, perspective of family-scale farming issues and farmer-consumer co-ops, as well as how CSAs contribute to maintaining European rural and cultural heritage;
• provide participating adult learners with the skills and training to transmit knowledge from throughout Europe to their audience at home, in effect becoming trainers themselves;
• enable farmers from disadvantaged regions to travel to and learn from their peers in participating EU countries;
• strengthen and build European identity, trust, solidarity and trans-European communication;
• contribute to the creation of trans-European linkages between small-scale farmers and consumers;
• help to overcome the gap and disparities between “western” and “eastern” farmers and societies.
Information tours (nov. 2011- feb. 2012)
The project will enable grass-roots information exchange by running peer-based training sessions for farmers and consumers in the four partner countries which currently have few or no CSAs, namely Greece, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary (“fledgling countries”). These sessions will involve a farmer and a consumer from the four partner countries with established CSAs – France, Germany, Austria and the UK (“mature countries”) – presenting the situation in their countries, and providing an outline of how to set up a CSA.
Farm visits (march 2012 – march 2013)
Groups of farmers and consumers from the ‘fledgling countries’ will then travel to the “mature countries” for a study visit of CSA farms in order to see them in action, and learn from the “experts” on the ground.
Sharing-experiences events (jan. – april 2013)
On their return these farmers and consumers will participate in follow-up meetings to share their experiences with a wide audience – they will, in effect, become trainers themselves, thereby developing the CSA movement in their countries.
As the lead partner of the project, Urgenci will coordinate all the partners’ endeavour and make sure that their active participation meets the common targets throughout the project. It will also mobilize its farmer and consumer partners to participate in the various outreach activities and training sessions planned all along this “CSA for Europe” project.
PRO-BIO LIGA is a Czech association gathering consumers and fair-traders around a common ecological vision. Its primary aim is to provide education and training on sustainable farming and consumption to the public. PRO-BIO LIGA together with other NGOs promotes and provides assistance to CSA systems in the Czech Republic and helps to create and intensify interconnection and cooperation between local farmers and consumers. PRO-BIO LIGA has been the only organisation coordinating CSA initiatives in Bohemia, since the first Urgenci missions took place, in December 2008.CSA in Greece is still at an embryonic stage. Inspection and Certification of Organic Products Organization DIO is a public non-profit company founded in 1993 in Greece.Through this project, DIO will have the opportunity to get in contact with all the possible interested stakeholders, in order to promote CSA as a promising sustainable alternative for direct selling of organic products in Greece.The Soil Association is the UK’s leading organic organisation, working to promote the production and consumption of organic goods. Its Local Food team runs the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and Organic Buying Groups (OBG) project, funded by the National Lottery. TThere are currently around 50 trading CSAs in the UK, and about 100 more in development. The Soil Association has run a CSA project since 2004 and has a great wealth of experience in its staff and materials. We would like to take part in this project to share our learning, and to help establish a large group of CSA farmers and consumers who will be able to act as trainers, thereby ensuring long-term benefits for the CSA movement in the UK and Europe as a whole.
ATTAC (Association pour la taxation des transactions financières et pour l’action citoyenne) is an international movement and a network working towards social, environmental and democratic alternatives in the globalisation process. ATTAC Austria has different working groups. One of them is AgrarAttac, which works on agricultural and food issues. AgrarAttac participates in several campaigns at the international, national and local level which disseminate information about the concept of food sovereignty and concrete approaches to its realization. To achieve this AgrarAttac is working with farmers, consumers, environmental, developmental and anti-poverty organizations to raise consciousness about the need to transform our food system and to facilitate the realisation of democratic, sustainable and socially just alternatives.
Gute Erde Kattendorf e.V. is one of the coordinators of the German “Bündnis Solidarische Landwirtschaft” which comprises some 10 CSAs – some of them with more than 10 years experience in community supporting agriculture. The purpose of the Bündnis is to promote CSA and provide consultancy to CSAs in founding, and to foster networking and learning between CSAs in Germany. Kattendorfer Hof is the second oldest CSA in Germany and has been actively promoting CSA in Germany. Buschberghof, the oldest German CSA dating back to the 1980s, is also represented in the coordination group of the CSA-network in Germany, and has helped many other CSAs to get started.
Centre for Sustainable Alternatives / Centrum pre trvaloudržateľné alternatívy (CEPTA), is a Slovak civic association promoting sustainable development in different fields at all levels – local, regional, national and international. Sustainable agriculture and healthy food is our main topic, covering most activities and capacities. We try to create synergies between advocacy, training, educational and research activities, on the one hand, and the practitioners of local alternative food systems (organic farmers, CSA, intermediaries, box scheme facilitators), on the other hand. The CEPTA has launched Local Food Community systems.
Tudatos Vásárlók Egyesülete (TVE, Association of Conscious Consumers), founded in 2001, is a national, non-profit, public-benefit organisation in Hungary. TVE works towards developing proactive communities of individuals to make their consumer decisions with increased awareness on environmental and social sustainability. One of TVE focus areas is sustainable food. By the means of this project TVE seeks to extend its Hungarian network of CSAs. With their involvement the number of farmers and consumers having personal and direct experiences of CSA will be multiplied in Hungary, which is a prerequisite for the successful dissemination work of TVE on the field.