More mentors for stronger CSA Networks”, 22 June 2021

As the Community Supported Agriculture movement grows and becomes more structured with an increased number of CSA networks, CSA mentorship programmes are also multiplying. There are two major reasons for this. On the one hand, as the years pass, more experience is available from both the producers’ and from the consumers’ sides. On the other hand, with the on-going growth of CSA partnerships, there are also more newcomers joining the movement. They are in need of thorough guidance in their first steps in this unchartered territory. Mentoring is therefore becoming one of the major activities a CSA network can provide to support the sound development of these partnerships.

During the webinar held on the 22nd of June, the participants had a chance to hear from seasoned from seasoned CSA advisors and CSA network co-ordinators who have direct experience of mentoring and coaching how to build and maintain successful mentorship programs.

Several key topics were raised, including: How are the mentors trained? How long does it take to provide quality and tailored mentoring? Are the mentors paid for their work as mentors? What are the important aspects of becoming a mentor, in terms of personal skills, attitude and experience? How can you build a strong relationship between mentors and mentees?

The panel was facilitated by Tomas Uhnak, CSA coordinator in Prague, Czech Rep. He is closely associated with AMPI – Association of Local Food Initiatives (the Czech CSA network), where his agenda involves advocacy for Community Supported Agriculture and food sovereignty.

We started the webinar with a showcase of a newly produced video within the project addressing Food Citizens. You can watch it here:

The first panelist was Klaus Strüber. Klaus is an adviser for the German type of CSA,  Solawi, which stands for Solidarische Landwirtschaft, Solidarity -based Agriculture. Born in 1969, Klaus has a 20-year-long experience of biodynamic farming. He is also the founder of one of the first CSA partnerships in Germany. Since 2014, he has been an adviser in Europe for CSA with a specific focus on the following topics: founding, economy, next generation on the farm, organisational development, roadshow. In 2021, he is leading the first adviser training program in collaboration with FibL. During the webinar he stressed that there is a real need for advisors from the farmers side to help make it more professional and the time and money commitment needed for effective mentoring.

The second panelist was Suzy Russell, who is the Coordinator of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Network UK. She is passionate about local food and local communities and has worked in environmental and arts-based community development for over 20 years.  Suzy gave an overview of the CSA UK network membership program which caters for different levels and offers tailored support for farmers and spoke about their online activities during the pandemic.

The third panelist, Zoltán Lengyel is farmer of Táncoskert (the Dancing Farm), a meat based CSA in Hungary. He applies permaculture and holistic management and also active in mentoring activities. Zoltan has quite some animals like pigs, chicken, cattle, sheep on the plains of Hortobágy. Like Klaus, he was among the first generation of Mentors for URGENCI, in 2019. Zoltan gave some examples on how a local CSA Network can support mentoring activities by organising thematic days and inviting experts to share their experiences even without having a formalised mentorship program and other ways to organise mentoring activities.

The webinar participants were very active, and had a chance to ask their question live, from the floor. The webinar has been recorded and is now available on URGENCI TV, our Youtube channel:

This webinar was the last of a series of 3, where we aimed at addressing some of the key challenges faced by food communities in their everyday operation.

You can find the recordings of all webinars here:

Episode 1: How to keep CSA members committed?

Episode 2: How to support your farmer?

Episode 3: More mentors for stronger CSA Networks