By Judith Hitchman, URGENCI
The Oxford Real Farming Conference was founded in 2010 by Colin Tudge and Ruth West to highlight the alternatives to conventional farming and to offer farmers a different kind of farming perspective and conference. Although essentially a British event, there has always been something of an international presence. This year, due to Covi-19, it was decided to not only hold the conference on-line, but to seize the opportunity to make it a truly global event. Urgenci was one of the international partners, and contributed to the 5 events listed below. One of the salient features was the emphasis on solidarity economy.
Community Supported Agriculture for Food Justice
8 January 2021
CSA groups have sometimes been labelled as middle class. And although sociological studies show that it is true that many CSA members have a background of higher education degrees, the essence of CSA is to support local organic / agroecological farmers, be inclusive and build social cohesion, rather than emulate food banks. CSA farms using agroecological practices are conscious of their key role in providing healthy, nutritious food for all while preserving soil health and agrobiodiversity. There are a wide range of solidarity mechanisms that are implemented by CSA farms and groups around the world. The Covid-19 crisis contributed to casting a light on some of them: solidarity funds to offer shares to marginalized people, sliding schemes allowing members to pay a price that is proportional to the income, bidding rounds based on voluntary financial contributions, working shares… How efficient are all these techniques in making CSA more inclusive? How can farmers and consumers participate in the social inclusion efforts? In extremely different contexts, CSAs have developed ad hoc strategies to bridge the gap between different segments of our societies. This workshop has told stories from the ground from 3 different continents.
Community Supported Fisheries : small-scale fisheries and peasant agriculture, same struggles, similar solutions
9 January 2021
Our oceans are suffering from the ravages of industrial fisheries and gigantic factory ships hovering up fish stocks in record times. A single haul can be as much as 200 tonnes of fish. Not only is this devastating for fish stocks, it also deeply affects small scale coastal fisheries who are in danger of going out of business: no or little fish, low prices and no access to markets. And just as Community Supported Agriculture has been working for over 50 years in building territorial markets between small-scale farmers and consumers, Community Supported Fisheries have been addressing similar issues, mainly in the USA, but now increasingly in Europe.
CSA and Covid-19: A resilient model?
10 January 2021
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has had a critical role to play in feeding local communities during the Covid-19 crisis. The pandemic has highlighted the weaknesses and gaps in our global food production and distribution systems. In contrast, smaller more local farms and direct sales models are being celebrated as more resilient and veg box customer numbers have soared during the crisis. Join this session to hear from CSA farmers and the global CSA movement Urgenci, about the different responses and approaches taken by CSAs throughout the pandemic. What has actually been happening on the ground? Has there been a boom in the CSA movement? There is growing recognition that family-scale farms using agroecological practices are an essential part of a system capable of providing healthy, nutritious food for all. It seems customers are hearing this message.
Keynote: China, COVID-19 and the growth of the CSA Network: How the Pandemic Has Changed Short Supply Chain Agriculture in China
11 January 2021
This year more than any has shown how resilient agroecological farms are. Many farms in China’s CSA network have performed very well during the pandemic, both economically as well as being responsive to the needs of the consumer who realised the essential necessity to eat good, healthy food to boost their immunity in the face of the “pandemic enemy”. The effect of this is that producer-consumer relationships have grown and changed in that the bond is now much closer.
Being able to eat organic, healthy food that has gone from “farm to table” in 24 hours has engendered a deep mutual gratitude in CSA members. The pandemic generated a fighting spirit on the side of both producers and consumers. This brought out the essence of community supported agriculture which is that the relationship between farmers and consumers is stable, mutually supportive, and collaborative.
The Financialisation of Land Sales
12 January 2021
We are witnessing the increasing financialisation of land and territories as land and natural resources are sold off to financial actors such as banks, pension funds, and insurance companies. These actors often make use of complex investment webs involving any number of intermediaries, brokers, tax avoidance loopholes and off-shore schemes. All of these are attempts to distance themselves from public scrutiny, regulation, taxation and accountability. This is hugely disempowering for communities as it means that decisions are taken about land that are distant, undemocratic and hidden. And agricultural land is by no means protected. And whether the new owners have purely financial motivations or have some interest in what the land offers (biomass, commodity sales), the outcome is the same: investors acquiring shares prioritise profitability, relegating agricultural production together with its social functions and its environmental objectives to a secondary place.
These 5 1-hour sessions were recorded and can still be viewed on-line at the links these links.