Article of Urgenci

As a food community organizer, you wonder why the members of your Food co-op or CSA have been turning into couch potatoes during the last few months? You may be frustrated and seek to re-ignite the initial burst of motivation and creativity that led to the set-up of your food community. Are your core group members all exhausted volunteers and quitting the CSA silently one by one? Are you wondering how to stop the leak?

Food and More is a project that tries to provide answers to these challenges. Food and More focuses on developing training and mentoring programs tailored to the needs of the members of Food Communities like CSA groups.

The main objective is to consolidate the growing food communities, including the CSA networks, and to encourage their members to be more active in their groups and to be more socially engaged.

During the webinar held on the 22nd of April, the participants had a chance to hear from seasoned CSA farmers and core group members who have direct experience facing these challenges and who will share recipes on “how to keep CSA members involved.” Several key topics were raised, including: How do you make clear that your CSA or your food co-op is more than just a basket of fresh vegetables? How can a member support a food community? Do we need volunteers or food superheroes? What is the role of a network in highlighting the principles of CSA?

The panel was facilitated by Zsófia Perényi, from TVE (Hungary), who is also the Education and Training Expert for the International Committee of URGENCI.

The first panelist was Tom O’Kane. Tom O’Kane is the founder & grower of Cae Tan CSA, Wales, where food is grown for 130 households, host volunteers, trainees, school & university groups. Tom works also as an advisor throughout the UK for community growing enterprises. This year he is establishing an online training program “How to effectively set up & run a CSA.” As well as having over 20 years practical experience, he has a degree in organic farming & an international certificate in biodynamic farming.

Tom stressed the importance of community building and conviviality to make things work well: making sure everyone is having fun is a key element. In Tom’s view, although they definitely have a role in making social connections fluid, volunteers are a bonus: the CSA should be working well already itself. Tom shared several practices and challenges, including the ways of motivating CSA members and how to share responsibilities within the core group.

The second panelist was Anika Füger, who has been active since 2016 in Solawi Düsseldorf e.V. and since 2018 part of the elected board. She studied communications and cultural sciences – she now working part-time for the German CSA-network Netzwerk Solidarische Landwirtschaft (project management). Her remaining time is spent in the field for Solawi Düsseldorf coordinating harvest and workdays with the members. During the webinar, she explained how, for example, the Big Wish list exercise is conducted in the Solawi groups, and how important it is to have clear protocols and assignments of what has to be done, when and by whom, using a regularly updated shared board for example.

The third panelist, Tomas Uhnak, is a 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. Apart from his voluntary work as a field activist, he also holds Master degrees from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and from the Food Policy Programme at City, University London. Currently, he is also a PhD student at the Czech University of Life Sciences, researching the discursive and ideological formations of agrarian and food regime paradigms. He is also an agriculture and food systems analyst and advisor for the Czech Pirate Party at the Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of the Czech Republic.

Tomas stressed the importance of getting the CSA principles rightly understood: “my experience is that every time I have people treating CSA as a service, I get a feedback from the farmers: we have an issue to solve with this person who does not fully understand that CSA is more than getting a fresh basket of vegetables. Then, it means we have to address the issue, state the principles again. Of course, farm visits are very important to connect with the reality on the farm and relate better to our farmers”.

The webinar participants were very active, and 5 of them 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 first of a series of 3, where we will try to address some of the key challenges faced by food communities in their everyday operation.

Sign-up to our next Webinar “How to Support your Farmer”: on May 25th

You may also sign up for Food&More Webinar 3 “More Networks and Mentors for our Food Communities!”, on June 22nd: