Alternative Foodways: Community Supported Agriculture and Foodcoops

In the context of the AEMS summer program, we had a lecture with Friedrich Leitgeb where we learned about the current issues related to agriculture such as the use of fertilizers, soil erosion, resource depletion, loss of biodiversity and the unequal distribution of food across the globe. In order to tackle these problems, agriculture has to make a shift towards an increase of organic agriculture, therefore ensuring long lasting sustainability.  

Nowadays it is so easy to buy produce, we go to the supermarket and choose the fruits or vegetables that we need and pass them through the cash register. But do we ever question where these products come from? What supply chain processes had to happen for them to be readily available in the supermarket? Is buying tropical fruits in Europe environmentally sustainable? What about the farmers, are they paid fair wages for their work?

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and global restrictions, we began to question our priorities and started to realize the importance of small and medium businesses for the local economy, understanding that the dependence on imports and non-seasonal products is not sustainable in the long run, because any disruption to the supply chain means putting food security at risk. Furthermore, many farmers became affected due to the large number of intermediaries between them and the end consumer, causing producers to lower their prices in order to remain competitive and as a consequence, forcing many to abandon the fields in search of better job opportunities in urban areas.

We as consumers have a very important role in reshaping the future of agriculture and food supply towards a social-ecological transformation. There are a variety of ways we can start promoting local agriculture and supporting local farmers, ensuring produce is grown locally and therefore fostering community and economic collaboration.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a model that connects the farmer to consumers on a subscription model where the consumer supports and funds the harvest while also sharing the risks. As a result, consumers receive their share of the harvest on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This model offers a win-win situation because the consumer benefits from fresh organic produce and the farmers can obtain a fair payment for their work while strengthening community relationships.

Another alternative is the Food cooperative, where similar to CSA, the intermediaries of the distribution of crops and fresh produce are removed by creating local cooperative stores where farmers and local producers can offer their products while receiving a share of the profits, putting local produce at the easy reach of consumers and creating a collaborative community.

CSA and Foodcoops have already been implemented and have proven successful in some places such as in the United States and Canada. Now, it is up to us as consumers to continue promoting community alternatives and supporting local farmers and producers to implement these sustainable alternatives in order to ensure agriculture for the common good.

Written by: Fátima Vargas de la Cerda

Based on the lecture "Alternative Foodways: Community Supported Agriculture and Foodcops" by Friedrich Leitgeb during the AEMS summer school 2021.

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