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Community supported agriculture: Is it driven by economy or solidarity?

Discussion Paper, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe, No. 144

Brînduşa Bîrhală,, Judith Möllers,, 2014

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Summary :

Searching for possible viable economic pathways for small-scale farms in Eastern Europe, this study is concerned with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). We are mainly interested in the costs and benefits for both sides, the farmers and the consumers, when entering into a direct, trust-based market relationship in the form of CSA. The study is theoretically embedded in the concept of solidarity economy. The analysis is based on three cases of farmers pioneering the CSA concept in Romania by offering organic vegetable to their local contracted consumers in the Western part of the country. All three CSA groups were initiated by a local NGO. Our empirical results shed light on CSA partnerships in Romania. With regard to consumers we find that they are drawn from a specific group of urban dwellers with higher education and income, and a particular interest in health and nutrition. Consumers show a high level of trust to their partner farmers: this is the basis for a functioning economic relationship. Solidarity is a value that is aspired by the initiating NGO. It is existing as one of the values sought by consumers when taking part in CSA. More important than solidarity is, however, the consumers’ wish for organic-quality fresh products, which are not available elsewhere. On the producers’ side, the need for a stable market with fair prices is the main motivation to get involved in CSA. Thus, both farmers and consumer compensate for market failures through the CSA partnership.