Food from the neighbourhood. Couple of words about short supply chains
The pandemic caused consumers to pay more attention to food quality and food producers had to rise to the challenge by providing consumers with the best products. It soon became apparent, however, that quality is not really driven by extensive control mechanisms, but rather by proximity and locality. The institutions responsible for food safety, the multitude of different types of certificates do not determine, as it would seem, the value of the food we eat every day.
The alternative to the long food chain is the system of comunity supported agriculture (CSA). Community-supported agriculture (CSA model) or cropsharing is a system that connects the producer and consumers within the food system more closely by allowing the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm or group of farms. It is an alternative socioeconomic model of agriculture and food distribution that allows the producer and consumer to share the risks of farming (1). The model is a subcategory of civic agriculture that has an overarching goal of strengthening a sense of community through local markets (2).
In return for subscribing to a harvest, subscribers receive either a weekly or bi-weekly box of produce or other farm goods. This includes in-season fruits and vegetables and can expand to dried goods, eggs, milk, meat, etc. Typically, farmers try to cultivate a relationship with subscribers by sending weekly letters of what is happening on the farm, inviting them for harvest, or holding an open-farm event. Some CSAs provide for contributions of labor in lieu of a portion of subscription costs (3).
The data speaks for itself e.g. in China during the peak of the pandemic in January, demand for CSA products increased by 300%. The Socially Supported Agriculture movement is resulting in being closer to the people. We received similar information from the Basque country. As reported by activist and vice president of URGENCI, the international network for CSA, Isa Alvarez, "The government has recommended the closure of the markets, but the RWS networks are working harder than ever before. The only problem is that because of movement restrictions, only farmers are allowed to make deliveries and they have to do it by moving from house to house."
Sometimes CSA farmers are independent of local government decisions (e.g. closing markets), but they are often asked for help by the local government and work closely with them.
Another advantage CSA has is meticulous supply planning, which translates into not wasting food. This is especially important given the global situation.
We've already heard a lot of disturbing news from the U.S., where farmers are drowning milk in lagoons (declining farmgate milk prices in Poland are evidence that our dairy industry is also bending to coronavirus pressure)(4), and leaving vegetables in fields to rot - restaurant closures have caused farmers to lose their market (5). The meat sector was even more drastically affected. The coronavirus-induced closure of slaughterhouses has caused farm owners to kill the animals they raise in large numbers (6).
As the appeal reads: Local agriculture and the possibility of buying food directly from its producers allow us to protect the interests of family farms, as well as to preserve the tradition and culture of rural areas.(...) (7) to take care of food and food security, let us take care of those who feed us every day, and let us not let the food produced by them go to waste. Instead of multiplying the regulations controlling the overextended food chain, it is worth supporting legal solutions regulating the direct sales market.
(2) Cone, C. A., & Myhre, A. (2000). Community-Supported Agriculture: A Sustainable Alternative to Industrial Agriculture? Human Organization 59(2), 187-197.
(3) DeMuth, Suzanne. (1993). "Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): An Annotated Bibliography and Resource Guide", September.
(7) From the appeal of the Living Earth Coalition https://koalicjazywaziemia.pl/2020/04/30/apel-koalicji-zywa-ziemia-do-rolnikow-i-konsumentow/?fbclid=IwAR0AWpc-E_9YnIUm2awmNIudg-K0gHBSnHZIvqGkkV8bo8nbjKiKPHNAxXs_
Klaudia Krynska, Fundacja AGRO-PERMA-LAB (writer) https://agropermalab.org/
Karolina Pruchniewicz (editor) https://www.weandwaste.site/