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Tropentag, September 14 - 16, 2022, Prague

"Can agroecological farming feed the world? Farmers' and academia's views."

Is community supported agriculture a case of real utopia?

Hannah B├╝cheler

University of Hohenheim, Institute for social and institutional change in agricultural development, Germany


In the context of the global debate of agro-food systems transformation towards more sustainability alternative food systems and especially community supported agriculture (CSA) receive more and more attention. The CSA concept is based on critique against the prevailing agro-and food system, namely industrialised agriculture and seeks for a fair, direct partnership between consumers and producers, jointly carrying risks and awards of farming. The aim of this contribution is it to examine the potential of CSA in Germany to move out of the niche position and challenge the current system as one solution in the process of agro-food systems transformation. The geographical focus is chosen because of the widespread application of CSA in Germany.
The concept of real utopia by Erik Olin Wright is applied to analyse the role of currently implemented CSA models in contributing to agro-food systems transformation processes. The term real utopia refers to visionary but practicable alternatives to prevailing systems. The analysis follows the four-step approach by Wright, mainly focusing on the third step, whether CSA fulfils the criteria of a desirable, viable and achievable alternative system. The analysis is based on a literature review of scientific and grey literature. A comparison of sustainability assessment of food and agriculture systems (SAFA) guidelines and core principles of the CSA concept provided by URGENCI, the international CSA network, allows to ground the analysis on an internationally agreed definition of sustainability. The analysis shows that CSA, as implemented in Germany, can be understood as real utopia as it fulfils the features of a desirable and viable alternative and fits into the range of transformation strategies described by Wright. As implementation varies strongly between individual CSA farms some limitations occur. If CSA could also be a real utopia in tropical/low-income countries, especially in urban regions, would need to be explored through empirical studies. Overall, real potential of CSA and its members in Germany to transform the agro-food system cannot be answered sufficiently, especially because within the CSA concept itself limitations exist that prevent continuous growth of CSA.

Keywords: Alternative economic system, community supported agriculture, Erik Olin Wright, food systems, real utopia, transformation

Contact Address: Hannah Bücheler, University of Hohenheim, Institute for social and institutional change in agricultural development, Goethestraße 9, Stuttgart, Germany, e-mail: hannah.buecheler@uni-hohenheim.de

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