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Stable Schools in Community Supported Agriculture Building Resilience with a Co-Creative Approach from Transdisciplinary Practice and Collaborative Consultation

Stable Schools in Community Supported Agriculture
Building Resilience with a Co-Creative Approach from Transdisciplinary Practice and Collaborative Consultation
Marius Rommel, Alina Reinartz, Irene Antoni-Komar
RECOMS Spaces of Possibility Confex
June 7th - 11th, 2021
Session 5 – “Let’s grow together!”
Community food growing & alternative food practices
1. CSA as our field of activity
What is CSA
Why do we need intervention & data?
2. Stable School - a method of
Participatory Transdisciplinarity
Transdisciplinarity Approach
1. CSA as our field of activity
What is CSA
Why do we need intervention & data?
2. Stable School - a method of
Participatory Transdisciplinarity
Transdisciplinarity Approach
1. Aim and Research design
Research Question
In how far is the stable-school-method able to empower CSAs in a co-creative and collaborative way to 1.
identify problems of economic and social stability, 2. jointly develop their own solution strategies in order to
meet the transformative aspirations of their enterprise and to promote organizational stability?
This study aims at developing a method
(1) as an empirical tool to collect data about organizational stability of CSAs (science perspective)
(2) as a tool, that directly supports CSAs in their ambition to solve problems and stabilize their organizations
(practitioners perspective)
Multiple crisis within the food industry |
Starting point of our research
As a multiple crisis experience, the Covid-19 pandemic shows impact on food systems worldwide, especially in
terms of their resilience (Féodoroff et al., 2021).
The existing discourse about necessary changes towards healthy, ecological and, above all, decentralized production
and distribution of food has now intensified (Lamine, 2015; Worstell, 2020).
The nascent research project aims at elaborating the possibilities and limitations of the transformation of the
current systematically unsustainable food industry towards a sustainable Local Food System currently focusing on
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
The current crisis has exposed, ever more, the cracks in our food and agricultural systems;
we can use this as an opportunity to transform these.(Gemmill-Herren, 2020, p. 614)
CSA as a multi-functional enterprise
Taking on responsibility for agriculture
Sharing the harvest
CSA as a multi-functional enterprise
We focus on the movement of Alternative Food Networks (AFN) in which one prominent model suitable is that
of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) (Sage, Kropp, & Antoni-Komar, 2020; Barbera & Dagnes, 2016).
CSA has dynamically developed since the 1960s in the global North, first in Japan (Kondoh, 2015) and the USA,
from 1988 with the first pioneer farms ("Buschberghof") in Germany. The world's largest CSA-organization is the
South Korean cooperative Hansalim, currently supplying two million people with over 2,300 farms (Asmuth, 2019).
CSA is a community-based supply system that provides an alternative to the grow-or-die dilemma in
decentralized, small-scale, and demand-driven value-added arrangements. CSA firstly enables the economic
viability of micro-agricultural enterprises and secondly sets an upper limit to farm size as a result of spatially and
socially direct relationships (Paech, Rommel, & Sperling, 2019).
Producers and consumers collaborate in a direct partnership and shortest distance (community-based
consumer-producer interactions (CPI) (Opitz et al., 2019) without a market, intermediaries, marketing, logistics,
industrial processing, etc. that shapes the basis for a resilient local food supply.
(Antoni-Komar, Kropp, Paech, & Pfriem, 2019; Paech, Rommel, Antoni-Komar, & Posse, 2020; Bloemmen, Bobulescu, Le, &
Vitari, 2015; Boddenberg, Gunkel, Schmitz, Vaessen, & Blättel-Mink, 2017; Hayden & Buck, 2012; Wellner & Theuvsen, 2017)
CSA as a multi-functional enterprise
CSA is more than food production.
CSA is a multi-functional organization that offers numerous benefits. It is an economic model beyond market
mechanism comprising as a precondition the community of joint financing and co-production. Economically
spoken the supply of goods and services is a comprehensive joint production, as it satisfies needs beyond the
mere provision of food.
CSA is a provider and recipient of both ecosystem and cultural services (community, solidarity and agroecology).
It depends upon and transforms natural resources as well as social capital into food, culture and ecological
CSA is integrating economy and social cohesion for the transformation of the food system.
Why do we need intervention & data
1. CSAs face a trilemma of organizational stability.
2. Farms can benefit from the labor of their
members, namely as prosumers or co-
producers (Paech, Sperling, & Rommel, 2020). The
more people experience their active
participation in CSA as being meaningful, the
more resilient the companies become in terms
of available labor.
3. But, this also entails the risk of over-motivation
and overstraining, long-winded decision-making
or uncertain responsibilities. There is a risk of
intra-organizational de-stabilization or even the
inability to operate (Paech et al., 2019).
4. Challenge on generating an adequate income
for the core team (Galt, Bradley, Christensen, van
Soelen Kim, & Lobo, 2016).
1. CSA as our field of activity
What is CSA
Why do we need intervention & data?
2. Stable School - a method of
Participatory Transdisciplinarity
Transdisciplinarity Approach
What does Transdisciplinarity mean to us?
What does Transdisciplinarity mean to us?
Perspective of a researcher
Participatory Transdisciplinarity (Mobjörk, 2010, S. 870)
“In participatory transdisciplinarity, on the other hand, societal actors are fully
included in the knowledge production process and their knowledge is equally valuable
to scientific knowledge”
Transformative Science (Schneidewind et al., 2018)
Action Research (Stringer & Ortiz Aragon, 2021)
What does Transdisciplinarity mean to us?
Perspective of a practitioner & the network
CSA is a transdisciplinary undertaking itself, because it brings togethers many realms
such as organic farming, legal forms and tax aspects, logistics, group process, decision
making and a new relationship between farmers and consumers.
Research about CSA has quite increased in the last few years. Though the community
has not benefited in equal measure, as bachelor thesis' or research abstracts didn’t
find their way back to the people who offered input due to length, language or the
lack of benefit of the content itself.
So the question is how the network and the people involved in CSA-projects can
benefit better from research and how can researchers can do more relevant work for
the "real world"?
We see the great potential of the Stable Schools as a new format for the CSA-
movement: Knowledge circulates between practitioners, Consultants and
Researchers and thus stays in the system.
The Stable-School-Method
By Crops for the Future - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
The Stable-School-Method
Method for collecting
data about stability and resilience
transformative Instrument
supporting stabilization and resilience
The Stable-School-Method
This format originated in the global south as “farmer-field-schools” and was brought to Europe by researchers in
Denmark naming it stable school, referring to the stable for animals (van den Berg, Phillips, Dicke, & Fredrix,
The Thünen Institute then brought it over to Germany in the field of milk-farmers and animal welfare. For our
research on stabilizing CSAs we just reinterpreted the term now meaning stable in terms of resilient and socially
and economically viable, since not all CSA projects involve animals (Henriksen, Anneberg, Sørensen, & Møller,
2015; Ivemeyer et al., 2015; March, Brinkmann, & Winckler, 2014)
Stable School for CSA-farms/ groups picks up the idea of the "classical" stable school and combines it with the
GROW-Modell, a coaching tool for goal setting and problem solving developed by John Whitemore, which has
already been tried and tested in the CSA-consulting before (Growell 2013)
It aims to exchange experience and ideas on how to meet individual challenges and stabilize the project.
It is a great tool for collecting data about stability and resilience, so that researchers and consultants learn more
about the relevant aspects that help stabilizing CSAs.
As well as it is a transformative instrument itself as it is based on the experiences of practitioners itself and
empowers them to find their own solution.
The Stable-School-Method
Fixed Parameters
5 CSA projects
1 moderation
The Stable-School-Method
Fixed Parameters
5 CSA projects
1 moderation
There are different forms of Stable Schools for CSA-projects/farms.
The morphology shows the variety of manifestations of the charateristics.
The only two parameters that are set are the group size of five CSA-projects
and the role of moderation during the process.
We are currently designing different forms of Stable School, both digital and
real-live events.
We made good experience with the online format, which lowered the
inhibition threshold for practitioners to participate in terms of time and
traveling expenses.
Furthermore it makes it easier to bring together CSA-projects with similiar
issues and/ or structural similarities (e.g. legal form, size, product range).
How does the process work?
Fixed Parameters
5 CSA projects
1 moderation
How does the process work?
+ Profile of participating projects
+ Handout about the issues of economical stabilization
4:00 4:10 Welcoming
4:10 4:15 Attunement to the topic
4:15 4:30 Input & Discussion
4:30 5:30 Collegial Consultation
5:30 5:35 Break
5:35 5:40 Brief Resume in small groups
5:40 5:50 Collection of Critical Success Factors
5:50 6:00 - Conclusion
How does the process work?
How does the process work?
What is your personal story of success?
What is your problem related to economical stability?
Which measures are useful in your view?
Which measures do you want to try? What is your next step?
How do we collect data?
Audio-Recording, Miro-Board,
Transcription and qualitative data analysis via maxqda-software
We put in relation indicators about the stability (trilemma check) and observed characteristics of the
farms in order to derive successful stabilization-measures, structures and activites
Critical Reflection
What went well?
The Format helps collecting of solution strategies for organizational stabilization.
It offers the participants a safe space to talk about the project’s but also personal challenges.
This form of collegial consultation can complete the network’s advisory concept and set a starting point for
further individual consultation.
All parties benefit from the synergetic effects.
The participants are highly interested to find solution for their issues, so they are a very motivated “research
What did we learn?
The moderation needs to keep up a positive spirit and make sure that the participants communicate
If the case gets too technical (legal forms, tax law), the group might not be able to offer solutions.
08.06.2021 25
Thank You
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