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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
Alina Reinartz, Marius Rommel & Irene Antoni-Komar
The study is based on a co-creative approach between interdisciplinary research and agricultural
practice. The stable-school-method provides collaborative advice among actors from different CSA
farms and is supported in the start-up phase by researchers in a transdisciplinary setting. The
concept is based on the concept of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) (van den Berg, Phillips, Dicke, &
Fredrix, 2020) for the self-empowerment of farmers in the Global South and has been tested in the
Global North, especially in the context of animal welfare (Henriksen, Anneberg, Sørensen, & Møller,
2015; Ivemeyer et al., 2015; March, Brinkmann, & Winckler, 2014).The leading interest of our
research is to apply and adapt this method to the case of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). In
a pilot setting conducting three CSA-Stable-Schools, each containing a maximum of five CSAs, we
collectively mapped, prioritized, and developed solutions to CSA-related problems on a topic-by-
topic basis.
Within the movement of Alternative Food Networks (AFN) (Sage, Kropp, & Antoni-Komar, 2020) one
prominent model particularly suitable is that of Community supported agriculture (CSA) (Barbera &
Dagnes, 2016) “as it embodies all the features considered for more sustainable food systems: it is
solidarity-based, equitable, ecologically sound, and healthy. But most importantly, the CSA has
demonstrated for now that it is resilient in times of crisis and not only provides food but nurtures
communities and cares for the vulnerable people” (Mert-Cakal & Miele, 2020, p. 16). The steadily
growing number of CSAs worldwide (Féodoroff, Parot, & Schneider, 2021) is an indicator of a
promising development in the emergence of sustainable local food systems. Contrary to the
accelerating concentration processes in agriculture, CSA embodies a decentralized, small-scale and
relationship-oriented economic principle that builds upon trust between producers and consumers.
Beyond anonymous external supply and transnational value creation schemes, CSA opens the
perspective of producing local sustainable food that serves all people involved. The CSA-principle is
based on a producer-consumer-cooperation outside market structures. It is obvious that this unique,
transformative type of enterprise (Antoni-Komar, Kropp, Paech, & Pfriem, 2019; Kropp, Antoni-
Komar, & Sage, 2020) is also confronted with questions of economic and social stability and resilience
(Opitz et al., 2019). Our studies indicate an organizational trilemma entailing a continuous balancing
between economic viability and social cohesion while maintaining the self-set transformative goals
(Paech, Sperling, & Rommel, 2020).
The stable schools co-creative approach aims at elaborating the possibilities of this transdisciplinary
method, to point out limitations and to derive necessary support needs in order to achieve an
institutionalization of SoLawi-Stable Schools in the meaning of transformative economics.
Antoni-Komar, I., Kropp, C., Paech, N., & Pfriem, R. (Eds.) (2019). Transformative Unternehmen und
die Wende in der Ernährungswirtschaft (1st ed., Vol. 72). Marburg: Metropolis.
Barbera, F., & Dagnes, J. (2016). Building Alternatives from the Bottom-up: The Case of Alternative
Food Networks. Agriculture and Agricultural Science Procedia, 8, 324331.
Féodoroff, T., Parot, J., & Schneider, M. (2021). Enacting Resilience: the Response of Local Solidarity-
based Partnerships for Agroecology to the Covid-19 Crisis. Retrieved from Urgenci website:
Henriksen, B. I., Anneberg, I., Sørensen, J. T., & Møller, S. H. (2015). Farmers' perception of stable
schools as a tool to improve management for the benefit of mink welfare. Livestock Science, 181,
Ivemeyer, S., Bell, N. J., Brinkmann, J., Cimer, K., Gratzer, E., Leeb, C., . . . Vaarst, M. (2015). Farmers
taking responsibility for herd health developmentstable schools in research and advisory
activities as a tool for dairy health and welfare planning in Europe. Organic Agriculture, 5(2), 135
Kropp, C., Antoni-Komar, I., & Sage, C. (Eds.) (2020). Food system transformations: Social movements,
local economies, collaborative networks. London: Routledge.
March, S., Brinkmann, J., & Winckler, C. (2014). Improvement of animal health in organic dairy farms
through ‘stable schools’: selected results of a pilot study in Germany. Organic Agriculture, 4(4),
Mert-Cakal, T., & Miele, M. (2020). 'workable utopias' for social change through inclusion and
empowerment? Community supported agriculture (CSA) in Wales as social innovation. Agriculture
and Human Values, 120.
Opitz, I., Zoll, F., Zasada, I., Doernberg, A., Siebert, R., & Piorr, A. (2019). Consumer-producer
interactions in community-supported agriculture and their relevance for economic stability of the
farm An empirical study using an Analytic Hierarchy Process. Journal of Rural Studies, 68, 2232.
Paech, N., Sperling, C., & Rommel, M. (2020). Cost effects of local food enterprises: supply chains,
transaction costs and social diffusion. In C. Kropp, I. Antoni-Komar, & C. Sage (Eds.), Food system
transformations: Social movements, local economies, collaborative networks (pp. 119138).
London: Routledge.
Sage, C., Kropp, C., & Antoni-Komar, I. (2020). Grassroots initiatives in food system transformation:
the role of food movements in the second ‘Great Transformation’. In C. Kropp, I. Antoni-Komar, &
C. Sage (Eds.), Food system transformations: Social movements, local economies, collaborative
networks (pp. 1–19). London: Routledge.
Van den Berg, H., Phillips, S., Dicke, M., & Fredrix, M. (2020). Impacts of farmer field schools in the
human, social, natural and financial domain: a qualitative review. Food Security, 12(6), 1443
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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This book examines the role of local food movements, enterprises and networks in the transformation of the currently unsustainable global food system. It explores a series of innovations designed to re-integrate sustainable modes of food production and encourage food sovereignty. It provides detailed insights into a specialised network of social actors collaborating in novel ways and creating new economic arrangements across different geographical locales. In working to devise ‘local solutions to global problems’, the initiatives explored in the book represent a ‘second-generation’ food social movement which is less preoccupied with distinctive local qualities than with building socially just food systems aimed at delivering healthy nutrition worldwide. Drawing on fieldwork undertaken in sites across Europe, the USA and Brazil, the book provides a rich collection of case studies that offer a fresh perspective on the role of grassroots action in the transition to more sustainable food production systems. Addressing a substantive gap in the literature that falls between global analyses of the contemporary food system and highly localised case studies, the book will appeal to those teaching food studies and those conducting research on civic food initiatives or on environmental social movements more generally.
Full-text available
The challenges faced by the contemporary food system across ecological, human health and ethical fields has given rise to an eclectic variety of local food initiatives that seek to demonstrate practical alternatives to business as usual. Such initiatives have moved beyond earlier efforts, often labelled alternative food networks, and may be regarded as a second-generation social movement capable of helping to restore greater resilience and social justice within a more sustainable food system. This introductory chapter outlines the basis of a possible second ‘Great Transformation’ in agri-food – following Polanyi’s original proposition regarding the triumph of the market economy and the widespread commodification of life. During the second half of the 20th century almost all aspects of food and agriculture were detached from their social, cultural and material contexts and this has led to a host of problematic dietary health and environmental outcomes. The emergence of a more experimental and ethical food economy at local and regional scales entangles diverse actors in heterogeneous and interdependent initiatives working to restore the cultural, ecological and ethical basis of a sustainable food system. The chapter outlines the transformative potential of grassroots initiatives and briefly describes the remaining chapters of the volume.
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The focus of this article is community supported agriculture (CSA) as an alternative food movement and a bottom-up response to the problems of the dominant food systems. By utilizing social innovation approach that explores the relationship between causes for human needs and emergence of socially innovative food initiatives, the article examines how the CSA projects emerge and why, what is their innovative role as part of the social economy and what is their transformative potential. Based on qualitative data from four different models of CSA case studies in different regions of Wales, UK, and by using concepts from an alternative model for social innovation (ALMOLIN) as analytical tool, the article demonstrates that the Welsh CSA cases play distinctive roles as part of the social economy. They satisfy the needs for ecologically sound and ethically produced food, grown within communities of like-minded people and they empower individuals and communities at micro level, while at the same time experiment with how to be economically sustainable and resilient on a small scale. The paper argues that in order to become ‘workable utopias’, the CSA initiatives need to overcome the barriers that prevent them from replicating, participating in policies and decision-making at macro level, and scaling up.
Full-text available
The Farmer Field School (FFS) is a widely used method seeking to educate farmers to adapt agricultural decisions to diverse and variable field conditions. Out of 218 screened studies, 65 were selected to review the impact of the FFS. An analytical framework was developed with effects (outputs, outcomes and impacts) arranged according to the human, social, natural and financial domains. Impacts on non-participants of the FFS were addressed as peripheral effects. The FFS demonstrated its potential to enhance human, social, natural and financial capital of rural communities. Human capital was built in the form of critical thinking, innovation, confidence, and quality of life. Effects on social capital included mutual trust, bonding, collective action, networking, and emancipation. Natural capital was enhanced through improvements in field practices, food production, agricultural diversification, and food security. Financial capital was enhanced through increased income and profits, savings and loans schemes, with a potential to reduce poverty. The available body of evidence was unbalanced across the capital domains, providing high coverage of the natural domain but low coverage of the human, social and financial domains. In-depth case studies are needed to elucidate the interactions between livelihood assets, and the influences of the policy, institutional and external environment, in order to adjust FFS interventions aiming to optimize their impacts. Considering the positive effects the FFS can have on rural livelihoods, the FFS has potential to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, quality assurance of the FFS and a balanced evaluation across the capital domains require attention.
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Alternative food networks (AFNs) are a comprehensive body of practices related to food provisioning which are different from the mainstream food systems. In this paper we deepen this topic from a sociological standpoint, focusing on a wide range of AFNs located in the Piemonte region of Italy. We articulate our analytical and empirical study focusing on three central concepts: 1) accessibility, which refers both to the point of sales to the agri-food goods; 2) sustainability, both from the environmental and the economic perspective; 3) quality, conceived as a contested field within which forms of coordination between actors can emerge.
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In this study, we initiated four regional stable schools focusing on animal health within a total of 19 German organic dairy farms. A modified stable school approach was used, i.e. providing the farmers with detailed information on the health status of each farm. The participating farmers showed a positive attitude towards this concept; they appreciated the joint search for effective and feasible measures and evaluated the self-determined approach in the stable school as highly motivating. Accordingly, the compliance regarding implementation was high. More than two thirds of all 123 recommendations given by the stable school groups to host farmers were implemented. The degree of implementation was similar to the level achieved in other intervention studies using face-to-face advice. Across all farms, cleanliness of the cows improved significantly over the 2 -year monitoring period. In nine farms, which had implemented measures regarding udder health, the somatic cell score improved significantly and milk yield increased as compared to the control peer farms. However, treatment incidence for mastitis and antibiotic drying-off remained unchanged. These findings suggest that dairy cattle health in commercial organic dairy farms may be improved in response to farm-individual intervention measures through the stable school approach, which was well received by the farmers. However, additional studies are necessary to investigate the implementation of stable schools in a larger-scale setting under practical conditions, e.g. by advisory services.
„Neue Chancen für eine nachhaltige Ernährungswirtschaft durch trans-formative Wirtschaftsformen“: im Forschungsprojekt nascent wurde an der Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, der Universität Stuttgart und der anstiftung in München die Vielfalt transformativer Ernährungsunternehmen und Initiativen mit Förderung des Bundesministeriums für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) untersucht. Dabei ging es zunächst um die Motive, Organisationsformen, Arbeitsbedingungen und Vernetzungsprozesse der Unternehmen und Initiativen. Diese Wirtschaftsformen (wie Mietäcker, Solidarische Landwirtschaften, Erzeuger-Verbraucher-Gemeinschaften, Regionalmarken) zielen darauf, nachhaltige, regionale und souveräne Versorgungssysteme zu etablieren. In der transdisziplinären Zusammenarbeit mit Praxis- und Transferpartnern standen dafür die besonderen Ansprüche, Kompetenzen und Merkmale der Transformationspioniere im Mittelpunkt der Analyse. Die zentrale Forschungsfrage richtete sich auf die Potenziale der alternativen Wirtschaftsweisen für die Verdrängung nicht-nachhaltiger Formen der Ernährungswirtschaft und die Neuerfindung eines zukunftsfähigen Ernährungssystems, einschließlich der dabei hemmenden Faktoren. Über den Bereich der Ernährungswirtschaft hinaus liefert das Buch Erkenntnisse, welch wichtige Rolle transformative Unternehmen für eine Kehre zu nachhaltiger Entwicklung einnehmen können.
Community-supported agriculture (CSA), a model associated with the movement of Alternative Food Networks (AFN), is gaining increasing attention from citizens and in policy. Many studies have identified the economic benefits of CSA for farmers. Some of them explain the economic benefits by closer social ties and the reciprocal relationship between consumers and producers. Up until now, a systematic study taking into account all social and institutional features of the relationship between consumers and producers and assessing their relevance for farm economic stability has been missing. The objective of our research is to investigate, which consumer-producer interactions (CPI) are most relevant for economic stability of a farm. In our study, we extend and implement an analytical framework of CPI, describing areas of interaction (CPI domains) as well as organisational procedures and rules of relationship (CPI properties). We apply this framework to use CPI as independent rational criteria in an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). An AHP is a mathematical method where experts evaluate different variables in pairs for each level of the hierarchical design. Our results show that CPI can be considered a key factor in CSA farm economic stability, because it could be seen as ways in which consumers empower the producer economically. In addition to consumer-producer interactions regarding classical production factors such as capital (‘financing’) and land, the surveyed experts identified the consideration of consumer needs regarding qualities and quantities of produce as a relevant stabilizing factor. From these results, we conclude direct collaboration with the consumers allows CSA farmers to gain greater independence from volatile markets, but increases their dependency on the shareholder group of consumers.
The aim of the study was to explore farmers' perception of stable schools as a tool to improve management for the benefit of mink welfare. Stable schools are knowledge exchange between farmers working towards a common goal, being able to give practical advice to each other. The concept is based on farmer field schools, developed and used in developing countries. Several Danish mink farmers are familiar with erfa-groups which also are farmers meeting, often with an advisor taking part, but the stable schools with only farmers and a facilitator have never been tested on mink farms. In 2013, we therefore established two stable schools with farmers from five Danish mink farms in each group. The meetings were on the respective farms, and every farm was visited once within a year. The host-farmer presented one success story and two challenges he/she wanted to work with and get contributions to from the group. Qualitative interviews were conducted with the farmers to evaluate their perception of stable schools.Based on the results from the study, and results from other studies of stable schools, we can conclude that farmers generally are positive to the structural way of working in stable schools, and that motivation for working towards a common goal is very important for the process of common learning among the farmers. The uniform production system at mink farms gives special challenges in how to work with the different subjects to ensure farmer ownership of the process. The farmers did not see the seasonal production as any constraint, but express that they like to work with the specific problems and challenges related to the respective production periods.
Achieving and maintaining a high herd health and welfare status is an important aim in organic livestock farming. The varying farming systems across and within countries call for models that are relevant for different farming types and that can be integrated into local practice. In stable schools, farmers take responsibility for health and welfare planning by identifying issues, setting goals, and acting to improve the health situation based on farm-specific data, e.g. milk production. This paper reviews the results from intervention studies that used a modified ‘farmer field school’ approach for animal health and welfare planning, providing an overview of ongoing activities and their implementation into advisory situations in selected European countries. Studies on stable schools as an intervention tool showed improvements regarding the specific project aim on the majority of the participating farms. Farmers and facilitators were convinced of the approach and benefits for dairy herds. Farmers’ attitude and attention towards their herds and their ownership of the process appear to be crucial success factors for herd health and welfare situations. In some European countries, this method has been implemented in advisory practice, and in other regions, there are relevant and promising opportunities.