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Community, box, consciousness

In Europe community agriculture that relies on the direct contact between consumers and farmer, is becoming more and more widespread. Hungary is doing its best to keep up and similar initiatives are starting up at a growing number of places.

What is community agriculture?

Community agriculture is based on the direct contact between farmers and consumers. Besides the farmers, consumers have an important role in sustaining it, too. The farmer or group of farmers, as well as the consumers, commit themselves to cooperation on the long run. This is normally secured in a written form. In community agriculture the farmers get into direct commercial contact with the costumers. The price is not determined by the prices of the other farmers, but by the costs of the production. Therefore consumers pay for the production work itself.


What is its purpose?

The purpose of community agriculture is the creation of an environmentally sustainable agriculture, more workplaces and means of subsistence for people living in the countryside. They would like to preserve the traditional, artisan production procedures, the traditional landscapes and provide transparent production and price calculation processes. Since it is the goal of the communities to sustain these farms, the prices must include the costs involved in the production as well as the necessary living costs of the farmers – this is divided by the number of the members. The farm is only functional if this is successful.


What types of community agriculture exist?

There are several types. The partial system is based on that the costumers chipping in the costs of the farm as well as all they share all the products and receive their equal share of it. In the box system, the consumers only commit to spending a certain amount of money over a given period of time.  This is done by purchasing a box or case full of fruit and vegetables once or twice a week. This is where the name of the system comes from.


Trust and communication are important

Commitment is highly important, because consumers and farmers have to stick to each other through good and bad. Both take the risk that the amount of food will be less due to bad weather circumstances, but in the opposite case they will receive more. Communication is important, as well as to talk about problems and to solve them. The farmers receive direct feedback and can carry on with the production with the results in mind. It is worth creating a newsletter as well as some kind of a group, where the members can communicate directly.


You receive what is grown

It is important to know that the consumers do not get to select the products themselves, but receive what is grown. Naturally this is preceded by common planning. It can be useful if the community writes a blog where they share recipes based on the fruits and vegetables of the season or share ideas about their use. Members can swap products amongst themselves if they cannot or do not want to use some of the products and can even give them away.


Where can one find such communities?

In Europe, community agricultures are extremely trendy, the survey of URGENCI (International Community Agriculture Network) shows that today there are almost 4.000 farms with half a million users that work on such principles. Drawing inspiration from the examples of the French AMAP, the Belgian GASAP, the Portuguese RECIPROCO, in Hungary, the first box system was in operation between 1998 and 2006 under the name of Open Garden. But amongst the first ones were the Organic Pantry and Bionium farms in Újlengyel, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County as well.


Shepherd’s-purse Circle of Friends

In Debrecen, the creation of the first box system was inspired by the Association of Conscious Consumers lecture on Community Agriculture in April 2013.  Enikő, one of the members told us that in August, Imre Erdődi, a farmer, organised a visit and community cooking event in the Erdődi Nursery Garden, where the consumers could get acquainted with the place of origin of fruit and vegetables as well as with one another. Following this, in September, the system started with a 3 months’ trial that is going to be evaluated now. More farmers are needed in the community who could make the contents of the boxes more varied. Now, all the boxes cost 2500 forints, but the creation of smaller and bigger boxes are planned.


Translated by Judit Molnár