Urban News from Hungary: Okotarsulas, a Community Supported Agriculture Experience

Photo: http://okotarsulas.hu/kuldetes/

Mariann Majorné Venn

By Mariann Majorné Venn, on September 12th, 2014

> Read Mariann Majorné Venn's articles

A number of models for community supported agriculture are known in the world. In the most cases they represent a kind of contractual relationship between one or more producers and a group of consumers. In order to obtain food from reliable sources typically more buyers jointly find producers they trust and who

undertake to provide a package of seasonal crops on pre-specified and paid price to each member of the group usually on a weekly basis.  This practice provides a constant market of the diverse but small amount of goods for the producer while the buyer gets fresh food from a trusted source without much effort.

A Community Supported Agriculture Model for Long Term Self Supply

In 2011, 55 families in Budapest decided to take care of their own food supply. They intended to reach a fully controlled, long-term self-supply and therefore they didn’t choose the usual way. Instead of having their food produced by another party, they wanted to produce it themselves, though not with their own hands. For their long-term goals they undertook a bigger initial investment, bought their own land and established their own ecological model farm in the small village of Herencsény, a 100 kilometres North of Budapest.

However these families who established the eco-farm have neither sufficient agricultural expertise nor enough time for farming, and they also didn’t intend to break up with their urban lifestyle and occupation. Thus the eco-farm is not cultivated by the members, but a local agricultural expert has been entrusted to manage it with the use of locally available labour force. Nevertheless the members of the community do not only monitor the process of the production but they regularly organise community events and common activities on the spot. Thus the eco-farm is not only beneficial in food supply but it can also be considered as a kind of free time activity and a commitment and conscious choice of values.

An Adaptable Model for Other Settlements and Communities

The members of the initiation cooperate as a non-profit civil organization (Hungarian Eco-Association Cultural Nonprofit Ltd.), thus constituting a community that has the spiritual and intellectual capital behind the material assets. This intellectual capital and the power of the community give the members the consciousness of the social role of the eco-farm and the opportunity to formulate their vision beyond their personal goals.
The eco-farm, working on 6 hectares now, serves as a model for the reintegration of the traditional farming cultural heritage into today’s life, while it also integrates “progressive” trends of ecological agriculture such as biodynamic farming. The association has no pressure on making profit and that offers the necessary freedom to give priority to health and community, and that the economy should become an integral, organic element of its landscape and countryside.
The mission of the Eco-Association, as it is declared on their website,  is to provide “an adaptable model for other settlements and communities, and to give know-how to rural communities that have lost their awareness of self-esteem and self-sufficiency, as well as for urban people looking for new ways and values”.
For the families participating in the association the possession of the land is the guarantee that the developing eco-farm will not only give outcomes to enjoy for them but also for their children and other family members on the long term. They also consider it as an important goal that through the community events and occasional work on the fields their kids, growing up in an urban environment, will learn the methods and logic behind ecological farming, and thus perceive the context and interdependency of economy, ecology and community.

A “Weekly Basket” Model is Embedded to Deal with Surplus

It is also worth looking at the economic analysis of the initiative. The acquisition of land, basic infrastructure and tools needed for farming required a relatively large financial investment from the founding families. The management of the farm requires additional permanent financing, since, among others, they have to pay the salaries of the manager and the workforce. In the first one or two years the members paid an apparently very high price for the boxes of fresh food taken over weekly. The volume of production, however, is growing after the initial years, and now it produces more than the needs of the owner families. Such an excess can thus be sold through the common method of community supported agriculture. Future customers – if they accept the conditions lay down by the community – can order the weekly food boxes for a fixed price by filling up a partnership agreement downloaded from the Eco-Association’s website.
This means that the urban families who founded the Eco-Association ensured their healthy food supply for the long run coming from their own land, led by the expert they trust and using farming methods they find appropriate and in the same time they are promoting an economically and culturally conscious rural economy. After a bigger initial investment the farming is financially self-supporting due to the marketing of the excess. The community of the Eco-Association and the eco-farm thus provides a model for healthy food production, self-sufficiency and sustainable rural ecology.

Source: http://okotarsulas.hu/
Read more:
Conscious Customer  website – in Hungarian
Sustainable Food in Urban Communities - URBACT website

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