There is Hope in the CSA Movement!
FairShare CSA Coalition staff attends the 7th Annual International CSA Symposium in Thessaloniki, Greece.
The sun shined in early November as over 300 International Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) network delegates, representing over 2 million members from all over the world, gathered at City Hall in Thessaloniki, Greece to share stories and lessons of the global CSA movement from across borders. We were gathered for the 7th Urgenci International CSA Symposium.
Jocelyn Parot, director of Urgenci, opened the gathering with a roll call for the 40+ countries attending, asking, “Is there hope? Is there hope in the United States? Is there hope in Mali? Is there hope in Greece?”
The resounding response was: “YES!”
Jenny Gkiougki, the representative of the Greek host organization, Agroecopolis, summed up the excitement and importance of this gathering, while outlining the struggles facing the Greek people and nation.
“In Greece, during the economic austerity, we have lost 25% of GDP. But CSA is operating at the grassroots and is the Trojan horse that will infiltrate the system. In this gathering there are many movements connected – food sovereignty and agroecology – but we are up against big powers. But even though a mosquito is small, it can still keep you up all night. And I see a room full of mosquitoes!”
The gathering focused on the themes of food justice, solidarity economy, political advocacy, and practical aspects of CSA. While we attended two days of workshops followed by the general assembly meeting of the Urgenci network, many connections were made outside of the formal program through the delicious meals brought to us by the farmers in the Agroecopolis networks, and the numerous dance and musical performances sharing Greek’s rich folk dancing tradition.
As a delegate from FairShare CSA Coalition, I connected with many people in other countries and regions who are working to establish and strengthen their own CSA networks. I reconnected with Ariel Molina from Brazil, who, after our gathering in China in 2015, began a network of CSAs in Brazil and even brought back some of FairShare’s cookbooks to share.
Urgenci provides expert support, funding, and training for many CSA projects internationally. Last year, for example, Mexico held its first CSA conference, with help from the organization. Brazil has over 100 CSAs in its network, and China over 1,000, all with the help of Urgenci.
The inspirations and connections gained through the Urgenci network have catalyzed FairShare’s current work, including “Developing a National CSA Community of Practice,” a project for which we have been awarded a Farmer’s Market Promotion Program grant to pursue over the next 3 years. This project will enable us to better share resources among CSA networks in the US so that we can further strengthen our work and local farms.
In our final day at the general assembly, we opened with a traditional greek blessing for the water.
As our Greek host Jenny said – we are facing big powers. The challenges we see in our own food system – the corporatization and commoditization of the food we eat and how it is threatening the viability and sustainability of small farms – was further echoed in the voices of the people I met during the symposium. “How do we reach people when they can go to a big box store or order food online? How do we make CSA affordable and also provide a real wage for farmers?” These questions, and more, demonstrated over and over that our struggles are truly shared.
And so, too, are our solutions. Throughout the symposium stories and lessons were shared that included unique innovations, such as local seed saving within CSAs in Germany, the creation of non-competitive CSA networks in Canada, and food sovereignty through CSA for Palestinians.
Through the sharing of these stories, struggles and solutions, I found hope in this gathering. That together, at all levels, whether local, regional, national or international, each effort creates a ripple in the water which can become a wave of change.