Consumer-producer-partnerships (e. g. CSA)


Food chains of this type are characterized by a more active role of the consumer in the process of production and distribution of food as well as a closer relationship between consumer and producer (farmers and processors). These food chain models include Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Ethical Purchasing Groups (EPG), Solidarity Purchasing Groups (SPG), and Food-cooperatives (food-coop).

They have in common, that consumers decide to support one or more local farms and/or food processors and purchasing their food collectively from them directly. Sometimes wholesale can be involved like in the case of ethical purchasing groups or food-coops aiming at minimum order quantities in order to elude retail.

Photo Consumer producer partnerships 2.2.1
Figure: Consumers with their families experience agricultural production. Source: A. Piorr

Consumers in this mode of food supply act either in informal structures (individuals or families) or are organized in formal networks like associations or cooperatives. These consumer groups often pursue certain political aims or ethical considerations and therefore prioritize social and environmental issues like regional organic farming, fair prices and working conditions, rural development as well solidarity between the members of the involved actor in the food chain.

From an organizational point of view these food chains usually build upon collective work of the members whose organize the distribution, accounting and administration etc. The distribution is organized in that way that food products are conveyed to a collector, normally a consumer or a representative of the group, and then sorted according to the orders or shares. Then consumers go to their own reference structure, or their representative, and pick up their products.

In practice there exists a large variety of structures and scales within these models of consumer-producer-partnerships adapted to the needs of the (regional) actors in the food system.

Contribution to shortening food supply chains

Consumer-producer-partnerships base upon direct transaction and communication between consumer and producer and reducing the number of intermediaries (especially retail). They organize regional food chains beside the mainstream chains and may contribute to minimizing transport distances and stable business relationships in a region. Within in this group of food chains – community supported agriculture present the shortest of food provision and most direct way of relation by linking farmers and consumers in a region. Here the consumer get to know the origin of food by own experience including work on the farm.

Sources and further readings (selection):

Grasseni, C. 2014: Seeds of Trust: Italy's Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale (Solidarity Purchase Groups). In: Journal of Political Economy Vol. 21/2014, p. 178-191. Available from:

Peters, R. et al. 2012: Local Food and Short Supply Chains. EU Rural Review No. 12. Available from:

Schifani, G.; Migliore, G. 2011: Solidarity Purchase Groups and the new critical and ethical consumer trends: fist results of a direct study in Sicily. In: New Medit - A Mediterranean Journal of Economics, Agriculture and Environment Vol. 3/2011. Available from:

Soil Association 2012: Buying Groups: a viable supermarket alternative. Available from