Consumer-producer-partnership: CSA in Berlin-Brandenburg
Rooted in the tradition of rented self-harvesting gardens, developed during the 1990ies in Vienna, Bauerngarten implements a simple and convincing idea: A farmer cultivates a plot of land located nearby the urban settlement and rents parcels already sown with vegetables to interested customers. Those, for one growing season, take the role of a micro-farmer and are able to produce a full supply with seasonal organic vegetables without any previous professional knowledge. Though gaining knowledge is regarded a relevant part of the yield. The concept features a low entrance threshold: membership is put a time limit of one year, time efforts of only few hours per week are required and the farmers is available as qualified as contact person for any horticultural questions. Beyond knowledge transfer the major entrepreneurial task of the farmer is the provision of production means and equipment, such as irrigation, manure and fertilizers, allowed for organic farming, seedlings and seeds for replanting. The costs for participation are significantly below the value of the produced vegetables, what leads to the concept´s broad attractiveness across societal groups.
From an innovation perspective, Bauerngarten is a system innovation, based on social networking and transforming traditional knowledge into new methods and practices. Its contemporary profile stands out as establishing a self-harvesting concept tailored towards urban lifestyles. Elements of community gardening and common learning are combined with the possibility to flexibilisation, e.g. temporal outsourcing of tasks like irrigation. For consumers it allows for meaningful and ecologically worthwhile leisure activity, to slow down, to establish certain food sovereignty, to active participation in creating public spaces. As an entrepreneurial model it meets needs of changing conditions of farming, e.g. for new entrants to agriculture, like graduates possessing professional and networking skills but no own land. For urban planning it is interesting, as green areas located within cities or at the easily accessible urban fringe can be transformed into productive spaces, which at the same improve biodiversity and green Infrastructures.
Thus, the concept covers several innovation dimensions: the technological dimension (e.g. through plot formats optimized for sectorial irrigation, leading to reduced water consumption), the process dimension through contracting machinery work or knowledge intensive practices (e.g. tillage or short term outsourcing of any management practice from the gardener to the entrepreneur), and finally the social dimension by being organised as a community garden with mutual support and exchange possibilities (exchange of know-how, seedlings, harvested produce) as well as by offering common learning in thematic courses (e.g. about plant diseases, composting).
Advantages in economic viability arise for consumers who compensate costs for organic food by own labour input, and by consuming non-marketable qualities. Healthy food becomes accessible independent from the income level. Even more important social impacts are social learning, awareness building, personal skill development, community experience and health aspects. Environmental advantages lie in certified organic farming, food safety aspects due to professional management, and resource efficiency. Food miles are minimised.