URGENCI, the international network of Community-Supported Agriculture, reached a new stage of maturity at the Vth biannual Symposium that was held in Monterey in California, 20th-23rd January 2013. The first three symposia took place in Europe – Aubagne, France (2004 and 2008), and Portugal (2005). URGENCI then successfully organized the first international CSA conference outside Europe in Japan in 2010.
Japan is generally considered to be the cradle of contract-based partnerships between consumers and producers. Three years later the next URGENCI conference took place in the USA, another stronghold of the movement. URGENCI’s Contribution to the American CSA movement The American CSA movement is currently experiencing a new wave, following the initial surge of the mid-80s. Whether there are 6,000 CSA programs nation-wide as Steve McFadden estimates , or if more than 12,500 farms operating a CSA-type marketing model, as USDA estimations stated in 2010 is irrelevant. What is most important is as Steve McFadden states, the American CSA is “at a decisive point. Is it going to become just another “business model” based primarily on monetary transactions for food? Or will CSA fulfill its ideal potential to become a model for healthy cells of social well-being, environmental health, and economic justice?”. Are the large-scale box schemes endangering the original CSA concept? Who is in a position to defend the CSA principles? What is the role of the local networks in guaranteeing the ethics of new CSA models? Is multi-farm CSA simply a new type of food co-op? These questions were at the heart of the discussions during the farm bus tour on the 22nd and the Conference itself on the 23rd. The presence of participants from other American and 6 different continents was certainly beneficial to all participants, since these issues keep coming to the fore wherever CSA practice is firmly rooted. Some well-established movements have already gained precious experience in dealing with these delicate issues. The local participants – mostly organic family farmers – enjoyed learning through peer-to-peer exchange. The CSA Conference had a direct outcome: a US nationwide CSA coalition has been established, and a strong basis for a Californian CSA network has also been built. This was achieved thanks to the involvement of an organization that shares much common ground with URGENCI, including the profile of consumer-producer alliance: CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers). The CSA Conference participants thus made history at both local and national level. A major outcome: the new articulation in regional groups Prior to the conference, 25 representatives of CSA movements from all over the world made history by spending two days drafting a regional action plan for the next 2 years. For the first time ever, URGENCI members now have a concrete action plan to implement on five different continents, with regional groups in charge! The new International Committee of 8 now includes a member for Latin America, as well as 3 special Ambassadors with specific briefs. The next URGENCI Symposium is scheduled to take place in 2015 in China.