The story of Marcel Has is a successful example of how the ASAT CSA scheme can effectively support small farmers. After losing his job in the city of Arad, Marcel moved to the countryside and started practicing subsistence agriculture. He was in his fourties, with five children, no rural background and no formal training in horticulture. In 2011, he discovered CRIES and decided to start his first ASAT partnership with 25 households from Timisoara. He had the experience of a few seasons of growing food and some experience as an agriculture worker on larger farms, but the technology at his disposal was very limited at that time. Over the years, and thanks to the consumers’ support for improving the operating of the farm, Marcel managed to secure the production, to increase the variety of the vegetables grown (from 24 to 37 in a 5 year period) and to increase the number of customers (currently he delivers in total of 45 shares each week from April to November). His cultivation area grew from 0.2 hectare (the size of his village garden plot) to 1.5 hectares, the rest being leased by the CSA consumers. In time, he gained confidence in his capacity as a grower.
Technical improvements to the farm (like the purchase of agricultural machinery and equipment, the construction of a new well and of a greenhouse) were made possible too because of the financial support of his CSA group. Marcel has been able to practice diversified organic agriculture, because the ASAT partnership with his consumers allowed him to share the risks associated with this kind of agriculture. In fact, even though he lost part of the crops on several occasions, the consumers paid the subscription fee anyway as part of the shared risks and benefits principle of the ASAT partnership. In fact, at the beginning of each season, a part of the subscription fee is paid in advance, so that the farmer has the money needed to make the necessary investments for the season. In some years, some consumers decided to pay in advance the total amount of the subscription, in solidarity with the farmer who could not afford the investments on his own for the yearly food production.
Because of the CSA model and the availability of small garden plots in his village, Marcel was able to access more land and thus to increase his earnings as a CSA farmer, proportional to the increase of consumers in his partnership. Through all this support and work, he has avoided the inevitable option left to many rural people in Romania, that of being a seasonal agriculture worker abroad. However, new entrants with zero capital cannot access agricultural land, as the prices are escalating fast due to pressure from large industrial farming. They need support in terms of access to land to gain that key prior experience before daring to start a CSA, as well as training in agroecological methods and gaining confidence in themselves.
Marcel owns 0.2 ha, but has managed to lease another 1.3 ha with the help of consumers and because he gained confidence in his capacity as a grower. Technical improvements to the farm (like the purchase of agricultural machinery and equipment, the construction of a new well and of a greenhouse) were also made possible because of the CSA support.
This case study is included in the study Access to Land and CSA: stories from Europe, 2017
0.2 hectares is owned by farmer, the rest is leased.