Name of organisation
Germany, Franken, Erlangen
Type of organisation
CSA; multi-farm CSA
short food supply chains; civic food networks
Costs & Benefits
Who is Solawi Erlangen?
Solawi Erlangen is an innovative project: it is one of the first multi-farm CSA (Community -Supported Agriculture) initiatives in Germany. It goes beyond simply gathering all producers and members once a week at a distribution point and explores various options for mutualising resources, infrastructures and production.
The initiative collaborates with the following farms:
- “Reimehof” – goat farm with cheese production
- “Schaller Gemüseanbau” – storage and winter crops for the CSA
- “Heidschnuckenhof” – vegetable production
- “Biohof Walz” – cereals, chicken, beef
The main goal is, as in any CSA-type of partnership, to establish a direct contact between producers and consumers, to collectively share the risk of the production and the harvest. To do this, members gain insights into the production processes. Sustainability also plays a role. For example, the members avoid packaging waste by each bringing their own bag to the pickup.
How is the initiative governed? How are decisions made?
Relevant decisions are made together during so-called “Große Treffen” (big meetings), organized on a quarterly basis with possibly all Ernteteilern (literally people who share the harvest, in other words the CSA members) and the farmers. There are also monthly organisational meetings to prepare for the big meetings and public relations. Further working groups exist for:
- Communication support
- Depot support
- Buddy system (“Patengruppe”)
- Farm support: 1 – 2 Ernteteiler are in a close contact with the farmers and facilitate the exchange of information between farm and Ernteteiler in both directions to reduce the work load for the farmers, so that they can focus on farming dutyies.
Trust is the basis of the relationship with the farmers. At the beginning of the year, the farmers calculate together with the farm support a budget that is presented to all “Ernteteilern” for approval. Charges for the society (“Verein”) / Depot follow the same process.
Who do Solawi Erlangen work with and how do they do it?
The initiative collaborates with four farms (Heidschnuckenhof, Schaller Gemüseanbau, Reimehof, Biohof Walz) and a bakery. It is also a member of the German CSA-network “Netzwerk Solidarische Landwirtschaft”.
Solawi Erlangen also cooperates for the logistics with “total regional” store and cooperation with the City of Ernlangen’s Department of Environment.
The benefits of this collaboration are:
- in terms of public relations: becoming better known
- facilitating direct contact with and between farmers
- knowledge sharing and learning for members about cultivation methods and challenges faced by farmers
- promoting regional cultivation of organic food
- preserving and supporting small-scale agriculture
- facilitating logistics
This collaboration is operating around Erlangen and its purpose is to promote and share regional and seasonal food and to strengthen regional producers. Solawi Erlangen is one of only a few multi-farm CSAs in Germany, a focus on CSAs of this type and more networking between multi-farm CSAs could be interesting for other projects/CSAs.
What are Solawi Erlangen’s main challenges?
The main obstacles and challenges that have been identified include:
- The fact that working together is time-intensive
- The current Covid-19 restrictions
- The numerous logistical challenges
- The dependency on voluntary work
COVID-19 has been a challenge. Many members have been forced to resign due to financial difficulties. In response, the initiative decided to introduce the bidding round as a tool. The absence of face-to-face meetings was also a challenge, leading to interpersonal tensions. Many meetings were organised online, which allowed more involvement for some, but less for others. The technical problems and organisational effort required for online meetings also created tensions and dissatisfaction.
What are the priorities for the Solawi Erlangen?
Focus on other multi-farm Solawis, by establishing a working group in the national Solawi network, and by creating a page on the network website showing existing multi-farm CSAs.
Exchange between multi-farm Solawis about existing accounting / organisation systems for multiple harvest shares and different harvest shares at the different farms.
Interested in improving the flow of information within the CSA and supporting guidance in designing and organising meetings, especially online meetings and meetings in conflict situations.