[EXP] Buschberghof CSA, a multifunctional farm successful for more than 20 years
Rural topic(s): Civic engagement, local governance and dialogue, Local food Chains
Type: Success story
Date of writing: May 18, 2010
Author(s) of this page: Wolfgang Stränz
Organization(s): Der Buschberghof
Buschberghof CSA, situated ca 35 km east of Hamburg/Northern Germany, combines Community Supported Agriculture on a biodynamic farm with preserving rare breeds, care for handicapped people, and economy in solidarity between farmers and consumers
The 90 ha farm Buschberghof, situated 35 km east of Hamburg/Northern Germany was converted from a privately owned biodynamic family farm into a Community Land Trust (gGmbH) in 1968 to ensure biodynamic farming in perpetuity, to prevent soil becoming a commodity, and the farm from being indebted. In 1988 – after a generation shift – the three farmers started an initiative to set up a Community Supported Agriculture scheme to involve more than 90 customer households to take over risk and responsibility for farming.
Projects and Activities
New Forms of Property Ownership: Carl-August Loss’ privately owned family farm was given as a donation into the Community Land Trust as well as donated money from others. The formal owners (the shareholders of the gGmbH) meet once a year, read the annual report and look after the facts that Buschberghof is farmed biodynamically, no farmland is sold and the farm will not be indebted.
New forms of cooperation: The farm is rented out to farmers who agree to meet these preconditions and run the farming business at their own risk. This means that there is no farmer as a landowner any more and the farmers, who work on the farm, have equal rights, and the ideal is that there are no employees, but only farmers who decided to do their work based on their own free will.
New forms of economy: Community Supported Agriculture: “When we started the CSA in 1988, only half of the farm capacity was used by the community of 40 families, whereas the other half of the harvest was still conventionally sold at the farm shop since we were afraid, that our experiment could fail. After the first year it became obvious, that Community Supported Agriculture could be a sustainable solution for the farm, the sales at the shop were stopped and the remaining customers were asked to join the CSA scheme, which was done by a lot. Since then, 20 years have passed, the community is carrying the farm in a reliable way, and it is carrying it so well, that the farm could even further develop”. Nowadays, these 90 consumer households (300 non-active farmers) as a community are prepared to take over the costs of running the farm: each year the active farmers present the budget for the year to come, and the non-active farmers make pledges to the budget according to their financial abilities. If the budget is not met, it has to be cut or additional pledges have to be taken. This had happened in several years, not because of too low pledges by the members but due to the lack of a sufficient number of members, which had to be looked for consequently. The costumers get the food from the farm according to their needs. Food, harvested and prepared at the farm, is thus in a way, “free”. Moreover, the amount of the promised and paid money has nothing to do with the quantity of supplied products. The single piece of food does not have any price any more, but it is the agriculture on the farm, which does have a price, 330.000 euros in 2009/10. “We try to establish an economic process in a brotherly (solidarity –based) way between producers and consumers, and between consumers themselves” explains Wolfgang.Thus the active farmers are liberated from economic pressure and can run the farm as a whole organism, whereas branches of it may be unprofitable in themselves. More than 50 different cultures of summer and winter vegetables are bred, thirteen sorts of bread are baked on two days per week. The dairy produces three different hard cheeses, a variety of soft cheeses, yoghurt, quark, buttermilk and butter. Beef, pork and lamb meat, sausages, poultry, eggs are also provided. The last complete herd of Angeln cows (old variety – before the second world war one of Germany’s agricultural export hits, now an endangered species) produces milk and meat according to the needs of the community. Angeln pigs, another endangered species, are bred on the farm, enjoying the whey from the dairy and the waste from the vegetables. Arable farming, keeping of livestock, gardening, milk processing and baking, are the basis of living for 5 farming families.
Social work: In 1973, the work with handicapped people started, who work and live permanently on the farm. Today there are12 mentally handicapped persons, who work in the stable, on the vegetable fields, in the greenhouses and in the dairy. The responsibility for this work is in the hands of the Community Land Trust.
Results – Main lessons learned
Buschberghof set up the first CSA scheme in Europe and served as a role model for many other CSA schemes in Germany and Europe. In contrast to other vegetable box schemes, which are quite popular in Germany, the aspect of a solidarity economy is fundamental. The financial goal is to do sustainable farming on a non-profit basis. Provisions for the future are part of the CSA’s annual budget and is given to the community land trust for investments in agriculture. The ecological goal is to create a closed farm organism which a multitude as much harmonious as possible. And they also maintain population in rural areas: with farming and social activities, there are more than 30 people living permanently on the farm.
As the capacity of the farm is limited by its size, exporting the ideas of Community Supported Farming onto other farms and making the ideas of it attractive can only extend the success of CSA. Since 1988, Buschberghof has been a model for the other farms, which have been adopting our hardcore CSA system. It contributed to the foundation of three CSA farms that were established in Norway.
After a long period of stagnation, especially in the last couple of years the interest of farmers in Community Supported Farming in Germany is growing slowly but steadily. Nowadays, there are 13 CSA farms in Germany, which are working this way or plan to convert in the next future. The majority cannot provide the large scale of food Buschberghof has, but the idea of a solidarity-based economy is common to all of them. The majority of farms are located in Northern Germany. Interestingly, in most of them, those interested in the CSA concept are no traditional farm shop customers, but a group of largely different people who are getting enthusiastic about this system.
“However, the development in Germany is going further very slowly in comparison to what one can see in France or Great-Britain. The development there is supported by powerful organizations like the Soil Association. Here, everything is more or less dependent on our private initiatives, but this slow growth might be healthier. More and more requests are coming from other farms and from universities and schools of agriculture, so that our system can be presented there”.
For all these activities, Buschberghof obtained in 2009 the Price for Innovation in Ecological Farming (Förderpreis Ökologischer Landbau) from the German Ministry of Agriculture
In contrast to many other CSA schemes (esp. in the U.S.) we are strictly based on economy in solidarity.
Wolfgang Stränz personal participation as founder, treasurer of the CSA scheme and General Manager of the community Land Trust
Buschberghof CSA presentation on blog.urgenci.net/?p=206
Scale of intervention : Local
Keywords: community supported agriculture - CSA, multifunctional Agriculture, land access, social inclusion, consumer producers partnerships, collective farmland ownership, collective approach, community land trust, biodynamic farming, family farming, farm partners, dairy products, social and solidarity economy, local breed, local supply chain, local food systems, livestock farming, gardening
Actors: farm, community land trust (CLT), citizen
Methods: promotion of local economic activity, self-financing