Training session series for the development of community-supported agriculture
Community-supported agriculture is becoming more and more popular in Hungary, too, as increasing number of people consider it important to get their food from reliable sources. Within the system, farmers and consumers together constitute a community, helping each other through mutual benefits: consumers get their vegetables and fruits from a reliable source, whereas farmers can rely on a calculable and regular income. In Hungary, the Association of Conscious Consumers has a pivotal role in disseminating information and transferring knowledge which is relevant to the topic. Launched in 2014, our strategic partnership seeks to present and promote the operation of community-supported farms. We talked to Project Coordinator Zsófia Perényi about the partnership which focuses on training adult students.
How did you come to the idea to address the issue of community-supported agriculture in your project? What’s unique and innovative about it?
We’ve been engaged in promoting community-supported agriculture since 2009. Due to international and domestic projects, we’ve organised a number of lectures and workshops; however, we found that, in order to make the first community-supported farms stronger, the practical skills required for the operation were also essential. Other organisations in Europe have come to the same conclusion, and that was how the idea of the formerly unprecedented ‘Be a Part of It’ training session series was born. The series discusses the most essential practical skills of community-supported agriculture in four modules.
The whole of the training session series can be regarded as innovative, too, as we applied innovative elements of both informal and formal elements, and we also provided the participants with practical aids, such as a planning manual. Note that the training sessions addressed both farmers and consumers, thus promoting the dialogue and cooperation between the two.
How does the topic of the project fit into the profile of the Association of Conscious Consumers?
We’ve been promoting an ethical, environmentally and socially conscious consumption and lifestyle since 2002. Within that, sustainable food consumption is a priority area. In this respect, we found that community-supported agriculture was a solution which both consumers and farmers could benefit from. The system ensures that consumers get their food from reliable sources, whereas the farmers can be assured throughout the season that a community will buy food from them. Our association is also involved in the “board” of the international and European network of community-supported agriculture, and assumes an active role in coordinating the Hungarian network of community-supported agriculture.
Also, adult education has been an increasingly important tool in the life of the Association, because we find that, although a great amount of information is available to those concerned, currently only a few players engage in practical knowledge transfer and motivation. Therefore, the development of the training series was perfectly in line with the activities of the Association.
Who will be the beneficiaries of the outcomes?
We’ve tested the modules of the training series in three countries (Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania). We invited both beginner and already experienced farmers and consumers to see how the training programme worked. The direct feedback received from our adult students was very important, because it served as a basis for finalising the training and auxiliary materials (publication, trainer’s manual) in each country. They will be made available on the websites of the partner organisations in Hungarian, Czech, Romanian, English and French, so we hope the training programme can't only be repeated by our partners in the future, but also adapted by organisations engaged in the field in new countries.
Was it your first international project? As project coordinators, what did you learn while managing the project?
We had coordinated international partnerships before, so we could rely on our former experiences in the Erasmus+ project, too. One such method that we developed through the years is internal reporting. Regardless of the requirements of the project, we prepared an internal content and financial report to check how our partners were progressing with the implementation. These reports were a pre-requisite to transferring funds to our partners. This method helps us as coordinators a lot to prevent issues which could jeopardise implementation, and our partners also found preparing four smaller reports easier than one or two longer ones.
Being coordinators, it was important for us to understand that each partner had a different working culture, different experiences and backgrounds, so it was worth remaining flexible. We insisted on regular communication among the partners (Skype calls, management meetings) throughout the project, and the project outcomes were also important milestones; however, we sought to take into consideration the local needs in the manner of implementation.
What was the most inspiring part of the project work for you?
The partners developed very good cooperation, and it was definitely rewarding to work with such a motivated international team, where everyone contributed to the elaboration of the training series and the auxiliary materials with a lot of interesting and useful input.
Also, the success of the training series was very inspiring. There was excessive demand already for the first training session, and the adult students remained really motivated throughout the programme. We could hardly wait for the next session with them. We consider it a great success that already at the venue, partnerships were made which have launched and will soon launch new community-supported farms.
For further information about the project in Hungarian please visit http://tudatosvasarlo.hu/kepzessorozat
Feedback from training participants:
"My wife has been unsuccessfully trying to change me for eight years. ‘They’ in Budapest managed after four occasions. :)))))"
"For me, system approach is important. I arrived ‘ignorantly’ at the first session, and after the fourth I felt it was a ‘round whole’. On the one hand, it was due to the thematic structure, and, on the other hand, to the participants, as well as their diversity and active involvement. Ultimately, it was the training series that launched 'Kertvárosi Kamra' (Suburban Pantry)..."
"The most surprising experience for me (one that I last had about 30 years ago) was that nobody tried to keep secrets, selfishly holding back their experience, but they were most helpful! All that helped me set off on a path I'd long wanted to."
Project title: Be a Part of It! Joint European Training Session Series for the Development of Community-Supported Agriculture Project duration: 24 months
Programme: Erasmus+ strategic partnerships
Last modified: 16-10-2017