- General information
UniversityAalto University, Finland
ProgramCollaborative & Industrial Design
CSA is a food distribution and production model that is based on a direct partnership between farmers and consumers. This model originated in the 1970s and was based on citizens and farmers sharing the risks of food production. However, as the CSA model spread and evolved over time, a wide range of possible approaches to CSA emerged.
This development, in addition to an increase in demand for locally produced organic food, the maturation of small-scale profitable farming practices, and a diversification in direct marketing models, enable new business opportunities for (aspiring) farmers to develop small-scale food production systems. Small-scale food production might play an increasingly important role in the transition towards local and sustainable food production, yet there is little knowledge regarding the premises under which this operates. In particular, this development may have a profound effect on the role of farmers as key figures in enabling other actors to participate in local food systems. To address this puzzle, this thesis focuses on how the partnership between farmers and citizens affects the design of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model on a small-scale farm.
The objective of this thesis is to examine these developments from a design perspective. In particular, how the design of a CSA subscription model is affected by the partnership between a farmer and subscribers. Because the field of design contains a broad notion of participation accompanied by a wide range of approaches, methods and tools, design can play an important role in identifying possible strategies that could help farmers understand and act upon the partnerships present in CSA.
In reaching this objective, this thesis is comprised of three parts. The first part contains a desktop study on the overall developments of CSA as well as an overview of different approaches in which people are involved in design processes. The second part follows the planning and decision making process of a CSA subscription model on a small-scale farm in Espoo, Finland, as well as, an analysis of the planning and decision making process through a participatory design lens and by linking the observations made of the case study to the overall developments of CSA. In the final part the implications and limitations of the study and suggestions for future research are discussed.
The first part of the thesis, the desktop study, contains a literature review on the development of CSA since its genesis in the 1970’s. In particular, the diverse notions of the CSA are highlighted by presenting the wide range of aspects such as guiding principles, forms of partnerships, community, approach, motivations for participation, activities, tools and distribution models, that make up different CSA models. The second part of the literature review provides an overview of different notions of participation in design. It explores how the design field is expanding in approaches from design for people towards design with and by people and how these developments affect stakeholder configurations, design processes and methodologies.
The second part of this thesis consist of a description of the planning process of a CSA subscription model at Lillklobb Permaculture: a small-scale (<2.5ha) newly found (2017) farm in the City of Espoo, Finland. This farm utilizes a direct-marketing approach, is operated by a young, novice farmer and practices agro-ecological methods and permaculture design. The CSA subscription model is driven by the farmer and is part of several market-streams of the farm. Participatory observation was held in the period from October 2018 to February 2019, during which I had an active role in planning the CSA model for the upcoming growing season. In particular, I was involved in designing a survey that was send to the subscribers, being part of planning meetings and cohosting the first annual meeting with the subscribers to the CSA. In addition to the participatory observation, data is extracted from an interview held by Galina Kallio in April 2019 and an interview with the farmer was held in May 2019.
The description of the planning and decision-making processes is analysed in the third part of the thesis. This analysis focuses on three different aspects: the nature of the partnerships at Lillklobb Permaculture, the characteristics of the development process of the subscription model, and tools and methods used during the process. The goal of this part of the thesis is to identify the critical factors that determine how the partnership between farmer and subscribers influences the design of the subscription model at Lillklobb Permaculture and to place these developments into a larger (CSA) context. In particular, the findings of this thesis demonstrates the essential role of the farmer as a central decision maker and driver of the development of the subscription model. Furthermore, this development is identified as a cyclical process in which annual windows in time allow for iterations and improvements.
Based on these findings, the thesis discusses potential future implications of the development of the subscription model at Lillklobb Permacuture which allow for four possible trajectories. First, a transition towards a more collaborative approach. Second, the utilisation of the current approach and incrementally improve the process through annual iterations. Third, making the subscription model more instrumental or, fourth, cancelling the subscription model altogether in favour of other sales channels. Obviously there are limitations to this study. For example, understanding how these trajectories will unfold over longer periods of time requires longitudinal research, as well as an comparative analysis which would allow understanding of how the findings of this research compare to other CSAs.