Community farming is becoming more and more widespread in Hungary now, since there are more and more people who consider it important to have access to food coming from reliable sources. Within the system, farmers and customers make up a community: the customer has access to vegetables, fruit or animal products coming from reliable sources, whereas the farmer may count on predictable and regular income in exchange for the produced goods. In Hungary, the Association of Conscious Consumers plays a central role in the dissemination of information related to the topic and in knowledge transfer. Their project, part of the Erasmus+ strategic partnership launched in 2014, was aimed at providing visibility about the functioning of community farms. Zsófia Perényi, the coordinator of the project, talked to a staff member of the Tempus Public Foundation about tis cooperation and how it relates to the training of adult learners.
How did you decided to address the topic of community farming in this project? What is unique and innovative in it?
We have been dealing with the promotion of community farming since 2009. We have already organised several lectures and workshops, but we have observed that operational practical knowledge is essential to the strengthening of the first community farms. Other organisations have also faced this in Europe, that is how the idea of the training series entitled “Be part of it!” came to our minds. The series passes on the most important practical knowledge on community farming in four modules. We can say that the entire training series is innovative, since we used novel elements within informal methods, we gave ‘tools’ to the participants, such as planning assistance which can also be helpful for them in practice. It is important to emphasise that the training programmes were meant both for farmers and for consumers, thereby fostering dialogue and cooperation between the two parties.
How is the project’s theme adapted to the profile of the Association of Conscious Consumers?
We have also been promoting ethical, environmentally and socially conscious shopping and lifestyle since 2002. Community farming is a solution that is equally beneficial for the customers and the farmers. The customers have access to food from reliable sources, whereas the farmers may be reassured that a community will buy their products during a whole season. Our association is a member of the international and of the European community farming network, and takes an active role in the coordination of the Hungarian community farming network. In recent years adult education this has been an increasingly important tool for us. It seems to us that those who are interested may have access to a lot of information related to sustainable consumption, but the number of those who deal with practical knowledge transfer and motivation is still low. Therefore, the training series may efficiently support our work.
Who will use the results?
We tested the modules of the training series in three countries: in Hungary, in the Czech Republic and in Romania. Direct feedback has been very important, the training materials and the supporting tools (e.g. publications, trainer’s manual) have been finalised on the basis of this feedback. They are available in Hungarian, in Romanian, in Czech, in English and in French on the websites of the partner organisations, thus the training programme can be revisited not only by the partners, but it can also be adapted by the organisations dealing with this topic in other countries. Joint work has inspired us to start the development of a new training series within the framework of an Erasmus+ strategic partnership project launched in 2017, the aims of which are to assist in the financial sustainability of solidarity-based food systems, e.g. community farms, shopping communities.
Was this your first international project? What have you learnt as project coordinators during the management of the project?
We have coordinated international co-operation work before, but it was important to realise again that each partner has a different work culture, experience and background, so it is worth being flexible. Throughout the project, we insisted on the fact that there should be regular communication (skype calls, management meetings) between the partners, and the project’s results have also served as important milestones, but in terms of implementation we tried to take into account all local needs.
What was the most inspiring to you during project work?
The success of the training series was inspiring. There was a heavy over-subscription already for the first course. For us, it is a big success that cooperation was already established on the ground, and due to which new community farms were launched. We are also pleased at the fact that the training series has proved to be successful even after the closure of the project. In 2017, and a new Erasmus+ project was launched under the coordination of the URGENCI (the International Community Supported Agriculture Network) which aims at launching the training series in new countries, as well as at successfully applying the education material of the courses in Turkey and in Lebanon too.
More information about the project can be found at the following link: tudatosvasarlo.hu/kepzessorozat.
In 2017 EPALE NSS Hungary organised an international conference on priority topics of the EPALE platform. In addition to the conference we published relevant articles in a magazine especially for the Hungarian target groups. We had the articles translated into English and we are going to publish them for a wider audience on the EPALE platform.
Zsófia Perényi is the vice-president of the Association of Conscious Consumers and a project coordinator. An agronomist with a degree in environmental management, she has been working to promote community supported agriculture since 2009. She has been a member of the coordination group of the European Network for Community Supported Agriculture since 2012 and was elected URGENCI’s international coordinator for education and training in 2015.