Diversity in food culture and consumption: analysing Community Supported Agriculture in Italy and Norway

In the last two decades, a growing body of literature has reported the emergence of community-driven processes of consumer-producer cooperation, with the aim of creating alternatives to the dominant food system. These organizational arrangements have been defined and conceptualized in different ways, such as alternative food networks, short food-supply chains, civic food networks, local food networks, witnessing the growing importance of local communities in generating place-based solutions to the demand for organic, local, and sustainable food. Food provisioning becomes then a field of engagement to start changing the meanings of food in a cultural, environmental, social and sometimes political sense, against commodification and unsustainable food production.

The term “civic food networks (CFN)” seems particularly useful to highlight the relevance of civil society initiatives in a wider local food policy perspective and because this concept stresses the linkages to other initiatives characterized by a transformative potential, such as solidarity economy, transition towns, de-growth. Against this background, in the framework of FOOdIVERSE, we are analysing two experiences of community supported agriculture (CSA), in Italy and Norway. CSAs are defined as «a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm(s) operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production».

The CSA “NaturalMente in Trentino” was established in 2020 in Trento (North-East of Italy) and it involves at present 10 producers and 29 households (March 2023) who started to cooperate in the summer following the first wave of the COVID pandemic. Most of the farmers are owners of recently founded farms with few employees, often members of their own families, and small dimensions, both in terms of turnover and agricultural area employed.

Hadeland CSA is based in Jevnaker municipality north of the Norwegian capital Oslo. The CSA consists of about 60 households and three farms. The members take part in the planning and cultivating of vegetables and flowers on one of the farms. The field is about 0,5 ha. and more than 40 different varieties of vegetables, potatoes and flowers are grown. The members can also buy shares of the farms’ production of meat (lamb, cattle, pork), eggs, berries and fruits (jam and juice).

Relying on a practice theory approach, we are focusing on the internal dynamics of the CSAs to understand why people join CFNs and how being part of a CFN influences people’s everyday food practices.  

Preliminary results show how changing eating practices implies several challenges at the individual and institutional levels. On the one hand, being part of CFNs allows for the stabilization of embodied habits, temporal routines and shared norms within social networks. On the other hand, the role of food policies appears crucial for promoting sustainable eating, acting on the main components of practices related to food production, distribution and consumption.

The project was co-financed by the NCBR, BMEL, MIPAAF, RCN and DEFRA within the framework of ERA-NET SUSFOOD and ERA-NET CORE Organic Cofund Joint Call program