A CSA project creating a direct relationship between local peasant producers and people in the city through a delivered food box scheme.
Key words: Peasant, food, local, village-city relationship
Name of the initiative? The Peasant’s Box (Cutia Taranului)
What kind of initiative Farming/production, Education/training, Environmental, Biodiversity, Community
Ronen Hirsch; an Israeli in Romania, noticed all the beautiful produce in the peasants’ gardens, but that the people in the cities were not in touch with them. In 2012 following a meeting with Eco Ruralis, he was walking his dogs when he met one of his neighbours who was a peasant producer. They sat down together to discuss how they could get the produce to the city. The peasant didn’t believe it would work but was prepared to try. When they launched the first box, all the places were taken up in two days. They couldn’t believe it. Some years later after the peasants had grown confident in the resilience of their relationship with their members, they made a brave decision to leave the physical market.
“The peasant didn’t believe it would work but was prepared to try”
There are now 26 peasant producers in Cutia Taranului. We not only serve Cluj, but other cities. Members can agree to have boxes delivered weekly, fortnightly, monthly or even every six weeks. Their commitment is to be there when the box is delivered to pay for it then. In Cluj we have a waiting list of a hundred families wanting a Peasant Box, but we don’t have enough producers yet to supply them all. When a new peasant producer joins Cutia Taranului we first offer their box to our existing members (if the produce is different from what they already receive) then we offer it to those on the waiting list. Then we go to the Facebook page. Peasants are paid on delivery. They receive all the money.
Initially we (as coordinators) reach out to potential members (customers), but ultimately this is about a direct relationship with the grower and the family they deliver to.
“Relationship is the basis of our project.”
Relationship is the basis of our project. The first relationship is between us as organisers and the producers – we work with them to produce relevant and valuable boxes and help them appreciate the value of what they are producing. This takes a lot of communication and collaboration, but it is very important. Then we help connect them with the members so a relationship between producer and member can grow.
As we’ve grown bigger, we’ve incorporated towns outside of Cluj, which is wonderful, but it is harder to develop relationships with peasants and future members over a distance. In new towns they don’t know about the Peasants’ Box so when we launch a box in a new city, we must be patient and really persevere.
“We’re going to be patient because we believe in educating the community, both members and peasants”
The Peasants’ Box is not for everyone: some people start receiving one but soon give up or aren’t at home when the delivery is due. They don’t appreciate the work that goes into producing high quality food. Part of the challenge is the community itself. In Cluj we tried to bring all the members of the box scheme together to meet each other, but lots of people didn’t have time. We’re going to be patient because we believe in educating the community, both members and peasants, about agroecology and permaculture principles, to help the members appreciate how hard the peasants work so that they will be there when their box is delivered. We are encouraging our peasants to use less plastic – there is no such thing as a perfect producer, if they want to join Cutia Taranului they just need to make time to listen to the story and be open to work together to build the relationship. Some of our new younger producers are already into permaculture and a positive environmental impact and we hope they will influence our other farmers.
I’ve learned to take decisions much faster. Before, when I saw the signs that things weren’t working, I tended to give more and more chances when I should have realised that we need to go our separate ways – still friends. We try to make our producers aware that if the member is not home when they try to deliver more than once and don’t respond to a call or an SMS, we tell the peasant to thank them but take them off the list saying we’ll be here if you want to be committed to The Peasants’ Box in the future. The same is true for our producers. If you don’t build a relationship between the families you are delivering to, it’s not going to work – no matter how beautiful your produce is. Not every peasant who came into the project stayed with the project because of this.
“We have producers that ask us ‘how can we give back because we feel so abundant now?’”
Many of peasants and their families that stay with the project are becoming self-sustainable and having sovereignty of their livelihoods. We have producers that ask us ‘how can we give back because we feel so abundant now?’ They have built greenhouses and invested in water systems. They have been able to send their daughters to university.
Families in the city are so grateful to receive their boxes. They have a direct connection with the producer. Not only can they ask exactly how their food was grown, but they can even visit the gardens. 70% of members who signed up for boxes seven years ago are still receiving their boxes.
We find this empowering.
2 of our producers:
interviewed by TVR Timisoara:
interviewed by the same TV show:
Repository compiled by: Iulia Sara
E-mail contact: firstname.lastname@example.org