Reflexive Resilience and Community Supported Agriculture: The Case that Emerged from a Place
Keywords:Alternative Agri-Food Networks, Civic Agriculture, Community Supported Agriculture, CSA, Reflexive Resilience
While some aspects of what has broadly been called alternative agri-food networks (AAFNs) are relatively prominent in Ireland, including farmers' markets, garden plots (or allotments), and the GIY, or the Grow it Yourself home gardening phenomenon, community supported agriculture (CSA) initiatives are still rare in Ireland. One of the few, earliest, and most prominent CSAs in Ireland is the subject matter of this article. This paper first contextualizes the study with some of the relevant literature on AAFNs, including a 'civic turn' in the European literature on AAFNs, toward civic food networks (Renting, Schermer, & Rossi, 2012). Key developments in this literature, including equity, governance, place, and empowerment, are unpacked and demarked as especially important. The studied CSA's organizational restructuring in the face of productivity pressures is examined in detail. While CSAs specifically involve sharing risks and rewards, and while this is described as an acceptable uncertainty, when pushed to its limits the actualized risk of not enough produce became in fact unacceptable for this CSA initiative. The process through which this member-owned and -operated CSA critically self-assessed and restructured in the face of challenges is a core part of what is termed here as a 'reflexive resilience.' The implications of reflexive resilience are then analyzed to draw out research implications. 'Reflexive' refers here to being critically self-aware and willing to change, and then changing. 'Resilience' refers to being prepared for shocks and responding accordingly to said shocks if and when they occur. Taken together, the term 'reflexive resilience' describes a CSA's adaptive awareness.
That this reflexive resilience emerged in a member-owned and -operated CSA may make this CSA more a model for communities to use, if the aim is to have a truly civic agriculture (Lyson, 2000) as part of a more civic rural space. Implications for more fruitful interactions between research and practice are also suggested.
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