Typology of Commons-Based Urban Farming Models

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Jakob Vandevoorde en Babette Ryckaert:

Community Supported Agriculture

The system of CSA can be combined with other forms of consumer participation like self-harvest and vegetable subscriptions. CSA is based on a few principles that often recur in the other participation systems

  • Risk Spreading: by diversifying your crops you have a smaller loss in case of failed harvest but you can also diversify by cultivating vegetables, fruits and animals, hereby securing different revenue sources.
  • Sales Security: knowing for certain that you will be able to sell your crops allows you to make bigger and smarter investments.
  • Direct Sale: direct sale allows the farmers to ask a higher price for their products but also ensures a lower price for the consumer.
  • Sustainable and environmental agriculture: in order to get an official GSA-label you have to

prove that you work sustainably with an eye for energy consumption and biodiversity.

  • Local: selling your products locally allows you to have a direct relation with the customer and it reduces the carbon footprint of the products.
  • Family Business: GSA's are small enterprises without interference of big industrial corporations.


The self-harvest system has the intention to allow the consumer to harvest and choose their vegetables themselves. In this way the consumer participates in the labour needed for the efficient working of the organisation.

Farm Sale

Unlike farm shops there is no infrastructure or staff to organise the sale of vegetables. The system is mainly based on trust. The consumer picks up his own vegetables in the warehouse of the farm and leaves the amount of money needed. There is hardly any form of control. The consumer participates by transporting the vegetables himself.

Food Teams

The system of food teams is based on the recovery of the trust between consumer and producer. A food team is a group of people, mostly from the same neighbourhood, who buy fruit, vegetables and dairy products from local farmers nearby. An excellent communication between the consumers and the local farmers is crucial. The system stimulates local farming and participation has been done by organising the exchange of vegetables and other local products.

Vegetable Subscriptions

A vegetable subscription is comparable to the working of a food team. There is also a contract between a consumer and a producer. There is however one big difference, the vegetables in this system are only biological. The consumer buys a package of vegetables every week or every month and picks it up at an exchange point or at the farm.. This last aspect explains why vegetable subscriptions are sometimes combined with CSA. The farmer tries to produce as many vegetables as he can and amplifies with vegetables of other bio farmers where needed.

Adoption of production means

The intention of this system consists of the will of the consumer to adopt a production mean, like a tree or a cow. Adoption in this context means that the consumer pays the producer an amount of money on a yearly basis. Everything produced by this mean, like apples, meat, milk and so on will go directly to the consumer who adopted it.

Participation in the purchase of agricultural land

In this kind of consumer participation, consumers will help farmers financially with the purchase of agricultural land. The financial support is done through an association, an example is Landgenoten. Landgenoten is an association supported by private investors, who invest money so the association can buy agricultural land. There can also be members of an organization itself who will invest in new agricultural land for their farmer, but normally it's been done through another association. When a member invests, financial return such as a discount in the farm shop or on the subscription fee, can be given.

Participation by shares

This system arises when a member or another private investor becomes a shareholder through an investment in the organisation. This often happens with the goal of expanding or a later takeover of the organization."


Jakob Vandevoorde en Babette Ryckaert:

"Urban farms and spatially extended initiatives often work in a market with "collaborative competition". That means they have to work together and compete at the same time. They often grow the same crops, stand on the same markets and fight for the same customers, but they also need each other in order to survive and to create a wider support for the short chain food industry. Organisations can share tools, workforces and transport, but they can also buy or sell vegetables collectively and help each other in order to offer a broader range of products to their customers. It also pays off to jointly organize workshops and expand your knowledge. At this point, there is huge potential for local authorities and umbrella corporations to bring initiatives together and strengthen them."


* Thesis: Analysis of Social Inclusion in Short Chain Initiatives in Ghent. By Jakob Vandevoorde en Babette Ryckaert. Urban Studies, LUCA Gent 2015-2016 (1ste MA Stedebouw). Under the supervision of Els Vervloesem et al.