Power in the Short Food Supply Chain:An exploration of Community Supported Agriculture’s Producer Empowerment Capacity
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The dominance of the current status quo in the global food landscape, which is characterized by intensive and industrialized agricultural systems and long food supply chains, functions as a source of severe environmental and socioeconomic issues. Therefore, a transition of the global food system is needed. In order for this to happen, the antipode of this aforementioned regime comprised by alternative food networks, with its most promising representative category being short food supply chains (SFSCs), needs to engage in a power struggle with the first. Nevertheless, the literature on SFSCs lacks depth when it comes to power, as the systematic use of power theory in the field is yet to be adequately explored. Given the above, this research focused on applying power theory to explore one of the most alternative SFSCs type; community supported agriculture (CSA). Specifically, the research aimed to identify the ways in which CSA is able to empower producers in solidifying their transition from the conventional food system (CFS), assuming this was their goal. To do so, a dedicated CSA empowerment framework was devised based greatly on the work of Avelino and Rotmans (2009). The framework conceptualized empowerment, as the ability to mobilize resources, thus exercising power, in a transformative way, meaning a way which challenges the status quo described above. Depending on the kind of resource mobilized an actor can exercise one of the four power types: Ideological, Physical, Political and Economic. The empowerment framework was contextualized in the CSA and different scenarios regarding what can be deemed as transformative exercise for each of the four power types were devised. This contextualized empowerment framework was then applied to 9 CSA farms in the Netherlands, which functioned as the case studies for this research. After the collection of data through semi-structured interviews and desk research, a discourse analysis took place. The results of this analysis were used to answer the main questions of this research, while in addition the farms were evaluated based on their transformative potential, meaning their possible impact to a transition of the food system. The research concluded that despite the significant empowering pathways CSA can provide producers with, including visibility, political influence and independence, the structural obstacles posed by the dominance of the current status quo often prohibit their use, indicating that empowerment needs to be earned through an unfair struggle, in which CSA can only be an enabling tool but not the solution.