Going forward please follow us at: gtvb10.blogspot.com
Thank you in advance for joining us on our new adventures!
Today we made a site visit to Open Garden in Gödöllő. Matthew Hayes told us the history of the farm. It began as a university project about community supported agriculture, an agricultural model where the community and the farmers both share the risks of production. The farm would grow crops and the community would pay for the crops they would receive ahead of time, so that the farm would have enough capital to move forward. The advantages of having a small, community garden are that it is better for the environment and better for the local economy. A downside, though, is that the consumer gets less choice about what he or she will receive. This contrasted greatly with Hungary’s trend towards many consumer choices following the democratic transition. This CSA project grew well, but did not turn out to be as successful as intended because of inadequate business planning.
The farm then became an open garden. It worked in a similar fashion, but people had more choices in what produce they could purchase because of partnerships with other gardens. It was interesting to hear about the role this garden played in making community. It provided a place for people to volunteer, to have festivals, and to share recipes.
The garden had also always been used for practical education in agriculture for Saint Stephen University. In recent years, it transitioned to functioning primarily for this purpose, as the open garden project’s scope had become too large. Many of the players had been worn out by the many demanding projects the garden had taken on, and so they decided to focus in on a few key activities. We hear a lot about scaling up, but this was an interesting perspective into why a social enterprise might want to scale down.
The food produced is organic, and the farm vies for financial and environmental sustainability. They keep chickens on the farm to provide manure, and as a byproduct, they also get eggs. They do, however, have to devote a portion of the farm to growing food for the chickens. They get much of their heating in the winter by burning wood, some from the property.
What I found most interesting about this presentation was learning about the progression of the farm through the years. It was clear that as they were acting, they were learning a lot. As they learned, they tried to make changes to best adapt to their environment. I admired this ability to adapt. It was clear that the context of a community plays a big role in the success of a social venture. While the open garden model had been very successful in the UK and Western Europe, certain cultural differences in Hungary made it less effective.
We all felt very honored the rest of the afternoon as we had a delicious Hungarian lunch, met the vice-mayor of Gödöllő, rang the town’s ceremonial peace gong, and got to visit the palace there. It was interesting to learn that the mayor and vice-mayor are not aligned with a particular political party, but are part of a civic group, formed to represent the needs of the town. Gödöllő has been in the spotlight lately because parts of Hungary’s EU Presidency took place here. Gödöllő was a very pretty town, and it was a lovely visit.
On the left is Dr. Terry Blum, Director of the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, visiting our program.