Farmers' cooperatives are very prevalent in the European Union, where they account for approximately half of agricultural trade and thus are key to articulating rural realities and in shaping the sustainability credentials of European food and farming. This book analyses to what extent farmers' cooperatives are working to benefit their members, are showing concern for their communities and are promoting cooperative economies. It offers a multilevel set of theoretical, disciplinary, methodological, empirical and social perspectives, using the UK and Spain as contrasting examples, and analyses whether agricultural cooperatives contribute to achieving sustainable food systems. The book presents empirical data from diverse and rich case studies, from large, international cooperatives, to small, multi-stakeholder initiatives. This provides an alternative viewpoint to that of economics, which tends to dominate the study of agricultural cooperatives. The author presents a new theoretical framework that provides a novel lens to study farmers’ cooperatives as organisations deeply embedded in power dynamics of the food system and agricultural policy that shape and constraint their potential to adopt cooperative and sustainable practices.
The book is a major addition to the study of agricultural cooperatives and their impact in the development of fairer and more sustainable food systems and it is one of the first detailed accounts of multi-stakeholder food and farming cooperatives in Europe. It is a valuable resource for all scholars working on cooperatives, as well as for students studying agricultural and food policy, environmental justice and rural sociology.
Table of Contents
- Introducing agricultural cooperatives in the context of a failing food system: context, clashing definitions, principles and typologies
- Past and present: the evolution of agricultural cooperatives in Europe from the 1800s to the 21st century
- Theorising cooperativism and food sustainability: Disciplinary, thematic and chronological streams
- Why methods and theory matter when studying cooperativism and sustainability in food and farming? From critical approaches to crystalisation
- Experts’ views on the European policy context: The price of remaining competitive and certifiying sustainability
- Country cases – UK and Spain: From workers’ union to the European Union
- Consolidation of the agricultural cooperative sector: from Farmway to Mole Valley Farm and Anecoop in the sea of plastic
- Emerging models of cooperation in food and farming: Multi-stakeholder cooperatives
- Third spaces: Fighting the cooperative corner and interrogating the alterity of emerging cooperative models
- Theoretical implications: a new integrated framework for deconstructing agricultural cooperatives
- Conclusions: implications for agricultural cooperatives, food policy and alternative food initiatives
Appendix I. General data on ACs in EU
Appendix II. Table: Why Spain and the UK?
Raquel Ajates Gonzalez is a Researcher at the European Commission-funded GROW Citizens' Observatory led by the University of Dundee, UK. Before that, she worked as a Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London, UK, where she also completed her PhD.