Cutia Taranului (which in Romanian means Peasant Box) is a CSA (community supported agriculture) project that connects local food producers to customers in a few cities in Romania.
When I first visited Romania (an exploratory visit) I was impressed by the abundance of local food. It felt like vegetarian heaven. Then we I moved a year later) here the vulnerabilities of the food system became more apparent. There was plenty of food being in villages but it was getting more difficult for it to find its way to consumers in cities.
Cutia Taranului was born as an attempt to bypass the obstacles that prevented local food from reaching people by creating direct ans lasting relationships between producers and consumers. Cutia Taranului is built around a fixed-box subscription that consumers can join. The price of the box is fixed and the contents change with the seasons of the year. Members (consumers who join a box) can also choose to purchase supplementary products from a producer.
The project currently supports ~20 producers who feed hundreds of families in numerous Romanian cities. The aim of the project is to bring together producers and consumers in a way that can lead to a sustainable and lasting relationship.
I founded the project and care for its internal aspects. I make sure that the project stays true to its values. I meet new producers and help to create clarity and alignment of values and expectations. I designed, developed, and maintain the software platform that supports it.
The software platform went through numerous iterations:
- It started out as a simple WordPress website for one producer. Registration was a contact form and information was manually added to a spreadsheet and communicated to the first producer (who had no connectivity and did not know how to use email) by phone.
- When the project gained momentum I developed a custom web application for managing the membership processes. It was built using a PHP framework (CodeIgniter). It ran alongside a WordPress installation.
- Currently the project is a heavily customized WordPress website. WordPress acts as a kind of operating system on top of which the custom application is built.
Though the project is food-related, it is really more about forming relationships between human beings (making the effort more about matchmaking than selling food). Therefore, behind the scenes, the core of the system is a collection of specifically tailored communication tools. An automated messaging engine handles interaction sequences that drive membership processes. Manual communication tools make it possible for administrative users to effectively communicate with producers and members, past and present, in groups based on memberships and localities. All of this makes it possible for the project to flow with minimal human bureaucracy while keeping informed everyone with whatever they need to know at any given time.