Cow sharing in the European Alps A new twist on community supported agriculture

Cow on a steep mountain slope

Cow decorated with flowers Well-connected urbanites have become very familiar with aspects of the sharing economy. Why own a car, when you can share someone else’s, complete with driver? In the right places, you can even share power tools that would otherwise spend most of their lives asleep in someone’s tool chest. True sharing is not quite the same as the gig economy, where in essence you are buying a tiny slice of someone’s time to deliver your pizza, walk your dog or assemble your flat-pack furniture, although the two are used somewhat interchangeably. But while the sharing economy would, at first glance, seem to be a feature of city life, it has in fact long been vitally important in the country. Farmers have always depended on their neighbours to help with physical work and, often, to share machinery in a variety of ways. Then there’s community supported agriculture, in which people, usually city dwellers, pay in advance for a share in the produce from a market garden or farm.

Cow-sharing agriculture is a new twist on CSA that is spreading through the European Alpine region. There are now around 60 cow-sharing schemes available online, and a recent paper by Katharina Gugerell and her colleagues looked into the similarities and differences among them, asking “What are participants of cow sharing arrangements actually sharing?”


  1. The paper is behind a paywall. If you look hard you may be able to find a copy
  2. The alphorn and vocal music at the start and end of the episode were from Swiss Alpine Music.
  3. I may be guilty of over-romanticising the whole thing with my selection of images, all of which are from Flickr. So, thanks to peter barwick, peter barwick, Jonas Löwgren, perkins_barbara and Robert J Heath.


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