Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 203–217 | Cite as

Devon Acres CSA: local struggles in a global food system

  • Robert FeaganEmail author
  • Amanda Henderson


This paper focuses on examining the dynamic nature of community supported agriculture (CSA) and the real-world experiences which mark its contours, often making it distinct from the early idealized CSA “model.” Specifically, our study examines the narratives of the farmers of Devon Acres CSA over its duration, in tandem with a survey of recent shareholders in order to understand and explain its evolution. The framework we develop here shows that this CSA is largely characterized by instrumental and functional beliefs and practices, with some elements in the collaborative mode. A key contribution of this research is the development of a framework which helps to highlight the relative fluidity and patchwork quality of CSA participant positions over time. At Devon Acres, the real-world factors and issues influencing CSA evolution are seen to be products of both the local and larger contexts, evident in such areas as shifts in farmer learning and adaptation, differences between beliefs and practices in member volunteer efforts, and changes in farm and resource conditions. With respect to CSA more broadly, we argue that the reality of dominant food system context and site-specific influences on CSA development compels us to rework our attachment to early idealized “model” traits. Expansion in CSA numbers, evidence of adaptation and situated learning, and retention of the local and organic as core traits, speak to the pragmatic yet transformative potential of CSA contribution to food system change.


Collaborative CSA—Community shared agriculture Context and situation Functional Instrumental Narrative Sharing and support Situated food system learning 



We want to acknowledge the three anonymous referees for this paper as well as the editor of Agriculture and Human Values whose recommendations were of genuine value in revising the paper. Our thanks go as well to the Kirby family, whose devotion to CSA and organic principles at the Devon Acres Farm are salutary and of deep local importance in terms of the kinds of transformations to which alternative agriculture aspires. And to Seamus and Max who dutifully eat “outside the box.”


  1. Alkon, A. 2008. Paradise or pavement: the social constructions of the environment in two urban farmers markets. Local Environment 13 (3): 271–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, P., M. FitzSimmons, M. Goodman, and K. Warner. 2003. Shifting plates in the agrifood landscape: the tectonics of alternative agrifood initiatives in California. Journal of Rural Studies 19: 61–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ambach, M. 2002. Food for thought: community supported agriculture and learning. MA Thesis, Concordia University, Montreal.Google Scholar
  4. Campbell, D. 2001. Conviction seeking efficacy: sustainable agriculture and the politics of cooptation. Agriculture and Human Values 18: 353–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cone, C.A., and A. Myhre. 2000. Community-supported agriculture: a sustainable alternative to industrial agriculture? Human Organization 59 (2): 187–197.Google Scholar
  6. Connell, D., J. Smithers, and A. Joseph. 2008. Farmers markets and the “good food” value chain: a preliminary study. Local Environment 13 (3): 169–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cousin, G. 2005. Case study research. Journal of Geography in Higher Education 29 (3): 421–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cox, R., L. Holloway, L. Venn, L. Dowler, J. Hein, M. Kneafsey, and H. Tuomainen. 2008. Common ground? Motivations for participation in a community shared agriculture plan. Local Environment 13 (3): 203–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. DeLind, L.B. 1999. Close encounters with a CSA: the reflections of a bruised and somewhat wiser anthropologist. Agriculture and Human Values 16: 3–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. DeLind, L.B., and A. Ferguson. 1999. Is this a women’s movement? The relationship of gender to community-supported agriculture in Michigan. Human Organization 58 (2): 190–200.Google Scholar
  11. Dilley, P. 2004. Interviews and the philosophy of qualitative research. The Journal of Higher Education 75 (1): 127–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dyck, B. 1997. Build in sustainable development and they will come: a vegetable field of dreams. British Food Journal 99 (9): 325–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Feagan, R. 2008. Direct marketing towards sustainable local food systems? Local Environment 13 (3): 161–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Groh, T., and S. McFadden. 1997. Farms of tomorrow revisited: community supported farms-farm supported communities. Kimberton: Bio-dynamic Farming and Gardening Association.Google Scholar
  15. Hassenein, N. 2003. Practicing food democracy: a pragmatic politics of transformation. Journal of Rural Studies 19: 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hendrickson, M., and W. Heffernan. 2002. Opening spaces through relocation: locating potential resistance in the weaknesses of the global food system. Sociologia Ruralis 42: 347–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hinrichs, C.C. 2000. Embeddedness and local food systems: notes on two types of direct agricultural market. Journal of Rural Studies 16: 295–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jacques, S., and L. Collins. 2003. Community supported agriculture: an alternative to agribusiness. Geography Review 16 (5): 30–33.Google Scholar
  19. Johnson, L. (ed.). 2007. The natural treasures of Carolinian Canada. Toronto: Carolinian Canada Coalition, Lorimer Pub.Google Scholar
  20. Jorgenson, D.L. 1989. Participant observation: a methodology for human studies. Applied social science research methods, vol. 15. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  21. Kaktins, S.-L. 1997. Community shared/supported agriculture: overcoming the barriers. Master Thesis, Dalhousie University, HalifaxGoogle Scholar
  22. Kirwan, J. 2004. Alternative strategies in the UK agro-food system: interrogating the alterity of farmers’ markets. Sociologia Ruralis 44: 395–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kloppenburg, J., J. Hendrickson, and G.W. Stevenson. 1996. Coming into the foodshed. Agriculture and Human Values 13 (3): 33–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lapping, M. 2004. Toward the recovery of the local in the globalizing food system: the role of alternative agricultural and food models in the US. Ethics, Place and Environment 7 (3): 141–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lass, D., G.W. Stevenson, J. Hendrickson, and K. Ruhf. 2003. CSA across the nation: findings from the 1999 CSA survey. Madison: Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison.Google Scholar
  26. Lincoln, Y.S., L.G. Thorp, and C. Russon. 2003. The storied nature of agriculture and evaluation: a conversation. Agriculture and Human Values 18: 267–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Local Harvest. 2008. Community supported agriculture. Accessed 20 February 2008.
  28. Loughridge, K.B. 2002. Community supported agriculture in the Mid-Atlantic United States: a sociological analysis. PhD Dissertation, North Carolina State University, Raleigh.Google Scholar
  29. Mascarenhas, M. 2001. Farming systems research: flexible diversification of a small family farm in southeast Michigan. Agriculture and Human Values 18: 391–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McFadden, S. 2004. The history of community supported agriculture part II: CSA’s world of possibilities. Accessed 28 January 2008.
  31. O’Hara, S.U., and S. Stagl. 2001. Global food markets and their local alternatives: a socio-ecological economic perspective. Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 22 (6): 533–553.Google Scholar
  32. O’Hara, S.U., and S. Stagl. 2002. Endogenous preferences and sustainable development. Journal of Socio-Economics 31: 511–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Okomura, N. 2004. Where are the movements going? Comparisons and contrasts between the Teikei movement in Japan and community supported agriculture in the United States. MSc. Thesis, Michigan State University, Ann ArborGoogle Scholar
  34. Ostrom, M.R. 1997. Toward a community supported agriculture: a case study of resistance and change in the modern food system. PhD Dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison.Google Scholar
  35. Picardy, J.A. 2001. Closing the distance gap through community supported agriculture. Master Thesis, Michigan State University, LansingGoogle Scholar
  36. Robyn Van En Center. 2006. Community supported agriculture. Accessed 28 August 2006.
  37. Sage, C. 2003. Social embeddedness and relations of regard: alternative “good food” networks in south-west Ireland. Journal of Rural Studies 19: 47–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schnell, S.M. 2007. Food with a farmer’s face: sommunity-supported agriculture in the United States. The Geographical Review 97 (4): 550–564.Google Scholar
  39. Seidman, I.E. 1991. Interviewing as qualitative research: a guide for researchers in education and the social sciences. New York & London: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  40. Stringer, E.T. 1996. Action research: a handbook for practitioners. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  41. Tegtmeier, E., and M. Duffy. 2005. Community supported agriculture (CSA) in the Midwest United States: a regional characterization. Ames: Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University.Google Scholar
  42. Torjussen, H., G. Lieblen, and G. Vitterso. 2008. Learning, communicating and eating in local food-systems—the case of organic box schemes in Denmark and Norway. Local Environment 13 (3): 219–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wells, B.L., and S. Gradwell. 2001. Gender and resource management: community supported agriculture as caring-practice. Agriculture and Human Values 18: 107–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wells, B.L., S. Gradwell, and R. Yoder. 1999. Growing food, growing community: community supported agriculture in rural Iowa. Community Development Journal 34 (1): 38–46.Google Scholar
  45. Worden, E.C. 2000. Community supported agriculture: land tenure, social context, production systems and grower perspectives. Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University, New Haven.Google Scholar
  46. Zsolnai, L. 2002. Green business or community economy? International Journal of Social Economics 29 (8): 652–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Contemporary Studies ProgramWilfrid Laurier University at BrantfordBrantfordCanada
  2. 2.Devon Acres Organic FarmBrant CountyCanada

Personalised recommendations