Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 435–452 | Cite as

What difference does income make for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members in California? Comparing lower-income and higher-income households

  • Ryan E. Galt
  • Katharine Bradley
  • Libby Christensen
  • Cindy Fake
  • Kate Munden-Dixon
  • Natasha Simpson
  • Rachel Surls
  • Julia Van Soelen Kim


In the U.S. there has been considerable interest in connecting low-income households to alternative food networks like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). To learn more about this possibility we conducted a statewide survey of CSA members in California. A total of 1149 members from 41 CSAs responded. Here we answer the research question: How do CSA members’ (1) socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds, (2) household conditions potentially interfering with membership, and (3) CSA membership experiences vary between lower-income households (LIHHs) and higher-income households (HIHHs)? We divided members into LIHHs (making under $50,000 annually) and HIHHs (making over $50,000 annually). We present comparisons of LIHHs’ and HIHHs’ (1) employment, race/ethnicity, household composition and education, use of food support, and enjoyment of food-related activities; (2) conditions interfering with membership and major life events; and (3) sources of information influencing decision to join, reasons for joining, ratings of importance of and satisfaction with various CSA attributes, gaps between importance of and satisfaction with various CSA attributes, valuing of the share and willingness to pay more, and impacts of membership. We find that LIHHs are committed CSA members, often more so than HIHHs, and that CSA members in California are disproportionately white, but that racial disproportionality decreases as incomes increase. We conclude by considering: (1) the economic risks that LIHHs face in CSA membership, (2) the intersection of economic risks with race/ethnicity and cultural coding in CSA; and (3) the possibilities of increasing participation of LIHH in CSA.


Community Supported Agriculture Lower-income households Higher-income households Race and ethnicity Disproportionality Consumption 



Alternative food networks


Community Supported Agriculture


Lower-income household (for our purposes, those with annual earnings under $50,000)


Higher-income households (for our purposes, those with annual earnings over $50,000)



We thank the numerous CSA member households and CSA farmers who kindly participated in this research. We are also thankful to the papers’ reviewers and the journal editor for their helpful comments that greatly improved the paper. This work would not have been possible without a competitive grant Dr. Galt received from University of California’s Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan E. Galt
    • 1
  • Katharine Bradley
    • 2
  • Libby Christensen
    • 3
  • Cindy Fake
    • 4
  • Kate Munden-Dixon
    • 5
  • Natasha Simpson
    • 6
  • Rachel Surls
    • 7
  • Julia Van Soelen Kim
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Human EcologyUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.SIT/World Learning, Inc.BrattleboroUSA
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural and Resource EconomicsColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  4. 4.University of California Cooperative Extension, Nevada CountyGrass ValleyUSA
  5. 5.Geography Graduate GroupUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA
  6. 6.Community Development Graduate GroupUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA
  7. 7.University of California Cooperative Extension, Los Angeles CountyAlhambraUSA
  8. 8.University of California Cooperative Extension, Marin CountyNovatoUSA

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