This study reconsiders the purported benefits of community found in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Using an online survey of members who belong to CSAs in New York, between November and December 2010, we assess members’ reasons for joining a CSA, and their perceptions of community within their CSA and beyond. A total of 565 CSA members responded to the survey. Results show an overwhelming majority of members joined their CSA for fresh, local, organic produce, while few respondents joined their CSA to build community, meet like-minded individuals or share financial risk with farmers. Members reported that they do not derive a strong sense of community from either their CSA or other forms of community, yet they volunteered at their CSA and appear to be engaged in activities within their communities, though the frequency of the latter is unknown. These data suggest New York CSAs are oriented toward the instrumental and functional models, which emphasize the economic aspects of farming rather than collaborative models, which foster community (Feagan and Henderson 2009).
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Since only 10 percent of CSAs enjoy nonprofit status, the balance are profit-oriented and must be concerned with securing their economic viability (Adam 2006).
Within the literature the term SOC and “psychological sense of community” (PSOC) are used interchangeably.
Despite its comparative position in US agriculture, it is exceeded only by California in market value of direct consumer sales of farm products (Diamond and Soto 2009).
The USDA (2007b) reported 12,549 farms sold products through a CSA arrangement in 2007 compared to Local Harvest’s report of over 4,000 CSA farms. Local Harvest provides “a national directory of small farms, farmers markets and other local food sources” (see http://www.localharvest.org/). To locate CSA farms, the USDA website http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml provides links to six online databases. Local Harvest contains the most comprehensive database for tracking CSAs in the US.
For additional information concerning ANOVA see Iversen and Norpoth (1987).
For privacy reasons we did not request members’ contact information from CSA managers. Instead we asked managers to forward our survey to their members. As mentioned elsewhere, not all managers were willing to participate, potentially biasing our results.
Among farms without an e-mail, we contacted farmers/managers via phone to update this information. A total of 96 out of 266 farms (36 percent) contained no e-mail.
Using the post hoc Tukey HSD, sharing financial risk was only significant between $0–$35,000 and $125,001 and over.
A 2010 report, based on data from the 2008 Current Population Survey (CPS), suggests involvement in a group or an organization across the United States is much lower with only 35 percent of Americans (Cramer et al. 2010). The disparity between these results and Verba et al. (1995) might be attributed to the number of categories from which respondents could select with the latter offering 20 categories. Our survey offered six categories, one more category than the CPS, however we offered examples of groups or organizations serving as prompts for our respondents.
To construct the 2010 CSA survey we modeled several questions pertaining to community on the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. During the second iteration of the Social Capital Community Survey, some questions pertaining to community belonging were reworded. Because the marginals only are available for the 2006 survey, we rely upon these data since the questions are close approximations based on the first iteration.
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The authors would like to extend a note of gratitude to Brandon Lang for sharing his CSA membership survey with us. Additionally we would like to thank Ross Cheit, Charles Feldman, Deborah Grayson, and George Martin for reading preliminary drafts of the manuscript, and to Archana Kuma for assistance with ANOVA analysis.
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Pole, A., Gray, M. Farming alone? What’s up with the “C” in community supported agriculture. Agric Hum Values 30, 85–100 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-012-9391-9
- Community supported agriculture (CSA)
- New York
- CSA members