Defining the "C" in Community Supported Agriculture
Keywords:Civic Agriculture, Community, Community Supported Agriculture, CSA, Satisfaction
Localized agriculture is theorized to provide socio-environmental benefits to the community while ensuring a livelihood for local farmers. Much of the food systems literature refers to such an arrangement as civic agriculture, which is characterized as promoting community development by strengthening social ties among the various nodes of the localized food system. However, there is little literature that identifies the attributes of community and the specific mechanisms through which community qualities are produced, modeled, or replicated.
This study's goal is to identify the meaning of community as used in the phrase "community supported agriculture" (CSA) by asking members and operators of local CSAs how they define community within the context of their membership. On-site interviews were conducted at the produce pick-up locations of four CSA farms in central Pennsylvania, resulting in a convenience sample of 97 CSA members and four operators. The survey instrument utilized open and closed-ended questions to collect information on farmer and member perceptions of their CSA community, motivations to join, and satisfaction with their experiences.
The results suggest respondents are highly satisfied with products and services provided through their CSA. However, there are statistically significant differences in satisfaction scores across the four sampled farms. These differences support findings drawn from the open-ended questions indicating these CSA farms varied in member-defined attributes of a CSA community. Farm management practices, level of personal interactions, and other factors appear to have significant effects on CSA members' perception of community.
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