Outreach Programs for Chinese Community to Access Culturally Relevant Foods Through Local CSA Models

Final report for FNE23-040

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2023: $15,322.00
Projected End Date: 03/01/2024
Grant Recipient: Choy Division
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Christina Chan
Choy Division
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Project Information


Our overarching goals of this project can be generally summed into the two following: (1) to gauge understanding and interest surrounding Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) and (2) to create and measure the efficacy of the booklet we made. We designed a presentation and booklet both detailing information about CSAs. We measured the aforementioned goals through our post workshop multiple choice survey. Our survey results mirrored one of our assumptions, our workshop participants reported low comprehensive understanding of the CSA model. In the 3 workshops we hosted, the farmers felt a sense of joy and connection in presenting our presentations, and each workshop yielded great results. Post workshop, almost every attendee reported a confidence in their ability to explain what a CSA is to a friend, and nearly everyone expressed a greater understanding of the importance and benefits of purchasing local produce. In addition, our booklets were received well as 88% of attendants noted CSA information was shared in an enjoyable way. We also received feedback regarding what could be added to the next revision of our booklets, namely adding relevant and interesting recipes. We were able to connect with many attendees, and organizations where we held these workshops expressed interest in setting up a CSA/food pantry program with us in the coming years.

Attendees at our Flushing outreach session expressed a great interest in having an Asian produce CSA in their neighborhood and were willing to assist with continuing outreach and marketing in the wider community.  While the farms are not ready to establish a new joint CSA drop off distribution in Flushing in 2024, we will likely do so for 2025.

Project Objectives:

1. This project seeks to alleviate barriers Asian communities in New York City face when accessing culturally relevant foods through local Community Support Agriculture (CSA) models, especially with Asian families, elders and low income folks, subgroups of Asian community in which the CSA model has historically had a hard time reaching. 


2. This project seeks to host a number of CSA education programming and workshops in Mandarin and Cantonese for the underserved Chinese community in New York City. In these workshops we aim to provide Chinese speakers with comprehensive CSA information, create a space that encourages dialogue in order to better adapt CSA models to better welcome and address community needs, and use culturally relevant and sparsely available Asian produce to connect Chinese farmers with urban Chinese communities. 


3. This project seeks to make Mandarin and Cantonese CSA promotional material accessible online to other Asian led farm projects to help them connect with harder to reach community members that have historically not been able to access a local CSA due to the fact that most CSA promotion and education does not circulate within these subgroups as much as with connected and more affluent Chinese community.



Choy Division and Gentle Time Farm, two Chinese owned and operated CSA farms in New York’s Hudson Valley are proposing to investigate and attempt to alleviate barriers Asian community in New York City face when accessing culturally relevant foods through local Community Support Agriculture (CSA) models, especially with Asian families, elders and low income folks, subgroups of Asian community in which the CSA model has historically a hard time reaching. 


Connecting with these communities is important to the Northeast farming community for myriad reasons, with the most basic being expanding the number of people able to join a CSA. The Chinese community is one of the two largest Asian communities in the city, and is growing rapidly. From 2010 to 2020, the NY Asian American community has seen a 37.6% population increase, with 2020 census results recording Asian Americans to be 10.8% of the state’s population (AFF Census Snapshot). The Northeast’s Asian population is growing, which represents an untapped and important market for delivering culturally relevant produce. Unfortunately, only 1.3% of farmers and producers in New York are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) (NYS Diversity and Racial Equity Working Group Report), which is why it’s important that Asian producers are uplifted and supported to work with Asian populations. This is also why two Chinese owned farms are partnering on this grant as well as to supply CSA shares to Chinese families in the 2023 season. By making CSAs more accessible we hope to be able to support more Asian led farms to have a sustainable and growing market for their products which strengthens the regional food system by providing culturally relevant goods. 


A national survey studying dynamics surrounding CSA membership indicated that “39% [of CSA members] obtained a graduate degree” and that “the average household income on the sample was around $64,000 annually”. Choy Division has found this to be accurate in her CSA, which the majority are single or couples, aged 20-40, educated, and connected Asian professions. In 2019, the AAF (Asian American Federation) reported that in the NY metro area the number of Asian Americans living in poverty has increased by 15% over the last decade (AAF Hidden). We cite this fact to show the growing need for accessible high quality and culturally relevant foods. As poverty increases, there will result in a growing population that is less food secure, less healthy, and disconnected from local food systems. This makes our work critical, and we are dedicated to reversing this trend. 


Many research projects have tried different approaches to addressing the lack of accessibility senior citizens have to CSAs, whether accessibility difficulties come in the form of lack of funds, unfamiliarity with the CSA model, and difficult-to-reach CSA pick up locations, to name a few. While Asian elders in New York City face all of the above challenges, there are additional systemic and cultural barriers that stand in the way. Educational programs whose purpose is to alleviate misunderstanding surrounding CSAs are almost always offered in English, and many of the vegetables offered in traditional CSAs do not have produce that many Asian elders are familiar with or are excited by. 


We propose running a variety of CSA education workshops in Mandarin and Cantonese at libraries and other public spaces to allow people to directly speak with and ask questions of CSA farmers. In these sessions we will also collect survey data to gauge interest in, comprehension of CSAs, as well as run works on what a CSA is, why they are important. We aim to provide Chinese speakers with comprehensive CSA information with printed material in Mandarin and Cantonese, create a space that encourages dialogue in order to better adapt CSA models to better welcome and address community needs, and use culturally relevant and sparsely available Asian produce to connect Chinese farmers with urban Chinese community and allow for cultural preservation. We'd like to expand our reach to young families, middle aged people, and lower income, in neighborhoods like Flushing, Sunset Park, and East Harlem, as well as those both in and recently displaced from Chinatown. 


We would then reconnect with interested neighborhoods and establish a multi-farm Asian vegetable CSA for the 2024 season. We hope that through our efforts, CSA engagement in the aforementioned Chinese communities will increase, and that our data can be interpreted to better craft CSA models that fit the needs of these underserved communities.    

Description of farm operation:

This project is a collaboration between farmers from Choy Division and Gentle Time Farm. Gentle Time is going into its 3rd year and Choy Division was founded in 2019. We are both small scale vegetable farms, Gentle Time is 2 acres and Choy Division is 2 acres. Farm resources, aside from farmer labor, were not dedicated to this project as we received funding for the project and outsourced labor for printing.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Emily Rios - Technical Advisor
  • Kaija Xiao (Educator and Researcher)
  • Salt Wang (Educator and Researcher)


Materials and methods:

In March and April of 2023, Choy Division and Gentle Time Farm collaborated on writing the workshop program script, Powerpoint Presentation (English) / (Chinese), post-workshop survey, and booklet design.  Each outreach session had at least one farmer representative from Choy Division or Gentle Time Farm and one translator.  We created Chinese language fliers and advertising material that were distributed in the neighborhood and at the host site two weeks prior to each event.  Small incentives were provided to encourage attendance.

The informational section of our outreach session offered general information on CSAs including but not limited to: what CSAs are and what they can look like, why CSAs are important, the environmental and nutritional effects of nonlocal produce consumption, why local agriculture is important, why CSA can benefit them, and how to get involved.  We also made efforts to highlight the cultural relevancy of the produce we were growing.  At the end of each workshop we will survey participants in regards to their comprehension of the workshop contents, interest in joining a CSA in the future, household size, what they would be willing to pay for a weekly share, and a free form section to share additional thoughts. 

In regards to our written Chinese CSA material, our farms collaborated on the contents and design of small, 8-page booklets that will include similar information to that of the programs mentioned above. Our design of said booklets will be approachable, beautiful, and built with our shared cultural experience in mind. In addition to the information stated, we included fun drawings of culturally relevant produce that double as coloring book pages, which we thought would be great for children.  These images were taken from illustrations done for Second Generation Seeds, with their permission.  These booklets were distributed for free to all workshop attendees and additional copies left with Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) and at each venue, so that any one passing through may take a copy home and learn about our work.

The outreach sessions ran during June-December 2023 with an original goal of five information workshops in three different neighborhoods and focus groups afterwards to help us determine if any of these locations would be a good fit for a CSA distribution in 2024.  We selected the neighborhoods based on the presence of Chinese first populations.  For New York City, these neighborhoods include Manhattan Chinatown, Flushing, 8th Ave, Sunset Park, and East Harlem, among a few other growing areas.  We decided to focus our efforts on Flushing, Sunset Park, and East Harlem, for geographic diversity as that would place us in three different boroughs.  We chose not to include Manhattan Chinatown in this study as they are the most well known Chinatown they are likely to receive more resources.

In order to host outreach sessions, we collaborated with our technical advisor, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), to provide simultaneous interpretation. Each program was roughly one to two hours in length with an information section in the beginning and time for discussion and questions at the end. AAFE provided simultaneous interpretation into Mandarin and Cantonese during our outreach sessions to help communicate the contents of the powerpoint to any attendees that did not speak English.  The interpretation is important as older members of our community may struggle with literacy, so we cannot assume that all attendees are able to receive the information from our booklet.

Research results and discussion:

Our project aimed to measure the familiarity, comprehension, and interest Chinese first individuals in NYC have with CSAs, as well as the efficacy of the 8 page comprehensive bilingual CSA booklet we designed and printed earlier this year.  Choy Division hosted two outreach sessions and Gentle Time Farm hosted one outreach session. We had struggles with our technical advisor, whose responsibility it was to find and reserve the spaces we would hold the events at.  It should be noted that our technical advisor, at the outset, strongly advocated for their role in scheduling and reserving venues and we trusted that they could do so.  As a result, our scheduling delays led to hiring out one of the organizers as a workshop leader. This back and forth was one of our most notable conditions that hindered our progress this year. However, in other aspects working with this organization was great as they helped connect us to other local Chinese organizations, as well as translated a bulk of our material. However, I do not think we foresaw the work that would go into coordinating with the people in charge of coordinating for us.  This led to a decrease in the overall number of outreach sessions held.  We originally planned and budgeted for five but ended up scheduling only three.  Given our early concerns with scheduling, we decided to survey our outreach session attendees in lieu of hosting separate focus groups later in the season.  This also makes more sense as it allows us to further connect with and understand that group of attendees, versus a totally new set of attendees in the focus group that may not know what a CSA is at all.  Even though we removed the focus groups, we were able to collect the desired information using the same survey.

Our costs were as projected, from the cost of designing and printing booklets to our estimations of labor and time to travel, facilitate, and organize the workshops.  Due to a reduction in number of workshops hosted, we did not need to utilize the entirety of the funds allocated to us.  We printed all of the booklets for passive distribution at each of the workshop locations.

I don’t think we foresaw, though, how much joy these workshops would bring to us and to the community we were trying to serve! There was definite interest in the various community centers we hosted events at, and for 2024 we are in talks about supplying their food pantries.

The results from our survey aligned with our hypothesis regarding CSA comprehension, and the materials we created had a positive effect. Survey numbers shows that 76% of participants did not know or were not sure what a CSA was. The majority of our participants (81%)  live in 0-2 person households, and knowing this helps us adjust our CSA model to be better tailored to this community. In terms of launching a B2C CSA next year, 55% of participants were sure of their interest in joining, while 42% wanted more information. However, when we talked with organizers from the community orgs, they stated starting a program through the organization would provide financial aid and convenience for their members. We were also glad to note that 86% of participants agreed a CSA as we demonstrated could provide them with the produce they wanted. This number leads us to want more community outreach and communication about what produce our community needs. The majority participants spent as little as $0-10 a week on groceries, and more research into available aid and subsidies for CSA programs is on our minds. 

An interesting and unexpected result from our East Harlem workshop is the competition between food pantries and a possible CSA distribution. While attendees were interested in what we discussed because a CSA could offer them culturally relevant produce they did not have available nearby, it was not enough for them to consider joining as there are a number of food pantries and options for food mutual aid in East Harlem.  The East Harlem attendees were all senior citizens on SNAP/EBT with limited financial resources.  Free food, even if it was not the desired food, was preferable to food you have to pay for, even at a subsidized rate.  This is an important consideration for anyone looking to set up any type of distribution for a food insecure community.  Either the distribution would need to be heavily or fully subsidized, making it free for the community, or somehow does not conflict with food pantry schedules so that they are not choosing between purchasing food or receiving it for free.

Research conclusions:

Through this project we sought to advertise and hold comprehensive CSA workshops for Chinese first people in NYC, as well as design and print dual language booklets to be used as additional learning materials.  We did find, through analysis of our post-workshop surveys, that the materials we created were very informative and pleasing to our audience, and that workshops run by actual local farmers really sparked interest in the CSA model. Our research confirmed certain financial limitations we had surmised prior to this project, as well as a barrier of understanding and accessibility to CSAs and knowledge of local agricultural producers. From this research, our farms are interested in and able to start exploring the next step of solidifying interest and establishing relationships with workshop participants. This will hopefully grow the number of individuals we can serve in our 2024 season, as we have more relationships with Chinese community centers and distributions. By highlighting all the benefits of the CSA model and bringing it to elders through a community activity, we will hopefully be able to build and sustain more food sovereignty with such a treasured part of our Asian diaspora family. 


Participation Summary
3 Farmers participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
5 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

3 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

Between Choy Division, Gentle Time Farm, and Asian Americans for Equality, three 1-hour CSA information sessions were hosted throughout NYC in neighborhoods with large Chinese populations.   These neighborhoods were in Flushing and East Harlem.

Our workshops were conducted in English by farmers and simultaneously interpreted into Mandarin (and Cantonese when appropriate).  To support our outreach efforts, we created an informational booklet about CSA, written with the specific audience of Chinese-first individuals and immigrants that have not historically been included in CSA outreach efforts.  Our booklet has been translated into simplified and traditional Chinese to make sure we can reach as many participants as possible.  These booklets were distributed to attendees and stacks were left at each venue for future distribution to further our reach.  

During our workshops, we used a translated powerpoint to support the discussion.  Instead of hosting separate focus groups, we instead distributed surveys to our workshop attendees to gauge the usefulness of the information session, their interest in CSAs and local farms, what their interest level is in CSAs now, and what they are willing to pay for a CSA.   We also collected some demographic data, such as household size, that will be helpful if we decide to establish a distribution point so that we can best tailor the shares to suit their needs.  

Learning Outcomes

3 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

Our primary goal in this project were to conduct CSA outreach in dominantly Chinese speaking communities that are historically underserved by the local and organic food movement.  Our secondary goal was to determine if any of the neighborhoods we conducted outreach in would be suitable for a new CSA distribution site.

Through surveys collected at the end of these sessions, we learned that majority of attendees were unfamiliar with CSA before attending our workshop.  At the end of our workshop, they were confident that they could explain CSAs to their friends and they had new knowledge of local organic farms.

There were three individuals that were familiar with CSA, and they were very enthusiastic about the possibility of a culturally relevant CSA in their neighborhood, Flushing.  Remaining individuals demonstrated a light interest in organic and culturally relevant produce, however the price point they are willing to pay or can afford ($0-10) is significantly lower than what a share would cost ($30-$35).    This could be due to the majority of our attendees being low-income seniors (65+) that are on a fixed income.   The individuals that demonstrated high interest were in a younger demographic.

We also learned that in East Harlem, despite the interest in organic and culturally relevant options that are not available to them in their neighborhood, there are numerous resources for pantries and food banks.  The attendees indicated that they would choose the free option even if it was not exactly the food they wanted.  If we were to establish an Asian vegetable CSA in East Harlem, we would need to target additional demographics than fixed income seniors or schedule it so that it did not coincide with pantry distribution days.  Based on our findings, we would not establish a CSA distribution here unless it was fully subsidized.

Our key takeaway is that while CSA is a new concept for many in the Chinese-American community, there is existing interest in CSAs that we can tap into and build upon.  As expected, there are no current sources for organic or local Asian vegetables in the two neighborhoods where workshops were conducted.  We would consider starting a CSA distribution in Flushing, pending further research into appropriate pick up locations and price points.

Project Outcomes

1 New working collaboration
Project outcomes:

CSA workshop attendees watching presentation

When this project was proposed, I and my collaborators did not consider the positive effects it might have on us as individuals and only considered the effects it would have on our farms and businesses.  One workshop was conducted during peak season in July and another in September, both busy times on the farm and this year was especially challenging given the excessive rain and other climate concerns.  It was completely unexpected that the facilitation of the workshops during these times would provide such a boost of morale.  The enthusiasm workshop participants demonstrated for the farms and our work was energizing, uplifting, and motivating.  It reminded each of us of the importance of the work we are doing and why we chose to farm in the first place.

Even those that were unsure of their ability or interest in joining the CSA were happy simply to see younger generation of Chinese-Americans engaging with them.  Some of the attendees had previously visited one of the farms and recognized themselves in a photo that was in our power point, which brought them and their friends a lot of joy.  We all left the workshops with a stronger sense of community and grounding in the importance of our farms and our work, encouraging us to find ways to continue this engagement whether through CSA or another food distribution model.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

There were two areas of great success in this project, one of which is the translated CSA booklet that has been translated into both simplified and traditional Chinese.  This booklet was distributed to all of our attendees and additional copies were left at each of our workshop venues for any interested individuals to read.   Some of our attendees even took additional booklets to distribute to their friends and family, they were so excited about it!  This resource is now available for any farmer that wants to work with a Chinese speaking community in their area.  The sections of the booklet are broken down into small digestible sections that can be applied in different situations, so that if farmers wanting to work with Chinese communities aren't operating CSAs, they can still find parts of the booklet useful.  In our design, we included illustrations that double as a coloring book so that parents are encouraged to take them home and their children can play with them afterwards.

The second area of success is the direct engagement the farmers had with the attendees.  Attendees were not familiar with any local organic options for culturally relevant produce, so simply the introduction of ourselves and our farms was a great step in the right direction.  Many were excited to see young Asian people in agriculture and were excited about the idea of potentially becoming involved and visiting the farm.  

One of our primary challenges involved scheduling sessions and attracting a wider range of attendees.  We chose to partner with Asian Americans for Equality as our technical advisor and community partner, as we had previously worked together on a separate project and they have strong existing relationships in our target neighborhoods and an established presence throughout the Asian-American community in New York City.  They were responsible for translation of written materials, simultaneous interpretation, scheduling dates, and booking venue spaces.  We encountered repeated logistical challenges in regards to scheduling.  We attempted to schedule all of our workshops dates at the start of the year, but we were frequently given only 2-3 weeks notice before potential workshop dates, which we were not always able to accommodate given the work that we needed to complete on our farms.  We did not anticipate that the biggest challenge in this project would be logistical.  We spent a larger than expected amount of time coordinating with them.  They failed to schedule our last two workshops within the timeframe provided and so we were only able to conduct a total of 3 out of 5 workshops in 2 out of 3 target neighborhoods.  Part of this challenge could have been due to limited capacity on their end or unforeseen competing needs for their venues or interpretation services.

If we were to revise this project, the project leads would coordinate dates and locations independently and then check in with our technical advisor for their availability to attend and provide interpretation.  Alternatively, we could contract external interpreters, which would have provided us with more flexibility in regards to scheduling.  We would also collaborate with additional community partners to advertise the sessions more widely.  Our technical advisor advertised primarily to their existing audience and primarily to seniors, and it would be beneficial for our data to get as wide a range of attendees as possible.  Given the short turnaround time on the scheduling of these workshops, there was not adequate time to promote the event. We felt that a longer period of advertising would have helped us attract a more diverse set of attendees as well.  Lastly, we would budget for incentives to encourage people to attend the session.  The farms provided a small amount of produce in exchange for their time and attention, and we believe that continued use of incentives would be well received.  

We would like to continue gauging interest in CSA in Chinese first communities but it is clear that if we are to engage with seniors, we must accept SNAP/EBT or find a way to subsidize shares. 

It would be of interest to continue outreach and focus future efforts on those in middle age and those with young families, who have some spending power and have more interest in participating in the local food movement as it is often parents who would like their children to understand where their food comes from.  This is still a demographic that is underserved and would benefit from continued engagement, about CSA and local food purchasing options generally.

These results are useful for any farms growing culturally relevant produce that is looking to serve their own historically underserved and marginalized community.  Scheduling concerns should be taken into account if working with translators or third parties to help host outreach sessions.  Even though different farms may be serving communities of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, they are likely influenced by similar socioeconomic factors that affect their ability to access locally grown food or to even find time to attend an outreach session, and can gain some insight into how to proceed based on our efforts.


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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.