Improving the Environment for Community Supported Agriculture in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana
Objectives of this project include:
1) To increase extension awareness of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) concept and its potential and presence in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.
2) To increase public (grower and eater) recognition of CSA in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana as a model for local food and farming.
3) To develop instruments to enable dialogue and collective action among CSAs and CSA advocates in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.
CSA is a model that holds potential for supporting small, diversified farmers and providing area residents with fresh, locally-grown and minimally processed food and fiber. It is at once a way of marketing local produce and of building community around the activities of agriculture and food production. CSA encourages growers and eaters to interact, to share the risks and rewards of farming, to learn more about each other, their environment and their food system. The long-term benefits of such a relationship are greater food security and local self-reliance.
While CSA provides an alternative to the dominant, long-distance food system, the concept is not wide-spread, and CSAs are themselves quite vulnerable. Individual farms are small and labor intensive. Typically, they operate with severely limited capital and material resources. CSAs are likewise without supporting networks or infrastructure to minimize the impact of economic and production short falls and to assist with consumer education. These conditions are particularly pronounced in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.
Three non-profit organizations, the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association and Sustainable Earth, Inc. have joined forces to promote greater public awareness and support for CSA in each of their respective states. To this end, they have researched and published a CSA directory, The Many Faces of Community Supported Agriculture: Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. The directory profiles existing CSAs in all three states and makes recommendations to extension personnel, community planners and activists for publicizing the CSA concept and addressing the problems currently faced by these small, diversified farm enterprises. An annotated slide show, The ABCs of CSAs, has also been created to accompany the directory and will be used as yet another extension and public education tool. Dialogue between the three non-profits and individual CSAs is presently underway to determine how best to develop inter- and intra-state CSA networks.