In-Depth Training and Work Experience on a Community Supported Agriculture (C.S.A.) Farm

1997 Annual Report for EW97-005

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $4,400.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $4,766.00
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Steve Carcaterra
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

In-Depth Training and Work Experience on a Community Supported Agriculture (C.S.A.) Farm




1. Became familiar with the philosophies and concepts of a C.S.A.

2. Are able to assist those in their home regions in analyzing the viability of a potential C.S.A. operation and in helping organize one.

3. Obtained a working knowledge of the production, marketing, and public relations skills needed to successfully operate a C.S.A.


The Community Supported Agriculture Professional Development workshop was held in July 1998 on the Peach Valley C.S.A. Farm. During the workshop, personnel from multiple agencies were personally involved in the day to day operation of the farm. After their involvement with the workshop, participants can analyze the viability of a potential C.S.A. operation in their own region, and make sound recommendations concerning organization, structure, and operation. Labor and resource demands and profitability of C.S.A. and small acreage agriculture operations were explored in detail. Working knowledge in the production, marketing, and public relations skills necessary to successfully operate a Community Supported Agriculture Farm, were closely examined. C.S.A. can be a sustainable agriculture alternative for some operations. A profitable agricultural lifestyle can be maintained for the growers, while educating consumers on production agriculture and food quality. Professional agency participants now have an increased understanding of the viability and operations of C.S.A., and therefore can inform their constituency accordingly.

The workshop was held at the Peach Valley C.S.A. Farm on July 21 through July 24, 1998. After introductions and welcome by the Co-Sponsors, participants were briefed on
the history and changing dynamics of agriculture and society in Garfield County and the Colorado River Valley area of Western Colorado. Many of these current trends parallel social and agriculture change in many areas of the United States. The loss of valuable productive crop land and the related loss of farmers and producers is a major national concern. Films were shown, depicting the basics of C.S.A. and a history of its evolution since inception in the U.S. After lunch, the group toured some of the gardens and orchards maintained by the Peach Valley C.S.A. Explanations of basic plant and fertility management and weed and pest control were given. The organic approach was compared and contrasted with traditional agriculture approaches. Participants helped in the harvest and packing of apples and apricots. Marketing aspects specifically related to the C.S.A. approach were compared and contrasted with traditional approaches.

The second day of the workshop was almost entirely a “hands on” day of harvesting and packing the weekly shares of produce for C.S.A. members. Professional agency participants worked side by side with the owners, their interns, and C.S.A. members in picking fruit and vegetables, and in weighing or counting membership shares. This knowledge, and an appreciation of the basic operation of a C.S.A., will allow the professional agency personnel the ability to assess potential C.S.A. situations in their own communities and work regions.

The “Nuts and Bolts of C.S.A.” was presented by the Kuhns Family to participants and enlightened them about the sometimes hidden surprises–both good and not so good, of involvement with a C.S.A. operation. Utilizing interns and the management of an internship was explained in detail. The high public contact of grower to consumer, was analyzed from all standpoints. The growers explained in detail the evolution, and recent surge of growth and interest in C.S.A., and how the Peach Valley operation compares and contrasts with others in Colorado and with those around the United States.

Day four was highlighted by a presentation on permaculture by a representative of the non-profit Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute. There were numerous examples shown where this process of design, plant diversity, and integration has worked amazingly well in a variety of environmental situations. Much of the information presented was new to many of the participants, and numerous possibilities for application were discussed. The afternoon session was a presentation by an herbalist regarding medicinal herb production possibilities for sustainable agriculture operations. Numerous growing herb plants were observed, concerns in production management, potential profits for producers, marketing options, and consumer concerns and uses were explained.

In conclusion, professional agency participants were exposed to multiple facets of Community Supported Agriculture, and related sustainable agriculture scenarios. Those participants now have the abilities, as trainers themselves, to assess their communities in the viability of such operations, and to advise individuals and groups in basic C.S.A. set up and operation. Information has been, and will continue to be, provided to additional agency personnel with interest in C.S.A., who were unable to attend the workshop. Participants will be contacted in 1999 as to the continuing relevance and use of material presented at the 1998 sessions. C.S.A. is certainly not for everyone (producer or consumer) but does have tremendous value in applicable instances and can keep agriculture viable in those scenarios. There are some tremendous social values for both producer/growers and shareholder/consumers in working together closely in a C.S.A. Farm. Those professionals who participated now understand these often overlooked added values, and much, much more about Community Supported Agriculture after being involved in this “hands on” workshop.

Potential Benefits

After being involved in this project, trained agency educators are better able to respond to information requests concerning Community Supported Agriculture and related sustainable agriculture issues. These requests could be either from consumers who are potential C.S.A. shareholders, or from farmers/growers who may be investigating a C.S.A. as a method of profitably remaining in agriculture. This valuable help, in providing critical new enterprise analysis, is essential in giving sound advice for keeping producers in business or in creating successful new sustainable agriculture businesses. Those trained in the issues of C.S.A., will serve as resources for other professionals within multiple agencies in examining the C.S.A. approach.

Impacts on Agricultural Professionals

Post workshop questionnaires indicated that the specific knowledge of Community Supported Agriculture and related sustainable agriculture issues, dramatically increased by participants attending the workshop. Most participants understood relatively little about C.S.A. before the workshop and felt they had a good understanding of a C.S.A. afterward. Also, they would be able to assess a possible C.S.A. scenario from multiple aspects, as to potential future success.

Reactions from Farmers and Ranchers

Although not a primary target audience, the few producers directly involved learned an immense amount about C.S.A., which they most said they were not familiar with prior to the workshop. These producers commented about having an increased understanding of C.S.A. after the workshop.

Future Recommendations or New Hypothesis

Future projects need to be flexible in nature to allow maximum participation from diverse audiences. There seems to be an increasing interest in examining markets and marketing possibilities in agriculture, and not in just improving production techniques. Newer concepts and approaches in marketing need to be readily advanced to agency professionals and producers alike. The personal interaction and communication when multiple agency educators are gathered together has a tremendous educational value in itself. Professional development workshops need to be well planned and adequately promoted, and yet flexible in nature. Allowances need to be made to accommodate numerous personal schedules. Probably two days is a good length for most workshops of this nature, where participants are traveling a fair amount to attend.

This summary was prepared by the project coordinator for the 1999 reporting cycle.


Patrick McCarty

[email protected]
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
P.O. Box 1112
Rifle, CO 81650
Office Phone: 9709457437