Assessing the economic and social viability of transitioning to Winter CSA production as an adaptation strategy to climate change impacts

Project Overview

FW22-392
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $24,950.00
Projected End Date: 12/13/2023
Grant Recipient: Red H Farm
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:

Commodities

  • Vegetables: beets, garlic, onions

Practices

  • Crop Production: cropping systems
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal summary:

    Farmers face impacts of climate change including heat waves, wildfire, drought and flooding, diminishing farmer health, safety and well-being and farm economic viability. We need ways to adapt centering environmental stewardship, economic viability and farmer quality of life to avoid small-scale farmer attrition. This research will explore the following questions: 1.) is growing long season storage crops for winter csas economically viable on small-scale diversified farms without undermining sustainable practices, 2) is there a market for winter CSAs, and 3) can shifting to these crops and market channel support farmer well-being and farm economic viability ?

    This research will be carried out through investigating economic, social, and environmental factors including: 1.) enterprise analysis and labor tracking 2.) CSA member surveying and 3.) qualitative field notes focused on on-farm practices related to stewardship, health and safety, and quality of life including ability to shift out of fieldwork in unsafe environmental scenarios, and overall satisfaction/well-being. 

    This research will 

    • offer a case study of the viability of long season crops and winter CSAs on small, diversified farms
    • reveal if the crop and market channel shift facilitates health and well-being and adaptability to acute climate catastrophes
    • assess a new market niche for sustainable agriculture practitioners  
    • reveal opportunities for farmers to collaborate through mutually beneficial CSA marketing
    • center farmer well-being within diversified agriculture.  

    Outcomes will be shared through a report, video and presentations for extension agents, agricultural professionals and farmers in collaboration with UC Cooperative Extension, Community Alliance with Family Farmers and Kitchen Table Advisors. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

     1. Determining the economic viability of diversified, long-season storage and dried crop production on small-scale, high labor, diversified farms as an adaptation strategy to climate extremes (heat waves, fires, and droughts) and the untenable work conditions they create.

    2. Determining if there is a market for winter CSAs in California and is there a gap in the market to be filled?

    3. A look into farmer well-being - determining if a shift in crop focus to long-season storage and dried crops in a diversified system truly facilitates a reduction in fieldwork hours and physical labor during the increasing hot months of summer, and expanded fire season. Is this a viable system for farmers facing climate extremes and weather changes that mean where they farm today is a much different climate than when they initially began this work? Do these labor patterns feel more manageable, thus reducing farmer attrition as climate extremes worsen?

    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.