Assessing the economic and social viability of transitioning to Winter CSA production as an adaptation strategy to climate change - Seasons 2 and 3

Project Overview

FW23-433
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $24,600.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Host Institution Award ID: G112-24-W9982
Grant Recipient: Red H Farm
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:

Commodities

  • Agronomic: potatoes
  • Vegetables: beets, onions

Practices

  • Crop Production: cropping systems
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life

    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. We need multi-year studies of potential solutions. This project will be season two of this research and include a shift in the second research question based on year one trends. 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) what are the most and least compelling aspects of a MONTHLY winter CSA model, for actual and potential customers, and hw do we overcome marketing hurdles  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.) customer 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 to 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 the most and least compelling aspects of a MONTHLY winter CSA model, for actual and potential customers, to help ascertain and overcome marketing hurdles. 

    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.