Full-diet farming: A case study of an alternative model for community-supported agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2017: $14,171.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Amy Trubek
University of Vermont


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Energy: solar energy
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, community development, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, quality of life, sustainability measures, urban/rural integration, values-based supply chains

    Proposal abstract:

    Community-supported agriculture (CSA) may achieve all three aspects of sustainability—environmental, economic, and social—while creating local, sustainable food systems. The full-diet CSA is a new approach, designed to meet all members’ dietary needs in one subscription. Despite the potential of this model to enhance local food consumption and farmer incomes, there is no research on full-diet CSA farming and its ability to achieve environmental, economic, and social sustainability. This project proposes an in-depth case study of a full-diet CSA operation in Essex, NY. The first research goal is to determine whether the farm is economically and environmentally resilient while also providing nutritionally complete diets. The second goal is to analyze replicability of the farm’s business model for the benefit of other farmers interested in adopting similar practices. Project outreach will be targeted at researchers, extension agents, and the CSA farming community, focusing on “lessons learned”: the opportunities and barriers of implementing full-diet operations for sustaining farmer livelihoods and local diets.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    All objectives will be supported with NESARE funds, if granted. All objectives will be supported with NESARE funds, if granted. 
    1. Assess the full-diet CSA business model
    Is the farm profitable? Does it provide livable income for the operators as well as employees? What are the major expenses and revenues; what is making the business profitable, or not? Is there potential to expand? Are more expensive CSA shares (e.g. NYC) subsidizing less expensive pick-up shares?
    2. Evaluate the degree to which CSA members’ diets are supported by the farm share
    Are members eating exclusively, or nearly exclusively, from their share? If they purchase outside ingredients, what are they, and in what volumes? How have diets changed, or not, as a result of membership? What are the implications for members’ health? What are the implications for members’ personal finances? 
    3. Gauge the environmental sustainability impacts of farm practices
    How do the farmers conceptualize and practice environmental sustainability? Do practices align with established standards of sustainable farming? How does the farm compare to other organic farms? What are future metrics for measuring sustainability on-farm?
    4. Determine adaptability/scalability of the model 
    Is the model meeting farmer and member needs? Does this model seem to be usable in other places, or are there particular circumstances that allow it to thrive in this context? Are those circumstances replicable?

    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.