Exploring the Importance of Locally Sourced Food in Remote Regions: insights from community supported agriculture in the Tanana Valley of Alaska

Project Overview

GW15-015
Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $24,970.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: University of Alaska
Region: Western
State: Alaska
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:

Commodities

  • Fruits: berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs

Practices

  • Education and Training: extension, focus group, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, farm-to-institution, feasibility study, market study, marketing management, risk management, value added
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, community services, employment opportunities, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation

    Proposal abstract:

    The nationwide growth of community supported agriculture (CSA) reflects the increase in demand for locally sourced food. Much like the contiguous U.S., there has been a rapid increase in the number of CSA farms in the interior of Alaska (Fairbanks); a remote area where the burdens of long distance transport affects both the availability and variety of produce. The relative abundance of locally sourced foods during the summer provides a welcome change for many. Subsequently, CSAs in Fairbanks have filled an important role in the market by providing new options to local consumers. To date, no systematic study of this important and growing market has been made. This project sets out to build a collaborative research effort which will work closely with CSA farmers and members in the Tanana Valley of Alaska for the purpose of enhancing our understanding of the local food market. Questions at the center of this research include: what factors lead to people joining local CSAs; which attributes contribute to higher revenues or more members for a farm? To understand the production side of the equation, farmers will be interviewed to gather relevant information about input costs, planting decisions, and yields. Member and non-member surveys, as well as a choice experiment, will be used to estimate willingness-to-pay (WTP) for a variety of share attributes, such as vegetable composition of the share and organic certification. The research will apply economic methods to generate unique data that can be used by agricultural stakeholders in the community. With the CSA model becoming more common, research into the factors which contribute to financial success and increase output is imperative. Additionally, this research will gather output and market data from a rural, relatively unstudied area. The findings from this research might aid other community supported agriculture initiatives as they meet the growing demands for local produce. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1)      To assess the relative contribution of CSA farms to local food production and the economy. The research will also identify constraints on production. This information will be used to determine factors which correlate with higher revenues and increased production.

     

     

      • Farmer surveys: researchers will work with farmers in the area to gather all available information on production costs and farm yields. This will include cost details on sunk and variable costs, as well as quantity and variety of vegetable produced.

     

      • Input-output/multiplier effects: given the availability of cost and output data, an input-output model will be constructed to provide another measure of the impact of agriculture on the economy.

     

      • Case studies of long-standing farms: case studies of long-standing farms will be used to create a narrative. Case studies will provide a way to present qualitative knowledge gained from farmers. One topic will be to identify factors they attribute to success.

     

    2)      To provide an analysis of the demand for CSA shares.  This research will help farmers plan and tailor their share to consumers’ preferences.

     

      • Member and non-member surveys: current members will be surveyed to identify attributes of the CSA model they value. Non-members will be asked questions to identify reasons why they are not involved with a CSA farm. The survey features questions to draw out factors that are correlated with membership.

     

      • Choice experiment: researchers will survey both members and non-members to identify what attributes of CSAs they most prefer. This experiment will also ask consumers their willingness to pay for a CSA membership.  

     

     

    3)      To disseminate and provide research results in a way that is accessible and useful for farmers, academic researchers, and the public. Research findings will be presented at conferences and submitted to academic journals. Farmers will have access to findings through formal reports, visuals, a presentation, and handouts. Report summaries as well, as worksheets used for cost analyses, will be made available to potential farmers and the public. Results will be presented to the community at large.

    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.