Sustainable Community Values Project
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a promising strategy for sharing among consumers
and producer the risks and benefits of sustainable agriculture. In its simplest form, community
supported agriculture is a contractual agreement between one or more farm operations and a
group of consumers known as "subscribers" or "members." Each member pays to support the
farm for the season at a pre-determined price paid in advance to the farmer(s). In return, the
members receive a share of the farm's output. With the intent of furthering the development of
CSAs, this project proposed to clearly identify the values and associated changes in behavior of
those participating in a community farm, and to compile a traditional economic and
labor/management profile of community supported agriculture.
1) Develop decision case studies at Philadelphia Community Farm based on a whole-farm
analysis of planting, production, and distribution systems. Analyze management and production
tasks and economic impact of CSAs on local and regional communities.
2) Determine values and organizational foundations for economic and social effectiveness of
community supported agriculture.
3) Identify in what ways, if any, the establishment of community supported agriculture has or can
impact other local/regional efforts for sustainable agriculture.
4) Document and demonstrate community supported agriculture to interested farmers,
consumers, Cooperative Extension personnel and others.
Data was collected from the Philadelphia Community Farm and the Zephyr Community Farm by
the means of surveys, interviews, labor logs, decision diaries, summaries of plans and
management approaches, records of harvest, market prices, anecdotal comments and records,
minutes of board/core group meetings, and historical records and general descriptions of each
(The results from this project are from one year of data; the second year data was not compiled).
Preliminary observations include:
* CSA farmers come from backgrounds that include experience in education, intentional
communities, or community organizing which provides them with the interest, skills, ideas and
willingness to experiment with ways to build community, but they do not have the time and
energy to do it and garden too.
* Shareholders largely come from households of moderate incomes, the median being in the
$25,000 to $50,000 range. They are mostly college educated and employed in education, health
care and professional jobs.
* Shareholders are motivated to participate in CSA nearly universally because they are interested
in fresh, organic produce. About 80 percent of shareholders responding to harvest surveys also
belong to a CSA out of environmental concerns, concerns for local food supply and to support
small farmers. Participation in community, being connected to a piece of land, and price are of
* There is considerable variation among CSA's concerning the number of shareholders who visit
their farms, or are interested in volunteering garden labor and attending festivals and other social
events. There is a notable lack of interest among shareholders generally in working on planning,
decision-making and budgeting.
* 93 percent of Philadelphia Community Farm expenses were spent locally. 300 households in
the Osceola area were surveyed by phone to determine a custom multiplier for the Osceola area.
The average area consumer spends only 31 percent locally. The high rate of local spending by
PCF, when multiplied through the local economy, potentially creates 7 or 8 jobs. The custom
multiplier for Osceola equals 1.31 as determined from survey data. Economic impact of PCF:
$137,810 @ multiplier 1.31 = $180,531 multiplied economic impact on Osceola area.
* The share income for PCF in 1993 was $40,152 which came primarily from the Metro area.
168 share participants received retail value of $333/share for which they paid $250. Total value
received = $55,944 less share cost -$40,152 = $15,792. The multiplier for the Metro area was 5.7
X $15,792 = $90,014 economic benefit to the Metro area. This translates into 2 Metro area jobs.
* To economic input of the Philadelphia Community Farm: $180,531 Osceola + $90,014 Metro
Area = $270,545 multiplied economic impact.
* According to PCF production records for 1993, 15.8 tons of vegetables were harvested form a
total of 6 acres.
The concept of CSA is spreading quickly across the Upper Midwest. From three farms in 1990,
present (1995) estimates show nearly 50 CSA farms operating in Minnesota and Wisconsin
alone, involving more than 3,000 customers. Two Field Days attracted a total of 100 farmers and
others interested in CSA. A regional CSA conference held in River Falls, Wisconsin in
December 1994 was co-sponsored by 15 organizations and attended by 265 people from
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan.