Building connections: Creating a broader public base for CSAs

2008 Annual Report for LNE06-242

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $151,655.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $74,200.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:

Building connections: Creating a broader public base for CSAs


MOFGA and the Maine Council of Churches are working together, and with other partners, to increase the number of CSA farmers in Maine, and to grow the number of CSA shares. MOFGA is providing technical support to CSA farmers, and compiling up-to-date listings of CSA farms for the general public. The Maine Council of Churches, working with individual churches and with partners like the Maine Sierra Club, is trying to identify clusters of consumers who will commit to buying shares from local CSA’s.

Objectives/Performance Targets

By the Spring of 2009, at least twenty of Maine’s sixty existing CSA farms and twenty additional farms will expand their shares and product availability to reach an additional 1250 families.


Milestone 1. 40 of Maine’s 60 CSA farmers share information on their potential new number of shares through a common outreach effort. (Fall 2006)

This milestone was met in 2006. See 2006 Annual Report.

Milestone 2. The Maine Council of Churches identifies at least 3 clusters of churches/parishes interested in acting as CSA distribution hubs, representing 250 new shares. (Fall 2006)

MCC’s Environmental Justice Program has continued to market the model of congregations as CSA distribution hubs. Outcomes of these efforts are that congregation members have become CSA members and/or farmers market shoppers, and many are considering their congregations as distribution hubs for Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) programs that are now emerging. Last winter during the shrimp season, the First Universalist Church in Rockland teamed up with a fishing co-op to offer Maine’s first CSF. The program expanded in the summer to include whole fish and is doing shrimp again this winter. The fishing co-op has now expanded its CSFs to 4 other sites. This sets the stage, it seems, for the multi-faceted/products CSA model that we proposed to build.

Ongoing promotion and education around local foods will continue to open doors for CSAs to have congregations as drop-off hubs or members as supporters. Summit Springs Farm will be using the Allen Ave Unitarian Universalist Church as a share drop site in 2009.

See 2007 Annual Report for previous achievements toward reaching this milestone.

Milestone 3. 40 new farmers interested in forming CSAs or supplying additional products to CSAs attend one or more training meetings. (Spring 2007)

This milestone was met in 2007. See 2007 Annual Report.

Additional work in 2008 related to this milestone:

In July, MOFGA organized a Farm Training Project workshop focused on marketing where farm apprentices and beginning farmers were afforded the opportunity to hear about other successful farmers’ marketing strategies. CSA was a central theme in marketing for farmers at the workshop, which had an attendance of about 30.

At the Common Ground Country Fair in September Melissa White Pillsbury gave a farmer-oriented presentation “CSA: Learn the Basics”. About a dozen prospective CSA farmers attended.

On February 21, 2009 MOFGA will host a CSA Conference with a “CSA Mini-School” track. These sessions will introduce the concepts and practices of CSA farming for beginners and those planning to start a CSA soon.

Milestone 4. 40 of 80 current and prospective CSAs attend advanced training on CSA planting and harvesting systems. (Fall-Winter 2007)

Progress towards this milestone was made in 2007. See 2007 Annual Report.

Additional upcoming work related to this milestone:

The CSA Mini-School at the CSA Conference in February of 2009 will have a session devoted to CSA planting and harvesting systems. Three of the speakers at the conference have experience either farming for, or organizing multi-farm CSAs and will address strategies for successfully planning & executing systems related to that model. See Milestone #6 for more information on these speakers/presentations.

Milestone 5. 2500 families are exposed to the CSA model through organized outreach by the Maine Council of Churches and MOFGA: 1000 find matching farms. (Fall 2007 to Spring 2009)

Progress towards this milestone was made in 2007. See 2007 Annual Report.

Additional work in 2008 related to this milestone:

In February MOFGA co-sponsored, with the Maine Council of Churches and Slow Food Portland, Maine’s second CSA Fair, this year expanded from one to four locations supported by congregations in four communities: St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Hallowell, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Auburn, Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bangor, and First Parish of Portland Unitarian Universalist in Portland. About 40 farms came and set up information about their CSA programs and over 300 people attended to ‘shop’ for a CSA. In 2009, we are partnering with even more local food advocate groups and congregations to expand the event to 11 sites statewide. To promote the event, MCC sends letters and full-color posters to all congregations in the fair communities and surrounding towns, and MOFGA reaches out to local media and businesses to promote the event.

In 2008 MCC did workshops/sermons/panel presentations focused on food and faith and the CSA model at more than 25 different events. Our materials were distributed through displays at several more events as part of the Maine Partners for Cool Communities initiative, which advocates moving to a local foods economy as one of the solutions to address global warming and energy conservation. This initiative works with grassroots activists in over 50 Maine communities.

This year we doubled the number of copies printed of the Maine CSA directory from 1000 to 2000 and distributed most copies by late spring. About 500 copies were mailed to MCC congregations and synagogues across the state, another 500 to public libraries and health related agencies, and the remaining 1000 were distributed at MOFGA and MCC events and by request. The directory was published in the spring edition of the Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, a subscriber base of over 6000. Downeast Magazine published the list in their March 2008 edition. The directory also appears on MOFGA’s website, where it is updated as new information from farms is received:

Milestone 6. 20 CSAs add other farm products like cheese and grains to their farm-produced offerings. (Fall 2008 to Spring 2009)

Many farms are embracing CSA models beyond the traditional summer vegetable share. 20 farms offer fall or winter storage vegetable or pantry shares. 25 CSA farms offer meat, eggs or dairy products, either as shares, or as an option to purchase in addition to a vegetable share. Several farms offer CSA members specialty products from other farms (meat, eggs, berries, baked goods, maple syrup) that their own farm does not produce, either as part of their share, or as an option to purchase in addition to the regular share.

On February 21, 2009 MOFGA will host a CSA Conference with a track of workshops devoted to CSA Expansion and Development topics:
Travis Marcotte, the Director of Agricultural Development Services at the Intervale Center in Vermont will present on their multi-farm workplace CSA, The Intervale Center Food Basket. Elizabeth Henderson, author of Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture and also of Peacework Organic Farm and Genesee Valley Organic CSA (GVOCSA), a multifarm CSA in New York, will share her 20+ years of experience with organizing and growing for CSAs. A panel on alternative models of community supported enterprise will include representatives from a community supported kitchen, a consumer initiated buying club & CSA and a community supported fisheries program. And Jill Perry, co-author of Local Harvest: A Multifarm CSA Handbook will use the story of Local Harvest CSA, a successful multifarm CSA based in Concord, NH, to outline the basic considerations of a group or individual interested in starting a collaborative CSA.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The information collected from each Maine CSA farm is posted on our website and is kept updated as new information is received. As evidenced by the frequent calls and email inquiries on the subjects, MOFGA has clearly become a known source of information for those seeking CSA shares from a Maine farm, as well as those considering beginning a CSA program at their farm.

In our database of CSA farms we continue to track numbers of shares, share types and other share and farm information from new as well as continuing CSA farms. After analyzing current data collected from CSA farms we have found the following:
There are currently 129 CSA programs operating in the state. 24 of these were new in 2007, 24 were new in 2008 and there are currently 10 known to begin in 2009 (included in the count of 129).

Detailed share data has been collected from 97 of the 129 known CSA’s. The 24 new CSA’s in 2008 represent approximately 550 new shares. While a few farms report scaling back their number of shares, the majority report either an increase, or no change in their member numbers. The estimated total number of shares is currently about 5500, up about 1500 shares from just one year ago.

Press coverage on the CSA model in Maine and MOFGA’s and the Maine Council of Church’s efforts to increase its visibility continues to be fairly frequent. A sampling of articles (including web links if available) are referenced below, but paper copies will be sent under separate cover.

  • Agriculture fair to be held at St. Michael’s in Auburn, Lewiston Sun Journal, January 16, 2008,

    Eating as if the future mattered: Building local food connections, Village Soup, 1/18/08

    Slow Food and friends to host CSA fair, Portland Press Herald, February 6, 2008,

    Get your share, The Maine Switch Magazine, 2008-02-06,

    Who’s your farmer?, Kennebec Journal, 02/07/2008,

    If You Love Fresh Produce, This Event Is For You, Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel, 02/09/2008,

    Corporate Shopping Alternatives, The Portland Phoenix, 3/19/2008,

    Farmers, All, Downeast Magazine, March 2008

    Coastal Maine Communities find new ways to help fisheries, Maine Coast NOW, 4/18/2008

    Its Not Too Late to Join a CSA, Downeast Magazine,

    Cool Congregations: Focusing on Health and Environment, Maine Council of Churches’ UPDATE, Spring 2008

    On Mother’s Day, thoughtful gifts speak louder than words, Bangor Daily News, 5/3/2008

    Consumers’ investments help farmers produce a return benefiting both, Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel, 05/05/2008,

    Community-supported farming grows more than food, Lewiston Sun Journal, July 27, 2008,


Anne D. Burt
Director, Environmental Justice Program
Maine Council of Churches
15 Pleasant Ave
Portland, ME 04103
Office Phone: 2077721918
Melissa White Pillsbury
Organic Marketing Coordinator
Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association
PO Box 170
294 Crosby Brook Road
Unity, ME 04988
Office Phone: 2075684142
Cheryl Wixson
Organic Marketing Consultant
PO Box 170
Unity, ME 04988
Office Phone: 2079470892