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Community supported agriculture (CSA)

Health Factors: Diet & Exercise
Decision Makers: Community Members Employers & Businesses Local Government State Government Healthcare Professionals & Advocates Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 20-49% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between farmers and consumers, where consumers purchase a share of a farm’s products in advance, typically paying in full in the wintertime when farms need capital to prepare for the spring. During the high growing season (roughly May-October), CSA members receive deliveries of vegetables, fruits, and herbs; some CSAs include other farm products such as eggs, meat, milk, cheese, flowers, or baked goods. CSA programs vary by farm and community, however, most feature organic, sustainably raised products, and have pick-up locations in nearby neighborhoods and on the farm. Most CSA programs encourage members to participate in community-building opportunities on the farm with other members; some also encourage members to work on the farm in exchange for reduced membership cost (USDA NAL-Defining CSA, FairShare-How it works).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased access to healthy food
Increased healthy food consumption
Improved dietary habits
Improved weight status
Strengthened local & regional food systems
Increased earnings

Evidence of Effectiveness

Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs are a suggested strategy to increase access to healthy foods and distribute fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms to urban and rural areas (CDC-Local foods, Harmon 2014). Available evidence suggests that CSA participation significantly increases household inventories of fresh fruits and vegetables, and increases fruit and vegetable consumption (Quandt 2013, Cohen 2012b). Participation is associated with an increased variety and amount of vegetables consumed for adults and children (Brown 2008, Wharton 2015, Uribe 2012), improved diet (Minaker 2014, Harmon 2014), more cooking at home (Wharton 2015, Andreatta 2008, Harmon 2014, Cohen 2012b), and improved weight status (Minaker 2014).

CSA programs may help strengthen and improve local and regional food systems and contribute to greater food system sustainability (Forssell 2015). For farmers, the CSA prepayment model can increase cash flow, provide a stable income, and transfer some production risk to consumers (Zepeda 2014, Andreatta 2008). Without subsidized CSA shares, low income households typically cannot afford to participate (Harmon 2014, Kato 2013, Andreatta 2008); however, many CSA programs partner with non-profit organizations to offer working shares, subsidized shares, or other lower cost options (Forbes 2008). Transportation difficulties, inflexible work schedules (Quandt 2013), and time and knowledge required to prepare whole foods (Harmon 2014, Kato 2013) can also be barriers to CSA participation.

Environmental and nutritional motivations are associated with choosing to participate in a CSA program (Farmer 2014, Zepeda 2014). CSA participants frequently have higher education, higher income, and stronger levels of social connectedness than non-participants (Farmer 2014). 


United States

As of 2012, over 12,600 farms in the US reported selling products through a community supported agriculture (CSA) program (USDA NAL-CSA). The USDA links to several searchable databases for CSA programs at the national, state, and regional levels (USDA NAL-CSA).

State legislation can support farmers’ markets and CSA programs, as in Minnesota (NCSL-Food systems). City ordinances can also be adjusted to permit or encourage residents to host CSA pick-ups or to sell produce at their residences, as in Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO-Urban ag).

Many non-profit organizations work to connect consumers with CSA programs and to improve the accessibility of CSA shares through education, outreach, community building, and resource sharing, for example, the FairShare CSA coalition in Madison, WI (FairShare-How it works); the Portland Area CSA coalition (Portland Area-CSA); Farm Fresh Rhode Island (Farm Fresh RI-CSA); The Food Project in the Boston area (TFP-CSA); and Local Harvest, a national organization (Local Harvest-CSA). 

Many health insurance providers offer consumers rebates for purchasing CSA vegetable shares (FairShare-How it works).

Implementation Resources

LHC-Rockeymoore 2014 - Rockeymoore M, Moscetti C, Fountain A. Rural Childhood Obesity Prevention Toolkit. Leadership for Healthy Communities (LHC). 2014. Accessed on June 16, 2017
USDA NAL-CSA - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Library (NAL). Community supported agriculture (CSA). Accessed on February 10, 2017
USDA NAL-CSA resources - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Library (NAL). CSA resources for farmers: Selected books, reports, articles, research projects, periodicals and videos focusing on the business of CSA farming. Accessed on February 10, 2017

Citations - Description

FairShare-How it works - FairShare CSA Coalition. About CSA: How it works. Accessed on March 2, 2016
USDA NAL-Defining CSA - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Library (NAL). Defining community supported agriculture (CSA). Accessed on February 10, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Andreatta 2008* - Andreatta S, Rhyne M, Dery N. Lessons learned from advocating CSAs for low-income and food insecure households. Southern Rural Sociology. 2008;25(1):116-148. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Brown 2008* - Brown C, Miller S. The impacts of local markets: A review of research on farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 2008;90(5):1298-1302. Accessed on March 2, 2016
CDC-Local foods - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Healthy places: Farmers markets, community supported agriculture, and local food distribution. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Cohen 2012b* - Cohen JN, Gearhart S, Garland E. Community supported agriculture: A commitment to a healthier diet. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2012;7(1):20-37. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Farmer 2014* - Farmer JR, Chancellor C, Robinson JM, West S, Weddell M. Agrileisure: Farmers markets, CSAs, and the privilege in local eating. Journal of Leisure Research. 2014;46(3):313-328. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Forbes 2008* - Forbes CB, Harmon AH. Buying into community-supported agriculture: Strategies for overcoming income barriers. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2008;2(2-3):65-79. Accessed on March 30, 2016
Forssell 2015* - Forssell S, Lankoski L. The sustainability promise of alternative food networks: An examination through "alternative" characteristics. Agriculture and Human Values. 2015;32(1):63-75. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Harmon 2014 - Harmon AH. Community supported agriculture: A conceptual model of health implications. Austin Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences. 2014;2(4):1024. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Kato 2013* - Kato Y. Not just the price of food: Challenges of an urban agriculture organization in engaging local residents. Sociological Inquiry. 2013;83(3):369-391. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Minaker 2014* - Minaker LM, Raine KD, Fisher P, et al. Food purchasing from farmers' markets and Community-Supported Agriculture is associated with reduced weight and better diets in a population-based sample. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2014;9(4):485-497. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Quandt 2013 - Quandt SA, Dupuis J, Fish C, D'Agostino RB. Feasibility of using a community-supported agriculture program to improve fruit and vegetable inventories and consumption in an underresourced urban community. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2013;10:130053. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Uribe 2012* - Uribe ALM, Winham DM, Wharton CM. Community supported agriculture membership in Arizona: An exploratory study of food and sustainability behavior. Appetite. 2012;59(2):431-436. Accessed on March 29, 2016
Wharton 2015* - Wharton CM, Hughner RS, MacMillan L, Dumitrescu C. Community supported agriculture programs: A novel venue for theory-based health behavior change interventions. Ecology of Food and Nutrition. 2015;54(3):280-301. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Zepeda 2014 - Zepeda L, Reznickova A, Russell WS, Hettenbach D. A case study of the symbolic value of Community Supported Agriculture membership. Journal of Food Distribution Research. 2014;42(2):195-212. Accessed on March 2, 2016

Citations - Implementation

FairShare-How it works - FairShare CSA Coalition. About CSA: How it works. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Farm Fresh RI-CSA - Farm Fresh Rhode Island. Local food guide to Rhode Island: Community supported agriculture (CSA). Accessed on March 2, 2016
KCMO-Urban ag - Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture. Growing good food in Kansas City neighborhoods: A guide to urban agriculture codes in KCMO. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Local Harvest-CSA - LocalHarvest. Community supported agriculture: Find a local CSA. Accessed on March 2, 2016
NCSL-Food systems - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Farmers' market: Expanding farmers' markets and strengthening local food systems. Accessed on March 2, 2016
Portland Area-CSA - Portland Area CSA Coalition. CSA resources: Connecting you with your farmer through community supported agriculture. Accessed on March 2, 2016
TFP-CSA - The Food Project (TFP). Farm shares & community supported agriculture (CSA). Accessed on March 1, 2016
USDA NAL-CSA - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Library (NAL). Community supported agriculture (CSA). Accessed on February 10, 2017

Page Last Updated

March 31, 2016

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