PANUPS: CSA Conference Draws 350+

                         P A N U P S
                   Pesticide Action Network 
                        North America
                       Updates Service
                * http://www.panna.org/panna/ *

January 12, 1996

Farmer-Consumer Links Promoted at Community Supported 
Agriculture Conference

In late 1995, more than 350 people gathered in San Francisco, 
California for a conference on the social, economic and 
environmental benefits of Community Supported Agriculture 
(CSA), a relatively new model of food production and 
distribution with roots in European and Japanese movements of 
the 1960s (see PANUPS January 3, 1995 for information about 
the "tekei" system in Japan, which is similar to CSA). In CSA 
farms, producers sell "shares" directly to consumers, who 
then receive regular (usually weekly) harvest portions 
throughout the growing season. 

According to land trust and CSA expert Chuck Matthei, one of 
the conference's featured speakers, there are between 30,000 
and 50,000 CSA members in the U.S. The conference, which 
attracted growers, wholesalers and retailers, as well as 
representatives from consumer, environmental and community 
groups, offered workshops on a range of practical aspects of 
running CSAs, including legal matters and liability 
questions, budgets, marketing, land tenure and succession 
planting, but also included discussions on CSAs' relationship 
to community, food security and sustainable agriculture. 

Discussions on food security focused on CSAs' role in 
creating viable farms integrated into local economies and 
communities. Several speakers described opportunities for 
networking among farmers' markets, soup kitchens and 
community groups to provide fresh, nutritious food to low-
income people through CSAs. Gail Feenstra, a CSA shareholder 
and nutritionist at the University of California Sustainable 
Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), described 
how community groups and farmers' markets in Los Angeles have 
used the CSA model to distribute extra food to low-income 
people throughout the area.

Feenstra also emphasized that because of their local and 
community orientation, CSAs are well suited to work with 
marginalized populations who may otherwise lack access to 
fresh produce and information about nutrition. Participants 
discussed utilizing the close links among CSA members, 
farmers and communities to educate members and others about 
the environmental and health benefits of eating organic food 
in season. 

CSAs were also described as an excellent means for farmers to 
achieve income security independent of variable markets and 
weather. According to Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farm in 
California, the predictable income from CSA memberships 
allows farmers to concentrate more on growing quality produce 
and less on finding markets. Steve Moore of Moore Ranch in 
California explained that since developing a CSA, his farm's 
income had become so reliable that he can now offer year-
round work to his employees, whereas before work had been 
seasonal and irregular. 

Many participants expressed that CSAs play an important role 
in strengthening community cohesiveness and cooperation -- a 
significant attraction for many people. For example, Karen 
Salkind, a CSA shareholder with the Live Power Farm CSA in 
Covelo, California, emphasized that sense of community was a 
crucial factor in her decision to belong to Live Power, a 
farm whose farmers were able to purchase their land due to 
the work and contributions of its CSA members. Elizabeth 
Henderson, a farmer at Rose Valley Farm in New York, pointed 
to a strong sense of community in the decision of Rose Valley 
CSA members to subsidize shares for low-income people with 
fees paid by full-paying shareholders.

The conference was co-sponsored by a consortium of farmers, 
farmer groups, donors, educators and research centers, 
including CSA West, a recently formed resource and advocacy 
organization aimed at promoting CSAs. CSA West, a program of 
the California-based Community Alliance with Family Farmers 
(CAFF), assists farmers in developing CSA programs, offers 
workshops and presentations about CSAs and monitors CSA 
developments in the western U.S. 

Source: PANNA (see below).

Contacts: CSA West, University of California, CASFS, 1156 
High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064; phone (408) 459-3964; fax 
(408) 459-2799; email farmcsa@aol.com; PANNA (see below).

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