Communication and building social capital in community supported agriculture


  • Ella Furness Cardiff University
  • Angelina Sanderson Bellamy Cardiff University
  • Adrian Clear Northumbria University
  • Samantha Mitchell Finnigan Northumbria University
  • J. Elliot Meador Scotland’s Rural College
  • Susanna Mills Newcastle University
  • Alice E. Milne Rothamsted Research
  • Ryan T. Sharp Rothamsted Research



Alternative Food Networks, Civic Food Networks, Communication, Social Capital, Community Supported Agriculture, Food Systems


Community supported agriculture (CSA) schemes (programs) provide an alternative means for ob­taining produce, through direct purchase from farms. They are also often driven by a vision of transforming the current mainstream food system and seek to build a community of people who sup­port this vision. Social capital refers to the net­works and ties between people and groups and the impact of these ties on access to influence, infor­mation, opportunity, and ability to organize. Social capital is built by CSAs and helps foster and stabi­lize the grassroots agricultural innovations that are needed for the development of sustainable food systems. Using the concept of social capital, we studied communication methods of four CSAs in the UK, examining the interactions between CSAs and their members and within each of their mem­bership groups. We carried out in-depth interviews with 49 CSA members to establish what interac­tions they had with their CSA and with other mem­bers, and analyzed our data thematically to identify the characteristics of interactions that were impor­tant to participants. We consider how our research may benefit CSA organizations by enabling them to learn what their members want and to learn about the varied ways in which members conceptu­alize their experiences of community derived from their membership. We found that the various CSA communication strate­gies, which consist of fre­quent and varying virtual and face-to-face interac­tions, are able to promote development of both bridging and bonding social capital. Over­all, there is a desire for social connec­tion in CSA member­ships. Furthermore, in CSAs where mem­bers can interact easily, there is potential for CSA member­ship to provide mem­bers with communi­cation that is important as a source of both knowl­edge and social connection. CSAs can maximize both social capital and mem­ber satisfaction by using a range of communication media and methods to meet their members’ circumstances and preferences.


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Author Biographies

Ella Furness, Cardiff University

Research Associate, Sustainable Places Research Institute

Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Cardiff University

Senior Research Fellow, Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University.

Angelina Sanderson Bellamy is now Associate Professor of Food Systems, Department of Applied Sciences, University of the West of England at Bristol.

Adrian Clear, Northumbria University

Research Fellow; NorSC Lab, Faculty of Environment and Engineering.

Adrian Clear is now at School of Computer Science, National University of Ireland Galway.

Samantha Mitchell Finnigan, Northumbria University

Research Associate, NorSC Lab, Faculty of Environment and Engineering

J. Elliot Meador, Scotland’s Rural College

Research Fellow, Rural Policy Centre

Susanna Mills, Newcastle University

Public Health Specialty Registrar and NIHR Clinical Lecturer, Population Health Sciences Institute

Alice E. Milne, Rothamsted Research

Senior Research Scientist—Agricultural Systems Modeller, Sustainable Agriculture Sciences Depart­ment

Ryan T. Sharp, Rothamsted Research

Research Associate, Sustainable Agriculture Sciences Department



How to Cite

Furness, E., Sanderson Bellamy, A., Clear, A., Mitchell Finnigan, S., Meador, J. E., Mills, S., Milne, A., & Sharp, R. (2022). Communication and building social capital in community supported agriculture. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 12(1), 63–78.