Communication and building social capital in community supported agriculture
Keywords: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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Copyright (c) 2022 Ella Furness, Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Adrian Clear, Samantha Mitchell Finnigan, J. Elliot Meador, Susanna Mills, Alice E. Milne, Ryan T. Sharp
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