Helping Farmers with Continuation Planning for Cost-Offset Community Supported Agriculture to Low-Income Families
Keywords:Cost-Offset CSA, Entrepreneurship, Evaluation, Community Supported Agriculture, Farmer Training, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Subsidized Direct-to-Consumer
To improve low-income families’ access to fresh local produce, some farmers offer subsidized or “cost-offset” community supported agriculture (CO-CSA) shares. We evaluated a structured planning and implementation process conducted during the final intervention year of the Farm Fresh Foods for Healthy Kids (F3HK) study, which aimed to help participating farmers (N=12) to sustain a CO-CSA program after study funding ended. The process included training webinars, planning tools to develop CO-CSA continuation funding and recruitment strategies, regional coaching teams to provide technical assistance, and periodic group conference calls to facilitate shared learning among F3HK farmers. Our evaluation explored the content of farmers’ CO-CSA continuation plans, their experiences during implementation, their opinions about the planning process, and their future plans regarding their CO-CSA. We found that F3HK farmers used diverse methods to plan, recruit, and raise funds, with each farm adapting strategies to fit their local conditions and farm business. Many farmers found success with word-of-mouth advertising and CSA member donations. Yet lack of farm resources—time, money, and expertise—was a continual barrier to moving forward. As with full price CSAs, reciprocity was a key factor: farmers needed to consider the needs and preferences of low-income consumers, and CO-CSA members needed to understand their financial responsibility to the farmer. In general, F3HK farmers appreciated the continuation planning process, but expressed a desire for more technical assistance with grant writing. Farmers were committed to the success of the CO-CSA continuation planning process, and most intended to continue the CO-CSA the following year.
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