Working Paper, University of Massachusetts, Department of Economics 2016-13
In the United States there is a tremendous amount of interest in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) among farmers, consumers, activists, and policymakers. Despite the attention garnered by CSA farms and the resurgence of local agriculture, relatively few studies have examined the livelihood opportunities for farmers within local agriculture. This paper takes a step in this direction, evaluating livelihoods for CSA farmers through in-depth interviews conducted in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. Based on the principles early advocates set forth as goals of the CSA movement, the paper evaluates how CSA farmers are doing from the farmers' perspective. The paper finds that while CSA farmers are faring better than other farms across the United States and in the study region in terms of earned farm income, they still earn far less than the median national income of all households. Despite these income challenges, CSA provides broader social, ecological, and economic benefits to farming communities as a whole, with its focus on providing food for the community rather than producing mass commodities for the market. These non-market benefits are a significant source of well-being from the CSA farmers' perspective.
Community Supported Agriculture Local Food Sustainability Economic Inequality Ecological Economics