Shifting landscapes: Community supported agriculture's next season

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


John s. Burdick


Community supported agriculture, Local food movement

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The research problem under investigation in this ethnographic case study was to understand how participants in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program realized their support and commitment to it as well as to better understand its complications and drawbacks in support of a local, sustainable, civic agriculture. The program is situated in the larger network of food movements. The explicit purpose of this study was to increase the likelihood of this program's long-term viability by understanding both what motivated as well as discouraged participation. The burgeoning theoretical field of civic agriculture informed this research.

In-depth interviews were conducted with 69 participants, including current and former CSA members as well as people with similar interests in local food but not participating in a CSA. Supporting research methods included participant observation, survey and archival research. Interview data was transcribed and coded multiple times using Nvivo qualitative software. Analysis and interpretation of the findings were organized into three thematic chapters that included: motivations and implications for participation, the impact of political beliefs and actions on the program and a range of participants as well as their suggestions for program sustainability.

The research realized that social and political values are enacted through participation and that these provide both opportunities and challenges for retention and additional enrollment. Further, CSA's structure in a rapidly changing local food market has reached a tipping point in its usefulness to its ongoing sustainability where adjustments could be useful for future growth. Suggestions included restructuring the program's outreach to include additional choices and options for participation beyond CSA's traditional subscription program, considering options for engaging a wider audience regardless of political motivation, and to realize a regional structure that engages multiple farms and CSA programs under a larger umbrella in order to realize economies of scale while continuing to respect the tenets of a local and civic agriculture.

Key words: Community Supported Agriculture, CSA, civic agriculture, local agriculture, local food, politics of consumption, food politics.


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