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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cooperatives and CSAs in Theory and Practice


The weakening link between food consumption and agricultural production has stimulated

concern about deteriorating agricultural practices, about the decline in small farm numbers,

and about the ways in which the land is being used and its environmental consequences.

This paper discusses how Community Supported Agriculture Cooperatives (CSA co-ops),

as a strategy through which farmers and consumers become direct interactive agents,

contribute to the creation and maintenance of locally based, sustainable food economies.

Definitions and general considerations of single-farm CSAs and agricultural

cooperatives are examined setting the context for the theoretical and practical analyses of

the CSA co-op model. Benefits and challenges that a cooperative structure brings to the

traditional single-farm CSA model are examined from three different perspectives: that of

farmers‟, of consumers‟, and the community. It is argued that CSA cooperatives can create

new income for rural residents, new jobs in rural areas, expanded markets for small

farmers, and consumer access to a healthy diet with new and diversified agricultural

products grown with environmentally friendly techniques.

Five case studies are analyzed from which a logic model that identifies the main

issues facing CSA cooperatives and how they can be addressed to increase the likelihood of

success is derived.

Those looking for alternatives to the conventional food system might find in a CSA

cooperative arrangement a match for their needs.

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