Community supported agriculture (CSA) in the Mid-Atlantic United States: A sociological analysis

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Title: Community supported agriculture (CSA) in the Mid-Atlantic United States: A sociological analysis
Author: Loughridge, Kenneth Brandon
Advisors: Randall Thomson, Committee Chair
Robert Moxley, Committee Member
Richard Della Fave, Committee Member
Risa Ellovich, Committee Member
Abstract: In response to the globalization of agriculture and the proliferation of convenience-based and processed foods, many Americans have joined community supported farms. Community supported agriculture (CSA) involves people paying a seasonal fee to a local farmer in return for weekly allotments of organically-grown produce. This research investigates the membership, stabilization, and success of selected CSAs in the mid-Atlantic United States. The analyses are based upon survey data from 204 members of five CSAs collected during the 2000 growing season. Interview data from each of the farmers and thirteen of the members supplement the survey data. The data are analyzed primarily with path analytic techniques in order to test hypotheses derived from a thorough search of the relevant literatures. Results show that the majority of the members of these CSAs are white, well educated, wealthy, and female. Although the respondents tend to be interested in environmental issues, alternative agriculture, and community issues, their relative level of interest does not affect their level of investment in the CSA. A higher level of member investment, however, does have a positive effect upon the organizational success of the farms in this study. Organizational success also is found to be negatively affected by the CSA's relative degree of organizational stability, a finding that contradicts some of the literature. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the methodological, theoretical, and applied implications of these findings. These implications include the finding that while electronic survey techniques have certain advantages, one disadvantage discovered is that electronic return rates are much lower than the return rates for U.S. mail surveys. Additionally, the process of social movement organization growth and change, as developed by resource mobilization theorists, is found to be applicable to the maturation levels of the CSAs in this study. Finally, strategies are suggested by the findings that can be used by CSA practitioners to render their membership more socially diverse, including the implementation of subsidized shares and payment plans.
Date: 2003-01-07
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Sociology

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