; Community-Supported Agriculture: Risk Management and Communication | Conferences | AgRisk Library


Conference Name Community-Supported Agriculture: Risk Management and Communication

Paul Goeringer and Mayhah Suri


In recent decades, community-supported agriculture (CSA) has become increasingly popular in the United States as an alternative farming system. This presentation would highlight the results of several related Maryland projects that sought to understand, teach, and evaluate CSA risk management methods. In 2014, Maryland Department of Agriculture conducted a study after receiving complaints from unhappy CSA farm members. The surveys found that 70 percent of all farmers reported having a conversation in some form about the risks of joining a CSA farm. However, just over half of the member respondents reported signing a membership agreement before joining. Upon closer study of the membership agreements and contracts available on CSA farm websites it was found that most agreements discuss risk in vague terms. While farmers in Maryland do mention risk to members, it is not explained clearly in written agreements. Using these findings, University of Maryland developed educational programming to provide clearer risk communication methods, including a model membership agreement. An evaluative survey was sent to CSA farmers who participated in the workshops to determine if the model contract was useful. Development of clear, usable contracts could be important in increasing transparency and strengthening the relationship between CSA farm operators and members. Conference attendees could use similar survey methods to gain a better understanding of CSA farms in their communities in order to develop targeted, relevant educational efforts to support CSA farm operators.