CSAs in Iowa are new. Two years ago the first two started. These were a
result of a Kellogg-funded program in Iowa called Shared Visions: Farming
for Better Communities - one of 18 projects nationwide that are a part of
the Integrated Farming Systems network. (In fact, I was out in Washington
state last week visiting with some of the people involved with the IFS
project out there). This last year I think there were 8 CSAs in Iowa.
There will be more next year.
Extension has been involved in CSA development in Iowa because they are one
of the collaborator organizations involved in Shared Visions. Their
involvement hasn't been large, but it has been welcomed.
Also, at present there are two ISU Extension publications under development
about CSAs. One will be a 4-pager (which means it'll be free) that will
give a basic overview of CSAs. The other will be longer and more detailed
for people who are thinking about starting CSAs in Iowa.
Hope this is helpful and enough detail for your needs.
Practical Farmers of Iowa
I have been involved in the CSA movement here in Wisconsin for the past four
years. CSA has spread rapidly and, according to the Bio-Dynamic Farming and
Gardening national database of CSA projects, Wisconsin has more CSA projects
(56) than any other state. This number is certainly low as not all farms
are registered with the database. From the B-D Assoc. figures I have put
together a map showing the number of CSA projects in each state. I can fax
this to you if you would like. In terms of consumer involvement in CSA, the
Madison area (which is now served by 17 CSA farms) has seen a growth from
approximately 800 individuals in 1993 to 2,500 in 1996.
One relatively unique aspect of CSA in Wisconsin, is the development of
coalitions or networks of CSA farms. The Madison Area CSA Coalition
(MACSAC) was initiated in tandem with the first CSA projects in the area and
remains a strong and important part of the local CSA movement. MACSAC helps
new or struggling CSA farms, conducts public education and outreach, and
promotes cooperation and information exchange among its member farms. It
also takes on special projects such as working to invovle low income
consumers in CSA. During the past year MACSAC produced and published a
"food book" designed to help CSA members eat seasonally. The book contains
over 300 recipes, information about food preservation, and more. Many other
parts of the country seem eager to start similar coalitions or networks.
While all of the above point toward strengths of the CSA movement, there are
challenges as well. Many CSA projects continue to struggle with (1) high
turn-over rates among members, (2) building active participation and support
among members, and (3) financial sustainability. I think a large reason for
the first issue stems from CSA seeming like such a neat idea that lots of
people enthusiastically sign up without considering the lifestyle choices
that CSA can involve. When summer hits and the bags are full of vegetables,
many people realize that their lifestyles do not give them time to cook.
One of the biggest challenges facing CSA is America's fast-paced, fast-food
One of the original and basic principals of CSA is that this model builds
sufficient support and involvement among a community of people such that the
farmer is given time to farm and care for the land. Many new CSA farms seem
reluctant to ask for help in the first few seasons and therefore find
themselves working incredibly hard to make everything happen. Those farms
that effectively encourage their members to volunteer on harvest days or to
serve as book keepers, newsletter writers, or membership recruiters can
avoid serious "farmer burnout" and are more sustainable in the long-term.
Another basic idea of CSA is that farmers are to receive a decent reward for
their hard work. However, many CSA farmers report very small earnings and
none to my knowledge can afford health care based solely on their farm
income. Accordingly, most CSA farms involve off-farm employment for a spouse
and perhaps for the farmer as well during the winter.
There are lots of other trends which are quite interesting, such as the way
in which CSA is attracting new people to farming, especially women. But I
should move to your second question: roles for extension. I do not know of
any attempt on the part of UW Extension to support CSA, save the short
article I wrote for a "Direct Marketing" newsletter. The Univ. of
Massachusetts produced a brochure about CSA a few years ago. More recently,
a CSA handbook was produced by Placer County Extension in California.
I think Extension personell should be educated about CSA and its underlying
goals so that they can develop a means of addressing the needs and concerns
of this new type of farm as well as the members of those farms. I would
suggest working with existing or emerging coalitions or networks of farms to
learn about their needs and concerns before developing any kind of
programming. I would guess that many CSA projects would appreciate
Extension programs that taught consumers about the benefits of eating
locally and seasonally. In a similar vein, CSA members would likely
appreciate help with topics such as cooking and food preserving. At another
level, I know that organic farmers in general (and all CSA projects that I
am aware of involve organic farms) would really appreciate having people at
Extension and Colleges and Universities who can help them with issues
realted organic production practices.
I hope this helps. Good luck with your work. -John
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1450 Linden Drive, Room 146
Madison, WI 53706
CSA National Trends:
A good friend of mine started a CSA here in Ames, Iowa 2 years ago and is
presently working on some extension publications on starting CSAs, etc.....
I have printed your message for her ( she doesn't have email) and she is
glad to talk with you and is planning on contacting you this week. Or if
you would like to call her, her name is Shelly Gradwell and her phone
number is 515-483-5001. The best time to contact her is at night from 7 pm
to 12 am CST.
I'm (we're) interested to hear about what others are also doing. We are
presently organizing a student operated CSA/ permaculture farm here at Iowa
State. Have land, administration support and some funding - tho we're
presently writing for additional funding. If you here of any, please let
us know. We've submitted to Leopold Center for Sustainable Ag and SARE
(Central region) so far.
Best of luck on your projects and workshops.
"There's no negatives (in life), only teachers"
Gina Marie McAndrews E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Voice: (515) 294-2235
1019 Agronomy Hall Fax: (515) 294-8146
Iowa State University Ames, IA 50011-1010
In Missouri, there are no true CSA's. There are several subscription farming
operations. Most are near the St. Louis area, serving the bedroom communities
of STL and also some clients within the suburbs of STL. I do get calls every so
often asking for information on subscription farming from areas of smaller
cities and towns. I haven't heard if any of these calls have started
subscription farmings but alot of times I get the initial call but not a return
call saying they have started. Hope this helps.
Debi Kelly, Project Manager
Missouri Alternatives Center
628 Clark Hall
Columbia, MO 65202
I suggest you contact Kathy Lawrence (email@example.com,
212/666-2168) of "Just Food" in NYC who has been working with some the
folks in NYC Coop Extension on a number of Community Food Security
projects. I know she's involved in a CSA training soon. Perhaps this
involves Coop Ext. folks I don't know for sure.
Jennifer L. Wilkins, Ph.D., R.D.
Senior Extension Associate
Nutrition Education, Food Systems and
Community Food Security
Division of Nutritional Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14853-4401
CSAs were included in about 4 of the 13 new community food projects
funded USDA in 1996 under the new Community Food Security Act. The
funding stream is designed to respond to low income community food
needs, to increase self-reliance of the community members and to
address multiple issues including, environmental, economic,
nutrition, food and small farm agriculture. Hope this helps. Liz
ELIZABETH O. TUCKERMANTY, Ph.D., R.D.
National Program Leader
Nutrition/Sustainable Food Systems
Children, Youth and Families
U of Massachusetts extension did a nice publication about CSAs, to encourage
wider adoption of the concept. Perhaps Cathy Roth and Robyn van En were
Members of the Ag Staff at Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of
Dutchess County have been very active in marketing and CSA's.
Jeffrey J. Miller
Cornell Cooperative Extension Of Oneida and Madison Counties
121 Second Street, Oriskany, N.Y. 13424
Hi Colette--My friend and co-CSA founder here in Ames, Shelly Gradwell,
is working on extension publications supporting CSA. Her number is 515
483-5001. Let me know if you can't get ahold of her, I can try to help.
--- Jeff Hall firstname.lastname@example.org
Colette DePhelps Program Coordinator Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources Washington State University PO Box 646230 Pullman, WA 99164-6230 509/335-0183 FAX 509/335-2926 Internet: email@example.com