National Survey of CSAs: Emerging Marketing and Business Strategies

Grants and Contracts Details


This project will provide an analysis of the emerging marketing and business strategy trends of CSAs and buying clubs in the U.S.. Regional studies (Strochlic and Shelly, 2004; Oberholtzer, 2004; Woods et al, 2009) have shed some light on trends with this business model, but have tended toward a narrower geographic analysis, emphasized sociological elements, or had not explored CSAs as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. These are important dimensions to CSAs given their historical roots, but it has also been observed that their role as part of a producer’s local foods/direct marketing strategy is changing and not well understood. Regional and scale differences are evident. National studies, such as the Census of Agriculture, indicate 12, 549 farms marketed through a CSA in 2007; the 2012 Census will certainly suggest a higher number, although the definition remains fuzzy within the Census. The Biodynamics group sites Mcfadden’s 2012 estimate of between 6,000 and 6,500 CSAs (Biodynamic Farming and Gardening, 2012). The dynamics of the CSA in the evolution of a marketing plan for producers are also not well understood. Some producers have used the traditional CSA model as a market entry point for local foods distribution and then graduated to other business models as scale allowed. Others have adapted the traditional CSA model to CSA-like models that better accommodate single or multi-farm scale economies. This project will use a combination of selected exploratory case studies and a national survey of CSAs in an effort to document the emerging marketing and business strategies of producers using the CSA model. Part of the analysis is to provide a current description of the CSAs across the country, but a further objective is to understand the dynamics of this model in the context of entry into the local foods market. Finally, the study will document innovations and adaptations of the traditional CSA model that are emerging along with a projection of the future of this business model from the CSA operators themselves. The results should be instructive to CSA operators, policy makers, and support agencies working alongside various local foods efforts.
Effective start/end date9/30/129/30/14


  • Agricultural Marketing Service: $49,840.00


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