Thursday, September 17, 2015

Community Supported Agriculture operators are young, idealistic and have high turnover rates

In recent years, interest in locally grown foods has allowed smaller farms, mostly operated by younger farmers, to find a niche in local and regional markets, while also providing specialty foods available through the Internet, Timothy Collins, assistant director for research, policy, outreach and sustainability at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University, reports for the Daily Yonder. "Some communities seeking to enhance local food production have relied on more traditional direct marketing, where a farmer grows the produce, prepares it for market and then sells to consumers at a roadside stand or farm market."

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture said there were 8,476 farmers’ markets in 2014, up from 2,863 in 2000, and 1,755 in 1994, Collins writes. "They tend to be concentrated in populated areas of the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast. Other farmers might market to restaurants, schools or other food outlets. In both cases, the farmer assumes all of the risk."

An Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs survey from the summer of 2014 found that about 45 percent of Community Supported Agriculture farms are operated by farmers ages 41 to 60 and 28 percent by those ages 26 to 40, writes Collins, who was one of the researchers that conducted the survey. More than 60 percent are operated by women. Also, 82 percent of CSA farmers had a college or postgraduate degree. (Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs graphic)
The survey found that "most CSA operators tended to be committed to environmentally friendly farming strategies," Collins writes. "CSA operators appeared to be less motivated by profit than they were by other more idealistic considerations," more than 75 percent did not grow ip on a farm and most used the business as supplemental income for farm families.

On the downside, many of these businesses don't last, Collins writes. "The study found that more than a third of the addresses in the original sample of about 1,000 farms were bad. In addition, a quarter of the final response of 154 operators reported having gone out of business." (Read more)

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