Community Shared Agriculture Study

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 Purpose of the research
  • To profile community shared agriculture, also known as community supported agriculture (CSA) operators in Alberta and increase understanding of the business models, pricing structures and performance of CSAs.

Methodology of the research
  • The research involved three primary components: a literature review, a survey conducted by interviewing 25 CSA operators and a focus group to validate research findings.
  • Survey questions were developed to provide a profile of CSA farmers and operations, and to address marketing, production, management and profitability.
  • Most of the survey questions were open-ended. These questions asked for ‘top of mind’ responses. Answers were coded by the apparent themes presented. The number of operators who expressed each theme was tallied. A single operator could, and often did, express several themes.
  • Not all operators answered all questions. The number of responses are indicated, such that “n=” refers to the number of respondents for a given question. Summary data are frequently expressed as percentages of the respondents to each question.
  • Median was presented along with the mean value as some calculations of average were strongly influenced by outliers due to the fact that CSAs in Alberta are highly variable, with many differences within them.
  • The focus group provided further input on their key challenges and key factors for success.

Value of the study
  • This study is the first attempt to establish statistics to benchmark the economic contributions of CSA operators within the local food economy in Alberta.
  • The high percentage of CSA operators that were 100% farm direct marketers indicated the local food economy in Alberta (mainly supported by the Edmonton and Calgary markets) can provide sustainable farm income for producers.

Study report highlights
  • Respondents are positive about the future of CSA.
    • 78% stated the local food movement will grow
    • 39% identified CSA is a growing trend
    • 26% indicated CSA has massive potential
    • 17% said CSA is an important niche market
    • 40% intend CSA to provide full income for themselves or their family
  • 30% of respondents had more than 75% of gross farm receipts from CSA
  • Most respondents (60%) sold through CSA as well as other market channels such as farmers’ market (32%), restaurants (24%), u-pick (20%), farm gate (20%) and retail (16%).
  • 78% of respondents had 100% of gross farm receipts from farm direct sales.
  • Most respondents (67%) reported a profit margin of 0-20% for their CSA operations.
  • Respondents are evenly distributed among small, medium and large farm size by revenue:
    • 35% of respondents reported gross farm receipts over $250,000;
    • 30% were between $50,000 - $250,000; and
    • 35% were below $50,000.

Further research interest
  • This study provided preliminary evidence of farms being economically viable within the local food economy through diversification in direct marketing channels. Further study on all farms with these characteristics and their target markets will provide more strategic information on the local food economy in Alberta.

Disclaimer and Permission to Use
The above titled publication is provided in PDF format for educational use. It may be copied and reproduced for personal use only. For all other purposes, the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF)'s permission must first be obtained. The responsibility for opinions and factual matter as expressed in this report rests solely with their authors. This report does not constitute endorsement by the AF of the expressed opinion, nor affirmation of the accuracy of information herein provided.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Mimi Lee.
This document is maintained by Delores Serafin.
This information published to the web on April 1, 2014.
Last Reviewed/Revised on October 22, 2015.