Kaitlin Smith

ENVS002: Human Nature, Technology, and the Environment

Essay One | Essay Two | Essay Three | Essay Four | Final Project


Community-Supported Agriculture

Presented on Tuesday, April 17, 2007


  • In “Community-Supported Agriculture: Farming with a Face on It,” Daniel Imhoff argues that community-supported agriculture (CSA) offers a way to decrease corporate control of the food supply, increase the role of farmers and citizens, and encourage sustainable agricultural practices.  Additionally, Imhoff holds that the nutritional benefits of eating locally produced organic foods are considerable and that such food’s lack of pesticides makes it much safer for children (who have much lower pesticide tolerance levels) than conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables.  Imhoff also holds that CSAs connect consumers to the land in a meaningful way and, thus, have the potential to increase nutritional and environmental awareness amongst those involved (particularly children).  Though Imhoff concedes that white professionals are overrepresented in terms of CSA membership, he maintains that CSA members typically pay less for what they receive than what they would pay if they were to have purchased the organic produce on the commercial market.  I found Imhoff’s defense of CSAs here insufficient as a result of his failure to consider issues such as redlining, membership costs, transportation, spare time, and cultural appropriateness.  Thus, I asked that the class view the following article and video as they address these issues more effectively.
  • In “Tending Cultural Landscapes and Food Citizenship in Toronto’s Community Gardens,” Lauren E. Baker presents an alternative to the corporate food system that emphasizes the needs and experiences of subdominant and marginalized peoples.  She positions community gardening as a political endeavor that challenges the status quo by both encouraging community self-sufficiency and allowing those whose voices are typically excluded from public discourse to help shape their cities.  Baker also notes that this model provides “social and recreational opportunities, supplement[s] nutrition, educate[s] the public about food production and preparation, [serves as a] community-development strateg[y], offset[s] income needs, and ‘green[s]’ the urban environment” (308).  She also emphasizes the importance of access to culturally appropriate foods for those involved.
  • In Directors Martina Brimmer and Zora Tucker’s short film entitled Food Justice: A Growing Movement, viewers are introduced to West Oakland’s People’s Grocery and the issues that the organization seeks to address.  Those issues include those of food justice, food security, sustainability, nutrition and diet-related disease prevention, and community development, among others.  The People’s Grocery serves as an American example of the Canadian community gardens detailed in Baker’s article.

Discussion Questions and Answers:

    • What do CSAs seek to address?
      • Labor issues/ the role of small farmers
      • Community development (i.e. the CSAs profit stays in the community)           
    • How does CSA relate to sustainability?
      • Uses less energy/calories to produce food
    • What are the limitations of CSA?
      • Members have little control over the produce they receive
      • Organics are generally more expensive
      • It might be more sustainable to grow food on a larger scale due to the economic advantages of economies of scale
    • Are CSAs a feasible alternative to the corporate food system?
      • Perhaps in certain contexts, but certainly not universally
    • Is CSA an exclusive movement?  If so, is that problematic?
      • It is unfortunate that CSAs exclude large portions of the population, but they are still helpful with respect to sustainability
      • We should not expect CSAs to redistribute wealth in the United States
    • What are the differences between Imhoff’s CSAs and Baker’s community food-security (CFS) gardens?
      • Less class barriers
    • What are the limitations of the CFS movement?
      • Cannot change the entire system; too idealistic
      • Enlisting the help of teachers might be more effective than a youth-led movement
    • In what ways does the CFS movement not address the problems inherent in CSA (or even introduce new problems)?
      • Does not constitute a systemic solution to the problems of food access, poor nutrition, and unsustainable food cultivation (at least in the short term)
    • Would a political solution be more effective than the CFS movement in terms of extending food access and encouraging sustainability?
      • Probably not, but garden networks cannot solve these problems single-handedly

Suggested Reading/Viewing Materials:

Baker, Lauren E. “Tending Cultural Landscapes and Food Citizenship in Toronto’s Community Gardens” from Geographical Review. New York: Jul 2004. Vol 94, Issue 3. Pages 305-309 and 322-323.

Brimmer, Martina and Zora Tucker. Food Justice: A Growing Movement. Short Film: http://www.mediathatmattersfest.org/mtm_good_food/#

Imhoff, Daniel. “Community-Supported Agriculture: Farming with a Face on It” from The Case Against the Global Economy: And for a Turn Toward the Local. Sierra Club Books: San Francisco, 1996.