MADISON, Wis. — FairShare CSA Coalition was awarded a $492,000 2018 Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for its project titled “Developing a CSA Network ‘Community of Practice’ and Shared Technical Assistance Resources.” FairShare, a Madison-based non-profit, is collaborating with the University of Kentucky and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers in California (CAFF), in addition to other CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) support organizations across the country to strengthen CSA nationally.
“It is our goal to make the resource assets and programmatic strengths that already exist among CSA support networks across the States widely known and available, while developing new resources and trainings around carefully identified priority areas,” says FairShare Executive Director, Carrie Sedlak. “We will be drawing from a diverse set of expertise to provide CSA farmers with innovative, evidence-based marketing support, while formalizing a national coalition of collaboration. By doing so, all of our individual endeavors can be shared easily in the future as we work to strengthen CSA across the nation,” Sedlak continues.
The three-year grant builds on the relationships formed and work that was developed through a 2015 FMPP grant, titled “Expanding CSA Markets: Increasing Consumer Demand Through CSA Networks and Targeted Marketing.” FairShare created toolkits focused on four key programmatic areas and conducted a consumer marketing survey with over 3,000 CSA members. Throughout the course of this project, FairShare worked closely with four diverse farm networks across the country, several of which are partners on the new ‘Community of Practice’ grant. The four toolkits are available for public use at csacoalition.org and include CSA Incentives, Food Access, Promotions and Fundraising, and Workplace CSA.
Several briefs detailing the results of the consumer marketing survey are also available for public use at csacoalition.org. Since their development, the toolkits and data from the CSA marketing survey have aided FairShare and partner CSA networks in devising targeted marketing efforts to help build consumer demand for CSA and increase sales locally and nationally.
The “Developing a CSA Network ‘Community of Practice’ and Shared Technical Assistance Resources” project will assist three audiences — CSA Technical Assistance organizations, new CSA growers, and experienced CSA growers. Throughout the course of the grant, the community of practice will develop a series of trainings around priority topics for each audience and create a publically accessible clearinghouse of resources, data, and strategies. As a result, CSA farms will be more connected to new data to make informed decisions, conduct targeted outreach, and optimize their management practices. Long-term impacts of this resource sharing will equip farms to improve their marketing messages, reach and retain new customers, grow their overall share sales, and improve CSA share quality through increased knowledge about CSA marketing and management practices.
Each partner organization will take the lead on a priority issue. At a meeting at the University of Kentucky this February the project partners and collaborators identified initial priorities as economic access, CSA incentive programs, and modifications to the traditional CSA model.
“We were delighted to host the core partners and collaborators of the CSA Community of Practice project for the first meeting of this group in Lexington this past February,” recalls Tim Woods, Extension Professor at the University of Kentucky. “This is an ambitious undertaking to work with a national group, but the meeting in Lexington confirmed that there is both a need and solid core of creative people working in these spaces. We’re very excited to see what these teams are able to develop and share, confident they will be able to readily engage the larger CSA community nationally.”
Grant collaborators felt a similar excitement to beginning such a wide-reaching project. “It was so wonderful to meet people working on CSA across the country. As CSA is growing and changing, it is the perfect time to combine our efforts and get the word out about CSA as the backbone of a strong local food system,” explains Claire Strader, Organic Vegetable Educator at FairShare CSA Coalition and Dane County Extension.
“CAFF is thrilled to see the long-awaited national CSA Community of Practice coalesce, creating a really important space for information exchange and collaboration,” adds Michelle Wyler, Managing Director of the Farm to Market program at CAFF. “The CSA COP enables farm support organizations to expand our knowledge, hone our expertise, and to dive deep into addressing the identified needs of CSAs across the nation.”
Grant partners are looking forward to launching a national-level CSA marketing campaign as part of the grant project, as well as expanding participation in the national CSA community of practice in future years. The grant will conclude in September of 2021.
— FairShare CSA Coalition
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