Local Food, Local Engagement: Community-Supported Agriculture in Eastern Iowa



This paper examines some of the daily realities of operating a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in eastern Iowa and addresses the concept of community among growers. Popular depictions of local foods systems often emphasize the close relationships that develop between producers and consumers. This picture, however, may gloss over the necessary complexities of a healthy local food system. CSA has been promoted as a direct marketing strategy for small-scale growers and touted as a way of developing positive relationships between producers and consumers. Nevertheless, it is also important to understand that successful CSA initiatives are often reliant on a broad network of support that includes more than just growers and eaters. Ethnographic descriptions of CSA farms presented here show how involvement by media and other organizations contribute to successful CSAs as well as an overall concept of “civic agriculture.” These descriptions also show that access to affordable, reliable labor tends to be among the greatest challenges for CSA growers.