Theses Doctoral

Gateway to Green: The Family Experience of Community Supported Agriculture

Iwaki, Tomoko

In recent years, there has been great interest in the creation and support of sustainable food systems through the consumption of local and seasonable foods. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are one example of a sustainable food system model in which consumers purchase weekly produce shares directly from local farms. Though participation in CSA programs has increased, very little is understood about the effects of CSA participation on families once they bring their CSA shares home. Does increased participation in the sustainable food system via CSAs lead to a deeper sense of connection to the environment? The main aim of this study is to understand how family participation in the local food system affects families' food and environmental identities. A grounded theory approach was used to construct a model of how CSA membership affects families. Forty-three CSA sites in Manhattan were asked to forward initial recruitment surveys to their renewing and non-renewing members. From the 384 survey responses, 120 families were identified and contacted for interviews. Semi-structured interviews of thirty-six families, a total of fifty-one adults and fourteen children, were conducted for the study. Interview data was coded using line-by-line, in vivo, focused, axial, and theoretical codes in accordance with grounded theory methodology. The analysis of the interviews revealed that the CSA families embark on a CSA journey. After joining a CSA, families hit the learning curve, in which they must learn to adapt to the structure of getting a weekly bounty of fresh vegetables through the CSA. The steepness and duration of the learning curve depends on families' skills in the kitchen and on their ability to consume large quantities of sometimes unfamiliar "tipping point" vegetables. Once families traverse the learning curve, CSAs become part of who they are. However, the CSA journey does not end there. Families aspire to meet new "someday" goals such as canning fruits and pickling vegetables or composting their food waste. As they navigate the CSA learning curve, families reported subtle and gradual changes in their environmental attitudes and beliefs and hence their environmental identities. The CSA journey model can help CSAs better support member families, especially new members, and inform further research into the effects of CSAs on environmental identity.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Behavioral Nutrition
Thesis Advisors
Contento, Isobel
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 18, 2013