CSA Member Research: Why Do (or Don’t) Members Choose to Renew?

Vegetables from Troy Gardens.Renewing Members

In this study participants renew their membership because Troy satisfies their preferences for:

Quality, fresh, organic produce.

“Well, I grew up on a farm. We grew up with vegetables. I missed the freshness, the taste, because what you get in grocery stores tastes like...well I don't want to use the word.”

Moral satisfaction from supporting a local farmer.

“I like the idea of supporting local business and agriculture.”
Added value that comes from receiving a pre-selected bundle of produce each week. Note:

This was not brought up as a benefit among former members.

“I like having to work within certain parameters of choices because it makes me try things that I might not try otherwise. It’s sort of a hoot to see what I can do with it.”

The convenience of an urban farm (over 2/3 of the participants live within 5 miles of the farm). Some members even indicated that if Troy wasn’t so close they would not be CSA members.

“What I liked about Troy was that it was in my neighborhood. It's convenient because I used to go to the West Side to pick up the other one.”

Moral satisfaction and added value that comes from supporting an urban farm and the whole FTG project.

“Just thinking about little kids planting vegetables together and growing things just makes me all teary-eyed. There's so many different pieces here and having that definitely enriches it for me.”

Personal interaction Claire Strader, the person that grows their food.

“I think Claire is a great farmer, and her personality comes through so much in the newsletters, and just being able to talk to her. We can see she is proud of what she does, and she does it well.”

A sense of community.

“It is also a little bit of sense of community, just belonging to the group, seeing the same people each week, picking up your vegetables, and realizing that in some way we share the same values, I think, is real nice.”

Non-Renewing Members

Participants’ decisions not renew their membership were associated with the following:

The quantity (some got too much, some got to little) and variety of produce was unsatisfactory. Four out the five former members prefer to choose their own produce rather than get a pre-selected bundle. This was the most common reason why members did not renew.

“I think now that there's the option of the North side farmer's market, I'm not as interested in a CSA, as I feel I am still supporting local farmers, by buying locally grown produce, and helping the neighborhood economy.” (A couple of these participants still buy Troy produce, but at the farmers' market instead of through CSA.)

“...Kale's okay, but I kind of got it up to here with kale, and a few other things. We kept getting a bunch of those things, like garlic.”

Troy did not provide them with enough of a sense of community.

“It really would have been nice, as a member, to have someone sort of extend a more personal invitation. It could have been more welcoming.”

They had a few experiences in which they felt they were treated unfairly or were unappreciated. These were often the product of unclear communication and/or policies within Troy.

Some members were under the impression that Troy Community Farm had to meet their wholesale demands first and assumed that that might be the reason for the lack quantity or variety in their share, though this was not the case. Additionally, they did not realize that the reason the “extras” were being sold at the stand when they were not distributed to the members, was because there was simply not enough to divide equally between the members.

Among workershares, a new opportunity arose to work on a different farm, or due to life changes, working on the farm was not feasible or convenient.

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