What Makes a CSA a CSA?

A Framework for Comparing Community Supported Agriculture with Cases of Canada and China

Authors

  • Zhenzhong Si Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1060-9376
  • Theresa Schumilas Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada
  • Weiping Chen School of Agricultural Economics, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China
  • Tony Fuller School of Environmental Design and Rural Development. University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada
  • Steffanie Scott Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4754-246X

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.15353/cfs-rcea.v7i1.390

Keywords:

community supported agriculture (CSA), Canada, China, alternative food networks

Abstract

In different parts of the world, community supported agriculture (CSA) has taken a variety of organizational forms, drawn on different ideologies, used a variety of land tenure arrangements, and taken on varied types of market relations in terms of how they arrange sales and memberships. Despite this, comparative studies of CSAs are sparse. Based on interviews and survey results, this paper develops a framework to compare CSAs in Canada—where this system has evolved for the last 30 years as an alternative to industrialized agriculture—with those in China, where CSAs have emerged since the late 2000s, mainly in response to food safety and health concerns. The comparison is based on their initiators’ motivations, economic characteristics, ecological practices, shareholder relations, and community building. We find that in both Canada and China CSAs are struggling to maintain the movement’s original values and be economically viable. They are moving away from the traditional ‘risk sharing’ approach underpinning the model and adopting more flexible payment mechanisms. However, other original tenets of the CSA model, such as member engagement, are strengthening. This poses a definitional challenge—what makes a CSA a CSA? We conclude that CSAs mix capitalist and other-than-capitalist economic logic, blend traditional, organic, and productivist ecological relations, and demonstrate both individualist and civic collectivist politics simultaneously. These characterizations are what make a CSA a CSA in contemporary Canada and China.

Author Biographies

Zhenzhong Si, Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada

Dr. Zhenzhong Si is a Research Associate at University of Waterloo in Canada where he received a PhD in Geography. His research examines food system sustainability, food security and food safety, with a particular focus on alternative food initiatives and the ecological agricultural sector in China. His current research analyzes the connections between agroecology and the Sustainable Development Goals. He co-authored the book Organic Food and Farming in China: Top-down and Bottom Up Ecological Initiatives.

Theresa Schumilas, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada

Dr. Theresa Schumilas is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. Her doctoral research focused on the emergence of ‘alternative’ food networks in China. Inspired by the extensive use of digital technologies by grassroots food initiatives in China, her current research focuses on the ways in which sustainable food movements are engaging in new on-line spaces, and how digital economies may be opening up new possibilities for linking together and scaling up local food initiatives. Before returning to academics, Theresa spent 30 years directing policy-relevant food systems research in public health and engaging actively in Canada’s organic and ecological agriculture movements.

Weiping Chen, School of Agricultural Economics, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China

Dr. Weiping Chen is a Professor at the School of Agriculture Economics and Rural Development at Renmin University of China. He earned his PhD at Renmin University in 2003. His current research interests include agribusiness, sustainable agriculture and consumer behavior on food safety. Dr. Chen has published papers in Appetite, British Food Journal and China Agricultural Economic Review.

Tony Fuller, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development. University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada

Dr. Tony Fuller is a Professor retired from the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development at the University of Guelph, Canada in 2007. In the last 10 years of a 35-year career at Guelph, Dr. Fuller focused increasingly on policy issues such as government programs for community development, rural poverty, rural transportation, sustainable livelihoods, food systems and rural tourism, as well as complexity in policy making. Dr Fuller was appointed Adjunct Professor at the China Agricultural University in Beijing, China (2009 to 2014) and International Senior Visiting Scholar with the Center for Natural and Cultural Heritage, The Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2014 to 2016).

Steffanie Scott, Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada

Steffanie Scott is a Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo. She recently published a co-authored book, Organic Food and Farming in China: Top-down and Bottom Up Ecological Initiatives. Steffanie is engaged in research on sustainable food systems, ecological agriculture, and organic sector developments in China and Canada. She is past president of the Canadian Association for Food Studies (2012-14) and past co-chair (2007-11) of the Food System Roundtable of Waterloo Region. Steffanie has published papers in Agriculture and Human Values, Food Policy, Ecology and Society, Canadian Food StudiesLocal Environment, and the Journal of Agriculture Food Systems and Community Development.

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Published

2020-07-12

How to Cite

Si, Z., Schumilas, T., Chen, W., Fuller, T., & Scott, S. (2020). What Makes a CSA a CSA? A Framework for Comparing Community Supported Agriculture with Cases of Canada and China. Canadian Food Studies / La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 7(1), 64–87. https://doi.org/10.15353/cfs-rcea.v7i1.390