Community Supported Agriculture Pricing and Promotion Strategies: Lessons from Two Ithaca, NY, Area Farms
Conner, David S.
Surveyed members of two Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the Ithaca (Tompkins County) NY area state that the qualities they value most in their CSA share are freshness, organically grown and local. These members place the least amount of importance on the price, season length, and sense of community. In addition, the price paid for a share in each CSA was less than a consumer would have to pay for the same bundle of goods at three local retail outlets, especially if the consumer took advantage of “pick your own” specials on the farm. CSA (sometimes called “subscription farming”) is an arrangement under which members pay a fee at or near the beginning of the season to cover farm expenses, in return for a share of the farm’s harvest throughout the season. At least 80 CSA farms are active in New York State, according to the Robyn VanEn Center for CSA Resources. At least ten serve the Tompkins County area alone (Cornell Cooperative Extension -Tompkins County). Members share the risks of crop failure and provide working capital to the growers and in some cases are required to contribute labor (sometimes in exchange for a lower price), but gain the satisfaction of connecting with the land and growers, knowing where the food comes from and participating in the production of their food (DeMuth). Members and producers often share basic ideologies (Lass et al.). CSAs offer other benefits to consumers, producers and society as a whole. They can build bridges between farmers and non-farmers on the urban/rural fringe (Sharp et 2 al.). They educate people about the food system (Lass et al.; Sharp et al.) and have a larger role in community building in rural areas (Sharp et al.). CSAs have little or no food spoilage, compared to up to 25% on conventional farms (Lass et al.). CSAs are also believed to play a role in stabilizing food security, protecting the environment and preserving small scale family farms (Stagl and O’Hara). The goals of this study were twofold: (1) to compare prices of CSA shares from two Ithaca area farms with equivalent prices for the same produce items from local retail outlets; and (2), to measure members’ attitudes about and satisfaction with CSA membership. Results will guide promotional and pricing strategies for these and other CSA farms, as well as other farms involved in direct marketing. Price and promotion are identified as two vital components of the marketing strategy for products (like CSA shares) in the introductory or growth phases of the product life cycle (Kotler).