Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a widely-used approach for farmers to sell directly to consumers. We used the product, place, price, and promotion (4P) marketing mix framework to examine characteristics that help farms offering CSA maintain member satisfaction and thus competitiveness. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 CSA members and 24 CSA farmers in four states. CSA members additionally completed a modified choice experiment. Qualitative data were coded iteratively, and choice experiment data were summarized and compared across scenarios. CSA members and farmers were motivated by a range of personal, social, environmental, and economic objectives. Members favored high-quality staple vegetables (e.g., lettuce, green beans), ideally produced organically. Trust and a sense of personal connection with the farmer comprised part of the "value added" of CSA participation. Time and location of share pick-up were very important; thus, farmers tried to offer convenient sites or an enriched pick-up experience. Small changes in price appeared unlikely to impact participation among current members. Social networks and word-of-mouth were powerful for marketing, but may limit the ability to reach diverse populations. Future research should examine the ability of CSAs to meet the needs of those who do not currently participate.
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Morgan EH, Severs MM, Hanson KL, McGuirt J, Becot F, Wang W, Kolodinsky J, Sitaker M, Jilcott Pitts SB, Ammerman A, Seguin RA. Gaining and maintaining a competitive edge: Evidence from CSA members and farmers on local food marketing strategies. Sustainability. 2018 Jul;10(7):2177.