Building community in Community Supported Agriculture through information technology

Community Supported Agriculture operator uses of information technology vary with by market or social orientation.

A national survey of 819 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm operators was conducted to determine how information technology (IT) is used with customers within this growing model of local food production and distribution.

Community or Market?: The Implications of Alternative Institutional Logics for IT Use in Community Supported Agriculture Programs (CSAs)” led by Brian Butler noted that nearly 90 percent of growers utilize some form of IT to communicate with customers about signing up for the CSA, arranging pickup locations, selecting items for their boxes and similar transactional functions. These operators exhibited a more market-driven approach to business.

In addition to using technology for transactional contact with customers, a subset of operators adopted social interaction reflective of their relationship or community-based mindset. Examples of social exchanges with customers include communications with farm family members, local food events, CSA reviews and how to help on the farm.

While CSA’s are fundamentally a relationship-based business model, social interaction through technology with customers varies with by operator. How a particular approach affects customer satisfaction and retention could not be readily identified.

For more information about food, agricultural, bio, or natural resources-based business development, and Michigan State University Extension, contact the Michigan State University Product Center at www.productcenter.msu.edu or 517-432-8750.

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