Diverging Values: Community Supported Agriculture, Volunteers, and the Hegemonic Legal System

By A. Bryan Endres and Rachel Armstrong.

Published by Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a system of selling local food directly to consumers that has more than doubled from 2004 to 2009 and continues to expand in popularity. Farmers and consumers alike are attracted to the CSA model, where customers pay up front in return for a share of the season’s harvest. This principle of shared risk and reward aligns with a growing cultural awareness of food production and the lengthy supply chains linking people to their food. Accompanying this concept of community engagement, many CSA farmers offer opportunities to work on the farm in exchange for food or provide unpaid internships to beginning farmers. These innovative “volunteer for food” relationships, however, do not neatly align with United States federal and state laws regulating employment such as minimum wage and workers' compensation. This paper analyzes the theory of community participation embedded in CSAs with the impacts of legal regimes on volunteer for food relationships. From a practice-based perspective, this research further identifies potential points of flexibility within the legal system and explores farmer opportunities and specific mechanisms to avoid potential regulatory liabilities. This article concludes with policy recommendations to eliminate inappropriate regulations that unnecessarily impact CSA expansion into additional communities.

Keywords: Community Supported Agriculture, Law, Regulation, Volunteer, Intern, Food Systems, Liability, Policy

Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.43-55. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 421.825KB).

Prof. A. Bryan Endres

Associate Professor of Food and Agricultural Law, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA

Associate Professor of Food & Agricultural Law, University of Illinois.

Rachel Armstrong

Research Attorney, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois and Farm Commons, Inc., Urbana, IL, USA

Rachel received her undergraduate degree in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin Madison. She worked in local food system development for several years before earning a law degree from the University of Denver. Rachel serves as a Postdoctoral Research Associate for A. Bryan Endres at the University of Illinois. She is also the Executive Director of Farm Commons, a nonprofit legal services organization dedicated to serving community-based farmers.