Author: Heidi Noordijk, Small Farms Program, Oregon State University

Publish Date: Summer 2020

Small-scale farmers throughout the state have been adapting to meet market changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay at home orders and restaurant closures led to an increased demand for foods from local farms and businesses with safe delivery and pick up options. Temporary closures of restaurants and food service providers left some farmers without their early spring marketing channels. Farmers moved quickly to find new markets for their products that were ready to harvested and sold. Many of these farmers looked to the community supported agriculture (CSA) model or an adaptation of CSA during this time.

To support CSA farmers Holly Hutchason, executive director of The Portland Area CSA Coalition (PACSAC) and OSU ‘s Small Farms Team collaborated on a new CSA flowchart and website. Resources and information for farmers of all experience levels are included on site - from farmers that have never heard of CSA to those that have been doing CSA for decades. Topics on the website include, the history of CSA, recent CSA trends, guidance on safely running a CSA drop site during the pandemic, and many resources on incorporating CSA into your farm operation. Link to website and interactive flow chart: http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/csainfo/

CSAs throughout the country have reported a decline in sales and customer retention as market forces have been pushing to expand the definition of CSA beyond the traditional model. COVID-19 turned this trend on its head and farms throughout Oregon were selling out of CSA shares much earlier than usual this year. Farm collaborations and aggregations, innovative delivery options, online sales, and weekly boxes were all adaptations seen in 2020.

Collaborations between farms occurred to boost CSA offerings, find new markets for restaurant farmers, and reduce delivery contacts. Weekly box shares were offered while restaurant accounts were on hold, customers did not have to commit to a full season and farms had a willing market for their crops that were ready to harvest. Farmers added online sales options, and offered home delivery to support stay at home orders from the state.

For those looking to get into CSA or change their models the flowchart and website can serve as a guide. The website will be updated annually.

Special thanks to Katie Gourley for creating the flowchart graphics and interactive webpage.