F.A. Farm

  (Ferndale, Washington)
Postmodern Agriculture - Food With Full Attention
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Comparing CSA Prices Across the USA

The April issue of the Bellingham Co-op newsletter listed 13 CSA farms in Whatcom County and their prices. Here is a comparison of Whatcom County and the national average. I used a simple, but robust methodology. I started by downloading the US zipcode database from www.populardata.com. This database has 42,741 zipcodes and I trimmed out the military and PO Box codes. This left 37,113 valid codes. I then used the random number generator function in Excel to generate 50 zipcodes across the US, which I then plugged into the Local Harvest website, www.localharvest.org, using their CSA finder function. [This took several hours, by the way, but there really are no shortcuts in gathering data properly.] I used Local Harvest because they have proven to be the most comprehensive and best-maintained website in the US for local food/small farm resources. Their CSA program database lists over 2500 farms. Out of the 50 zipcodes, there were 21 nulls - i.e. no CSA programs were listed for that zipcode. The high number of nulls is not surprising, as 2500+ CSA programs are spread over 37,113 zipcodes. The main factor is to randomly generate a large enough sample size so every data point has a chance to be in the sample. In this study n=236 and since the sampling procedure was truly representative, I am confident the results represent the US CSA farm population as a whole. Here are the results. In addition to per week results, I standardized the data to a 20-week season.




st dev

95% confidence interval

Whatcom Co. per week


 $   20.13


{$19.04, $21.02}

Whatcom Co. 20 weeks


 $ 402.53


{$380.73, $424.40}

US per week


 $   27.32


{$26.38, $28.26}

US 20 weeks


 $ 546.44


{$527.69, $565.18}

Notice the large standard deviation in the US sample. This is to be expected because of the tremendous variation in a large country with varying degrees of sophistication in understanding farming, much less a new idea of capital acquisition. However, I would say that Whatcom County is decidedly behind the curve in pricing CSA shares.

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