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Webinar: CSA as a Benefit: Cultivating Sustainability and Improving Health
September 13, 2023 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm EDTFree
Colleges and universities have unique resources and infrastructures that allow them to develop, pilot, and study replicable employee benefits programs that fulfill Sustainability and Wellness goals. Additionally, innovations by colleges and universities are often highly visible to their surrounding communities and regions. We will present an example of how innovative university programs can encourage environmental, community, and individual health beyond the campus. Our focus is on the role that universities play in promoting and expanding Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.
CSAs are a direct-to-consumer marketing strategy where a consumer (i.e. shareholder) buys a portion of a farm’s harvest prior to the growing season. This subscription-based food acquisition model often focuses on providing seasonal produce to consumers who in turn help farms mitigate the risk of a suboptimal market season. As CSAs require farmers to have diversified production and distribution systems, they encourage sustainable, polycultural farm practices. In 2015, the University of Kentucky (UK) piloted a CSA Voucher Program that paid for a significant portion of a CSA share for university employees. Researchers used this pilot to conduct research on health and lifestyle behavior and healthcare costs for participants in the program. Researchers found that employee health behaviors improved and that there is some evidence that CSA participation was associated with slower increases in healthcare costs. Seeing a clear return and value on investment in this program, the University of Kentucky Human Resources division permanently added the CSA Voucher program to its suite of Health and Wellness benefits. Other employers in Kentucky saw this example and followed suit.
In this hour, University of Kentucky staff and researchers will discuss the history of the program, best practices and lessons learned, the impact the program has had on sustainable agriculture in Kentucky, research findings, and the key partnerships that made its success possible and replicable for other employers in the region.
Sarah Geurkink, Extension Associate, University of Kentucky
Sarah Geurkink works in Extension at the University of Kentucky Department of Agricultural Economics doing outreach around Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) marketing and wellness programming in partnership with the CSA Innovation Network. She managed the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm from 2017-2022, where she coordinated a year-round CSA primarily for MSU employees and led hands-on production instruction for undergraduate students and beginning farmers. Prior to the SOF, Sarah managed the University of Washington Student Farm where she also managed an employee CSA program and worked closely with Sustainability and Wellness staff on various initiatives.
Timothy Woods, Extension Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky
Dr. Woods is a Professor of Agricultural Economics and state extension specialist in the area of horticulture, agribusiness marketing, and management at the University of Kentucky. He has devoted his time and energy to help facilitate the development of small ag-related businesses and cooperatives that have promising innovative processes and/or products. He is a founding member of the University of Kentucky CSA Voucher Program and a key partner in the creation of the Kentucky Farm Share Coalition.
Jairus Rossi, Assistant Research Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky
Jairus Rossi, PhD, is an assistant research professor for the Department of Agricultural Economics at University of Kentucky. He is interested in the complex relationships between humans, environments, markets, and landscapes. His current research involves the qualitative and econometric analyses of local food networks, especially in the development of novel CSA approaches and direct-to-consumer production/marketing strategies. Rossi is a founding member of the UK CSA voucher program and the national CSA Innovation Network.
Ashton Potter Wright, Director, Food Connection, University of Kentucky
Dr. Ashton Potter Wright holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Rhodes College, a Master of Public Health degree from Georgia State University, and a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) from the University of Kentucky. She has worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Enteric Diseases and in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity where she managed former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Childcare initiative. Prior to joining the Big Blue Nation in April of 2022, Ashton worked for eight years under two Mayoral administrations as the City of Lexington’s first Director of Local Food and Agricultural Development. During her time at the City, she worked to connect farmers and local food producers with new market opportunities (restaurants, schools, institutions, and retailers) and launched the Bluegrass Double Dollars program—Lexington’s first nutrition incentive program and the precursor to the statewide Kentucky Double Dollars Program. Ashton currently serves as the Executive Director of The Food Connection—an applied food systems center in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment—that serves farmers, food producers, students, and consumers by cultivating creative strategies and partnerships to support a vibrant, healthy, and equitable local food economy.
Katie Harvey, CSA Program Coordinator, Organic Association of Kentucky
Katie Harvey is the program coordinator for the Kentucky Farm Share Coalition, a workplace CSA program administered by the Organic Association of Kentucky. She works to raise awareness for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), promote fresh food access through workplace and community CSA partnerships, and help employers offer CSA incentives that can promote long-term healthy behaviors and support family farms. Katie has spent over 10 years working in the Kentucky local food system and is dedicated to growing a more sustainable, resilient regional food movement.