Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Donna Pearson McClish, Common Ground


If one can’t get the people to the produce, then take the produce to the people. A Wichita family has created a mobile market that delivers healthy produce to senior centers in south central Kansas.

“Common ground.” That term typically refers to shared values. Today, we’ll learn about an initiative where the name applies to people who are literally using their farm ground or garden acreage for a common purpose, to help feed the needy, elderly and others in their communities.

Donna Pearson McClish created this initiative known as Common Ground Producers and Growers Mobile Market. Donna grew up in Wichita where she lives today.

“My dad was a truck farmer,” Donna said. “In 1968, my folks bought a 40-acre farm northeast of town.” Today, the city of Wichita has grown entirely around it. On this acreage, her father raised vegetables and had a community garden.

“My mother rounded up the neighborhood children and would teach them canning and sewing,” Donna said. She also raised 12 children, of whom Donna is the oldest. Today, Pearson Farms continues to raise produce for the community.

“One summer my brother came to me and said we had extra produce that year,” Donna said. “`What should we do with it?’ he asked. I said, ‘Well, we could start a farmer’s market,’” Donna said.

The Pearsons contacted the K-State Research and Extension Sedgwick County Extension Office to get advice about opening a farmer’s market. They met with Bev Dunning, the county extension director at the time. “It turned out that she had worked with my mother on our front porch, teaching canning and sewing many years ago,” Donna said.

Shortly after that, Donna was on her way to a church meeting when her phone started buzzing. “You need to get a newspaper,” she was told. When she stopped for a paper, she saw the lead article was about Bev Dunning retiring from extension – but that wasn’t what caught her eye.

“The first sentence of the article said that Donna Pearson McClish wants to start a farmer’s market, according to Bev,” Donna said. “Oh my, we thought we were just exploring alternatives.” But that public comment gave Donna and her family the nudge they needed to proceed with plans for their farmer’s market which began on their farm.

The farmer’s market was visited by Donna’s friend who worked with senior citizens. The friend commented that her clients had received USDA-issued senior market vouchers which are only good at farmer’s markets, but had no transportation to get there. “Could you bring the produce to our senior center?” she asked. Donna consented and the mobile market was born.

It turned out that a committee of senior health center staff had been working for two years on a solution to the unused senior market vouchers. Donna set out to gather produce and bring it to the senior centers.

“In 2014 we started with 11 senior centers where we delivered produce,” Donna said.  “Now it has grown to 33, and we visit most centers two times each month.” Many of these are low-income, senior citizen high rises. These include multiple centers in Wichita, as well as more rural locations such as Haysville, Newton, Hesston, Andover, and the town of Clearwater, population 2,431 people. Now, that’s rural.

This initiative is called Common Ground Producers and Growers Mobile Market. “We work with a network of growers within a hundred miles, so the food is local,” Donna said.  To the extent possible, no herbicides or pesticides are used. Her grandson helped with deliveries and now trains other youth to assist. They distribute fruits and vegetables such as beets, greens, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, okra, tomatoes, and more.

It’s a win-win situation. Senior citizens get local, healthy produce and growers have an additional outlet for their production. “It’s a lot of fun and a lot of work,” Donna said. “We want to expand and we are always looking for more growers.” Donna is also active in the Kansas Black Farmers Association.

For more information, go to www.facebook.com/commongroundpg.

Common ground. In this case, growers are using their ground to produce healthy food for the common benefit. We commend Donna Pearson McClish and all those involved with Common Ground Mobile Market for making a difference with this initiative. The results are uncommonly good.

Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.


The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Media Services unit.

Source: Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Donna Pearson McClish, Common Ground

Community Supported Agriculture | Alternative Farming Systems Information Center| NAL | USDA



Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. 

In a traditional CSA model…

  • Members share the risks and benefits of food production with the farmer.
  • Members buy a share of the farm’s production before each growing season.
  • In return, they receive regular distributions of the farm’s bounty throughout the season.
  • The farmer receives advance working capital, gains financial security, earns better crop prices, and benefits from the direct marketing plan.

“Current business models for CSAs are diverse and innovative. Producers have adapted the CSA model to fit a variety of emerging direct marketing opportunities, including:

  • Institutional health and wellness programs;
  • Multi-farm systems to increase scale and scope;
  • Season extension technologies; and
  • Incorporating value-added products, offering flexible shares, and flexible electronic purchasing and other e-commerce marketing tools.”

T. Woods, M. Ernst, and D. Tropp. Community Supported Agriculture – New Models for Changing Markets. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service, April 2017. Web: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/CSANewModelsforChangingMarketsb.pdf

Find Local Food and CSAs Near You

Search State and regional farm directories

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What is Community Supported Agriculture

Marketing through Community Supported Agriculture


Surveys and Statistics

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Where to Find More Information

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Search AGRICOLA, the National Agricultural Library (NAL) Catalog.
AGRICOLA (AGRICultural Online Access) is a bibliographic database of citations to the agricultural literature created by the National Agricultural Library (NAL) and its cooperators. Records describe publications and resources encompassing all aspects of agriculture and allied disciplines. [Learn more about AGRICOLA.]

  1. Search AGRICOLA using Open AGRICOLA: 
    • Find books, articles, electronic documents and other formats
    • Example search terms / phrases: (“community supported agriculture”) OR (“community supported farm?”) OR (“CSA farm?”) OR (“subscription farm?”) OR (teikei)
  2. Subject browse in AGRICOLA:
    • Articles: Subject Search Then, select the Subject tab. Enter: “community supported agriculture” and select “hit the Enter key.
    • Books: Subject Search. Then, select the Subject tab. Enter: “community supported agriculture” and hit the Enter key.

Review Community Supported Agriculture – Automated Database Searches to search additional resources.

Additional Information for Farmers

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Eating Seasonally and Regionally

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Community Food Systems: Farm-to-School, Food Circles, and Farmers’ Markets

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The Sustainable/Organic Agriculture Connection

Information from USDA
The U.S. Department of Agriculture supports three major programs that offer sustainable agriculture information and assistance. Whether you are a farmer, an educator or a researcher seeking more information about sustainable agriculture in general, about a specific crop, or help with a specific problem, these programs can help. Contact information for each program and a description of each program’s area of specialization are provided below.

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Archived AFSIC resources on Community Supported Agriculture include:

Compiled by:

AFSIC staff
The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
National Agricultural Library
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Ask a Question
Reviewed September 2018

Source: Community Supported Agriculture | Alternative Farming Systems Information Center| NAL | USDA

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Resource Guide for Farmers

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a production and marketing model whereby consumers buy shares of a farm’s harvest in advance. Consumers become CSA members by paying an agreed amount at the beginning of the growing season, either in one lump sum or in installments. The annual cost, generally ranging from $400-$700, depends on the length of the harvest season and the variety and quantity of products provided. This upfront payment helps buy the seed and other inputs needed for the season and provides the farmer an immediate income to begin the season. By paying at the beginning of the season, CSA members share in the risk of production and relieve the farmer of much of the time needed for marketing. This allows the farmer to concentrate on good land stewardship and growing high quality food.

In return for their membership fee, consumers receive a variety of freshly picked vegetables (usually organic) every week. Some CSAs also offer fruits, herbs, meats, eggs, dairy, cut flowers, and other products. Consumer-members eat healthy, sustainably produced food and have the satisfaction of knowing where it came from and how it was grown. Many CSAs offer on-farm social and educational activities for members, further strengthening their connection to the land and with the farmers who feed them.

The CSA concept originated in Japan in the 1960s by a group of women concerned with the use of pesticides, the increase in processed and imported food, and the loss of farmers and farmland. By the early 1970s, farmers and consumers in several European countries, concerned about the industrialization of their food system, created the CSA model that we know today. The first CSA in the U.S. was created in Massachusetts in 1984. Today there are over 2,500 CSAs in the United States. North Carolina has over 100 CSAs, and more are created every year as interest from both consumers and farmers grows.

List of Chatham County CSA Farms

Who Can Start a CSA?

  • Producer-Initiated CSAs – the majority of CSAs are started by farmers interested in alternative marketing and strengthening their connection to consumers
  • Member-Initiated CSAs – a group of interested consumers works together to find a local farmer to produce their food
  • Multiple-Producer CSAs – several farmers band together to provide consumers with a wide variety of products
  • Organization-Initiated CSAs – organizations such as businesses, churches, schools, etc. offer an existing community of consumers that forms a CSA

How to Get Started

  • Meet with Potential Members
  • Establish a Core Group
  • Develop a Business Plan
  • Create a Budget

Meet with Potential Members

  • Start with the people you know best: friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, etc.
  • Existing groups or communities (environmental groups, businesses, churches, community action organizations, health food stores, fitness centers, schools, civic organizations, etc.) are a perfect place to find members; use their meetings and newsletters as way to spread the word about CSA and recruit members

Establish a Core Group

  • The core group is comprised of the farmer(s) plus several consumer members and is reponsible for working out the details of the CSA
  • Core groups broaden ownership, spread the workload, and decrease the chance for farmer burnout; much of the organizing work of a CSA can be done by a core group
  • The core group generally does NOT deal with farm-based decisions – these are left to the farmer
  • Activities may include crop selection, helping determine share prices, payment schedules, organizing distribution, volunteer activities, newsletters, special events, etc.

Develop a Business Plan and Budget

  • Both done by the farmer
  • Budget should meet the true costs of production and organizational costs and provide a fair salary for the farmer
  • Capital expenses – land, equipment, structures, tools, irrigation, etc.
  • Labor expenses – farmer and worker salary and benefits, FICA, workers’ comp, etc.
  • Operating expenses – seeds, plants, water, taxes, fuel, soil amendments, supplies, etc.
  • North Carolina Organic Vegetable Production Cost Study
  • Web Resources for Farm Business Planning

Share Price and Payment

  • Share prices, amounts of produce distributed, and length of season vary among CSAs
  • Most CSAs offer full shares and half shares
  • Half shares usually cost more than half the cost of a full share
  • Decide on length of season before setting price
  • Most local CSAs charge from $400-$700 per year for a full share
  • Some CSAs offer a choice of paying in installments

Determining Share Price

  • The biggest contributing factor to CSA burnout and failure is setting the share price too low
  • A waiting list indicates that people will pay more for a share
  • If members are complaining about getting too much food or lots of people are splitting shares, the share size is probably too big

Methods for Setting Share Price

  • Sell at market price
  • Approximate market value
  • Calculate costs
  • Established community farm model

Methods for Setting Share Price: Sell at Market Price

  • Most farmers use this method
  • Charge members a set amount (usually $15-$20 a week), then give them a share of produce which would cost them that amount if they bought it elsewhere – usually use farmers’ market prices to determine value

Methods for Setting Share Price: Approximate Market Value

  • Estimate how much a family spends on veggies for the season (consider where they currently purchase them) – this is the share price
  • Decide on what you want your income to be (you need to know what your farm can produce and its supply and labor requirements)
  • Divide the gross income by the share price to come up with the number of shares you can offer
  • Example – if members spend about $600 for 9 months of veggies, and your goal is to earn $24,000, you need to sell 40 shares

Methods for Setting Share Price: Calculate Costs

  • This method takes more time but provides detailed accounting for farmers and members
  • First decide how many shares you can produce from your land, and then figure the costs for raising that amount (include farmer and worker labor for growing, harvesting, distributing, and ALL production costs)
  • Divide the farm budget by the number of shares and you have the share price

Methods for Setting Share Price: Established Community Farm Model

  • Farmer works with members to determine overall budget and share price
  • Requires a very committed community, but provides for real costs of production from year to year
  • Farmer calculates income requirements, production costs, and farm expenses for the year – full cost of farm operation
  • When the total farm and farmer needs are determined, that figure is divided by the number of current or potential members
  • Example: share price would be $650 if the total farm budget is $65,000 and there are currently or potentially 100 members
  • Works best if number of members is high

Share Payments

  • Full payment at beginning of season minimizes bookkeeping and assures income
  • Many CSAs offer payment plans to increase accessibility to low-income members
  • Some CSAs subsidize or donate shares to low-income families or homeless shelters

Working Memberships

  • Some CSAs offer a few work-share memberships to members who work on the farm a certain number of hours each week
  • The work-share membership may cover all or part of the cost of a share

Shared Risk, Shared Bounty

  • A unique characteristic of CSA is the concept of shared risk between the farmer and the members
  • Some CSA producers write a statement explaining that they will grow vegetables for a certain time period to the best of their ability under the conditions of that upcoming season, and that the members agree to share the risk and are expected to contribute their share price no matter what the season brings
  • CSAs generally do not refund money in the event of crop loss

Recruiting Members

  • Best advertising is word of mouth, open houses, field days, group presentations
  • Brochures should explain the concept of CSA; the benefits of CSA; the story, vision, and goals of your CSA; what products members can receive (how, when, where); share price; how members can join; and whom to contact for more information
  • Try to provide a harvest schedule and an idea of what may be included in each delivery (early-season, mid-season, late-season)

Retaining Members

  • Many CSAs have a high turnover rate, losing between 25-70% of their members each season
  • CSAs that encourage shareholder participation on the farm have better retention

Tips for Retaining Members

  • Make the farm feel like a second home – communal workdays, social events, youth activities, etc.
  • Educate members – provide them with a schedule of when to expect their shares of certain fruits and vegetables
  • Dig out your best recipes; offer classes on canning and storing
  • Renew memberships in the fall, rather than waiting until spring
  • Decide what the “Top 10” vegetables are for your area and increase the quantity and length of season of these (e.g., carrots, lettuce, corn, greens, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, onions, potatoes, etc.)
  • Continue the newsletter during the winter months, to help members stay connected
  • Select varieties for eating quality
  • Grow something different, like cut flowers, mushrooms, and berries
  • Perform end-of-the-year surveys, and use these to help plan next year’s crop

Member Feedback

  • Conduct end-of-the-season surveys (be sure to provide feedback to members on the survey results)
  • Provide suggestion/comments box at the pick-up site

Member Education

  • Important part of the success of CSA – how to eat seasonally and locally
  • Many people today are not accustomed to preparing and eating fresh food, so direct communication from the farmer can help members transition from the supermarket model to the CSA model
  • Special events on the farm
  • Newsletters
  • Cookbooks
  • Food books for regional CSAs


  • Try to provide weekly or bi-weekly throughout growing season – don’t need to be elaborate
  • Provide a list of what’s in the week’s harvest
  • Info on how to wash, store, prepare, and preserve produce
  • Recipes and nutritional information
  • Farm updates – crops, weather, pests, yields, what produce will be coming in
  • Encourage members to help with newsletter

Community-Building Events

  • Offer a variety of events
  • Know your members’ ages, families, and interests
  • Schedule and promote events early in the season
  • Have food as the central theme of all events
  • Provide hands-on and participatory activities
  • Incorporate animals into the event
  • Potlucks
  • Farm field days and work days
  • Seasonal festivals
  • Educational workshops
  • Youth education activities

Crop Production for CSA: Growing Experience

  • Farmers must have experience in growing large quantities of lots of different vegetables before signing up any members
  • The more experience you have, the more stable and secure your members’ food supply will be!

What do Members Want?

  • Members prefer the traditional, basic, and familiar veggies they are accustomed to buying (small amounts of exotic produce are welcome!)
  • Fruit is in high demand
  • Most members do not favor large quantities each week – members sometimes drop out of CSAs because they feel overwhelmed by the amount of vegetables
  • Members generally prefer wide variety rather than a large quantity
  • High-quality, clean produce

How Much Should I Distribute?

  • Weekly shares vary in size and variety over the course of the season
  • Typical CSAs offer an average of 10 pounds of produce each week (may range from 5 pounds/week early in the season up to 20 pounds/week in late summer)
  • Aim for 5-12 different types of produce each week

Planting and Harvest Amounts

Selecting Varieties

Develop a Crop Plan


  • On-farm pick-up
  • Central distribution site
  • Farmers’ market distribution
  • Home delivery
  • Bulk distribution
  • Some CSAs offer a choice of 1-2 days to accommodate a variety of schedules

Other CSA Products

  • Cut flowers
  • Baked and canned goods
  • Poultry and eggs
  • Meat and dairy products
  • Fiber
  • Honey and beeswax products

Supplementing Products from Other Farms

  • Benefits
    • Increased diversity of products
    • Reduced risk
    • One-stop shopping convenience
  • Drawbacks
    • Extra labor
    • Extra bookkeeping
    • Increased costs

Considerations for Supplementing Products

  • Adjustment of share prices
  • Partnership with local farms
  • Maintaining philosophy of CSA
  • Delivery schedules and storage
  • Liability

Ways of Increasing Diversity Without Supplementing

  • Distribution at local cooperatives
  • Distribution at farmers’ markets

CSA Resources

* Portions of this guide were adapted from Iowa State University’s CSA Resource Publication.

Source: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Resource Guide for Farmers