Legitimating community supported agriculture through American pastoralist ideology

Melea Press, Eric J. Arnould

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (SciVal)


We use a socio-historical lens to look at how Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs) have gained legitimacy as a market form. In this article, we question the countercultural conception of CSAs, especially given their rapid growth over the past 25 years. We contend that placing CSA within a larger frame of reference that incorporates American pastoral values and connects CSA to the history of American pastoralism helps account for how CSA has gained legitimacy with mainstream users. We show that American pastoralism provides a link between 19th century agrarian ideals, 1950s suburbia, 1970s counter-cultural communards, and today’s CSAs. In showing the ubiquity and chameleon like character of American pastoralist ideology, we suggest that it is an important example of a cultural imaginary, which is inducing change in food markets in the United States and at the same time masking certain cultural contradictions. We propose that the development of the Internet as a channel of communication has aided in building legitimacy for this market form by promoting both more personal commercial communications and the possibility of de-massification of communications. Thus, CSAs’ web presence reinforces egalitarian principles and the perception of shared community that are central ingredients of pastoralist ideology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-194
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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