In the rebate programs, insurers are connected with local growers and consumers by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition, an organization that supports local farms and educates consumers about community supported agriculture (CSA) and sustainable food systems.
Community-supported agriculture farms let consumers buy shares of farm-fresh food products in advance of the growing season and then receive weekly deliveries throughout the season. Wisconsin is home to over 200 CSA farms, and the Madison area has one of the highest concentrations of CSAs and organic farms in the country. The rebate programs reduce the annual cost of a CSA membership by up to 40 percent.
“The HMO rebate program has contributed to a sharp increase in the number of CSA farms and engaged a new member group by incentivizing farm membership. This rise in awareness and availability of shares has been a significant factor in farm viability and increased consumption of fresh food in our community,” said Coalition Executive Director Kiera Mulvey.
The program has grown substantially since its inception. Last year, it provided over 6,600 rebates to 9,000 shareholders, supporting 51 farms in the area.
The idea behind the program is to increase the accessibility of fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables by reducing the cost of a CSA share to consumers while preserving farmers’ ability to receive fair prices for their food. Meeting one of the main goals of the program, CSA members report increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, according to the study published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.
According the study, “The lower effective share price…brings its own set of economic benefits through additional consumer expenditures in the community…and allows farmers to continue charging a share price that more closely mirrors the true value of the share, including an adequate salary for growers and their families. Consequently, incentives such as the health insurance rebate help to create a more economically viable operation for a subset of the agricultural community that struggles with a relatively high rate of farmer attrition.”
The program benefits CSA farmers by reducing the resources they need to invest in advertising and allowing them to expand production to serve a larger, local consumer base. It has also made organic produce more affordable to buyers, with 66 percent of participants reporting that the program made it possible for them to afford a CSA share.
In addition to increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables, the rebate program has increased awareness and support for local food systems in an agriculture industry that is increasingly run by large-scale, consolidated operations.
The HMO rebate program is presented in a case study published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development titled “An Analysis of the Impacts of Health Insurance Rebate Initiatives on Community Supported Agriculture in Southern Wisconsin,” by Greg Jackson, Amanda Raster, and Will Shattuck, all of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The report demonstrates the importance of the CSA Coalition as an organizing body, and the potential for implementing the program among national providers and in other locations where community supported agriculture is prevalent. Copies of the paper are available to the media upon request from editor-in-chief Duncan Hilchey (email@example.com)
The CSA Coalition was established in 1992 to organize and support CSA farms and educate consumers about the importance of a locally oriented food system. In 2012, the Coalition celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first CSA Open House, an event where individuals and families meet CSA farmers and sign up for a CSA share. Madison Area CSA Coalition, 303 S. Paterson Street, Suite 1B, Madison, WI 53703; 608-226-0300;
Contact: Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition
Executive Director Kiera Mulvey
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New Leaf Associates publishes the "Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development,"