Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Edward Bennett

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


In this thesis I focused on the Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) as an alternative form of farming to industrialized agriculture. CSA connects the growers of food directly with the people who eat it, in a way where everyone shares the benefits and risks involved in agriculture. The Huron Community Garden in Goderich is the setting that was selected for this study because of its five-year history as a form of CSA. A naturalistic participant-observation mode of enquiry was employed. As a participant-observer, I was involved in all activities of the Garden—weeding, tilling of the ground, transplanting of seedlings, watering of vegetables, and making of soil blocks. Apart from the above activities, I also took field notes, and conducted individual and focus group interviews with the gardeners and share-members. The interviews were structured and open-ended. A purposive sampling strategy was used to select about 25% of the participants in the garden, which corresponds to 12 participants. A four-step process was used in analyzing the interview and focus group interview data, (a) manually transcribing the interviews recorded; (b) coding the data with key words as a way of identifying commonalities and variations; (c) identifying common and variable patterns, and (d) identifying themes which link and explain the data. The themes that emerged from these data are grouped under empowerment, social vitality, educational experience, qualities of the gardeners, and assessment of the Community Garden. Concerning the data gathered through participant-observation and field notes, these were also grouped together based on the themes that emerged from them, which are: the organization, production methods, and the cultural and social aspects of the Community Garden. My interest in the CSA was to better understand (a) how share-members and gardeners experience their involvement in the CSA, (b) the extent to which the CSA does embody and promote the concept of empowerment, and contributes to social vitality, (c) the qualities of the gardeners that contribute to the success of the CSA, and (d) conduct an assessment of the CSA, that is, in terms of its strengths and weaknesses. The context for my interest in the CSA are the observations which have been made about the adverse effects of industrialized agriculture on the natural ecology, and the economic, social, physical and psychological well-being of rural communities. In an attempt to highlight the problems associated with industrialized agriculture, I looked at the historical origins of the industrialization process and the role played by the structural economic system. The findings showed that participation in the Community Garden provided a number of benefits which can be seen in terms of empowerment (who has economic dimensions related to it), social vitality, and the educational experience it provides. I also delineated some of the qualities of the gardeners, assessed the Community Garden in terms of its strengths and weaknesses, and proposed a conceptual model to aid in understanding the processes in the Community Garden and how that leads to empowerment and social vitality. Concerning the theme of empowerment, I analyzed the data using the values of empowerment (self-determination, distributive justice, and democratic and collaborative participation). In terms of the theme of social vitality, the following motivations for joining the Community Garden were evident—love for organic produce, recycling, usage of natural resources and stewardship, health reasons, philosophy or community. The social activities that were organized led to the formation of relationships, and promoted a sense of community. The last dimension was the educational experience provided by involvement in the CSA. Finally, I discussed that empowerment and social vitality should not be seen as absolute, but rather, as anchor points at the positive end of the adaptation continuum, and which we should strive to achieve by following the pathways of conscientization and praxis.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season