History of California Produce

In recent years, a growing number of social groups, government agencies, academic scholars, and individual consumers have directed intense criticism towards the structure of the conventional food system, labeling the system as distorted and unjust. Their efforts are often broadly labeled part of the “alternative food movement”. Much of the alternative food movement’s attention has focused on producers and consumers, and the direct linkages between the two. Yet, there is growing concern that these efforts are not enough, especially since less than 0.5% of all agricultural products sold in the United States are sold through direct marketing (USDA 2012). These concerns point to a need to better understand the complex supply chain through which the vast majority of food, and in particular fresh fruits and vegetables, travels to reach end consumers. Namely there is a need to better understand the intermediates that stand between producers and consumers.

Working papers/Podcast

  • Ildi Carlisle-Cummins, featuring Libby O. Christensen. 2017. Founding farmers. Cal Ag Roots Podcast. [Full podcast].
  • Christensen, Libby O. Buried history: Uncovering the role of Japanese growers in establishing the national vegetable industry. In preparation, submitting to Journal of Peasant Studies.
  • Christensen, Libby O. Deurbanizing the produce supply chain: A geographic investigation of changes in California produce distribution. In preparation, submitting to Environment and Planning A.



Community Supported Agriculture

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is an important relationship between producers and consumers that addresses many of the problems of the industrial food system. This project sought to create a comprehensive account of the social and economic characteristics of CSA farms and their memberships in California. The aim was to better understand the benefits and possibilities of this ecological form of agriculture. This statewide study, with data collection from 2013-2015, builds on previous research conducted from 2009-2011 in the Central Valley and surrounding foothills. 


  • Christensen, Libby O., Ryan E. Galt, and Alissa Kendall. 2017. A life-cycle assessment (LCA) of greenhouse gas emissions of Community Supported Agriculture in California’s Central Valley. In press Journal of Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.
  • Galt, Ryan E., Katherine Bradley, Libby O. Christensen, Cindy Fake, Kate Munden-Dixon, Natasha Simpson, Rachel Surls, Julia Van Soelen Kim. 2017. Agriculture and Human Values. 34: 435. doi:10.1007/s10460-016-9724-1. [Full text (protected)]
  • Galt, Ryan E., Katharine Bradley, Libby O. Christensen, Julia Van Soelen Kim, and Ramiro Lobo. 2015. Eroding the community in community supported agriculture (CSA): competition’s effects in alternative food networks in California. Sociologia Ruralis. 56: 491–512. doi:10.1111/soru.12102 [Full text (protected)]
  • Galt, Ryan E. and Libby O. Christensen. 2014. Preliminary Report: Current and Former CSA Members in California. Davis: University of California. [Full text (PDF)]
  • Galt, Ryan E., Libby O’Sullivan, Jessica Beckett, and Colleen Hiner. 2012. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is thriving in the Central Valley. California Agriculture 66 (1):8-14. [Full text (open-access)]
  • Galt, Ryan E., Jessica Beckett, Colleen C. Hiner, and Libby O'Sullivan. 2011. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in and around California’s Central Valley: farm and farmer characteristics, farm-member relationships, economic viability, information sources, and emerging issues. Davis: University of California. [Full text (PDF)]

Non-Traditional Distribution

Christensen, Libby O. How did we get here?: Transformations in fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain. In preparation, submitting to Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning.

Working papers:

  • Christensen, Libby O, Becca Jablonski, and Jeffrey O'Hara. School Districts and their Local Food Supply Chains: Implications for Farm to School Programs. Under revision for the Journal of Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.
  •  Christensen, Libby O. Food Hubs: Regional Distributors Rebranded. In preparation, submitting to Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning.