Community Supported Agriculture

sunflowerCommunity-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an alternative, locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. CSA members receive weekly vegetable box shares of vegetables and fruit for that season. Many CSAs also sometimes include herbs, cut flowers, honey and eggs.

 

History

Since the 1980s, community supported farms have been organized throughout North America. As environmental awareness expanded, there are now 12,549 CSA farms in the US, according to the US Department of Agriculture in 2007.

 

CSA System

CSAs focus on the production of high quality foods for a local community, often using organic and permaculture farming methods, and a shared risk membership structure. This kind of farming results in a much stronger consumer-producer relationship, strengthening the community as a whole. CSA theory purports that the more farms that embrace a whole-farm, whole-budget support, the more the group of farms can focus on quality and reduce the risk of food waste or financial loss.

 

Structure

In its most formal and structured European and North American forms CSAs focus on having:

  • A transparent, whole season budget for producing a specified wide array of products for a set number of weeks a year
  • A common-pricing system where producers and consumers discuss and democratically agree to pricing based on the acceptance of the budget
  • A ‘shared risk and reward’ agreement, i.e. that the consumers receive what the farmers grow even with the vagaries of seasonal growing

In this structure, CSA members do not directly pay for x pounds or kilograms of produce but rather support the budget of the whole farm and receive weekly what is seasonally ripe.
This approach eliminates the marketing risks, costs for the producer and an enormous amount of time and labor, and allows producers to focus on quality care of the soils, crops, animals and co-workers as well as on serving the customers. The financial stability of this system allows for thorough planning and continued success of the dedicated farmer.