Community Supported Agriculture
Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a concept that originated in Switzerland and Japan in the 1960’s and is now getting more attention here in the United States. It consists of a community or neighborhood that actively supports a local farm so that the farm becomes a cornerstone of the community. This can either involve the community becoming share-holders of the farm or agreeing to purchase the majority of their produce directly from the farmers. Members are also encouraged to volunteer on the farm and thus receive addition crops as a reward.
This relatively new idea in farming helps provide stable markets for farmers as the farmers typically receive better prices for the crops they supply, and marketing becomes less of a burden. Moreover, many CSAs are dedicated to more ecologically friendly forms of gardening, typically involving partially or fully organic farming techniques. As we use such a vast amount of natural resources growing produce on distant farms and importing food to the city, CSAs also help the environment by reducing the amount of energy used in growing and transporting food.
Today, CSAs are rapidly popping up throughout the country. It’s estimated that there are over 400 community supported farms operating in the U.S. today. They are more often than not established in or near urban areas, and differ widely in size, products, and philosophies. However, they all share the common goal of strengthening communities and providing a more local source of food. Some CSAs grow strictly fruits and vegetables, while others also have poultry, livestock, and dairy products available. Some farmers offer different fruits and vegetables all year long and others, just during the growing season. Many are also involved in other community development projects, using their farms as classrooms, or growing additional food for the disadvantaged of their community.
For more information about CSAs, the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center has a website with lots of resources and links.
Want to learn more about Community Supported Agriculture?
Umass Amherst has an excellent resource on community supported agriculture. The article explains what community supported agriculture is and how it works. It covers topics such as distribution and decision making and explains the importance of CSAs.
Peace and Environment News published an article about CSAs that shows how both growers and consumers can benefit from community supported agricultural initiatives. It touches on the way CSAs work and explains how both parties share in the responsibility for the success and failure of the program.
Farm Gate defines CSAs in detail and shows a typical work schedule, along with a chart showing the possible crops and share quantities a member might expect in a given season. It also has a list of what an individual can expect to receive for their membership.
Equiterre is a Quebec based website (in English) which contains information on various ecological and socially just choices. It explains the philosophy behind community supported agriculture and covers such topics as Organic Agriculture, Risk and benefit sharing, local production, and the social dimension of CSAs.