What is Community-Supported Agriculture?

One of the main features of the recent local foods movement is a desire to connect farmers and consumers. On the one hand, many farmers want to share their practices with their customers, keeping them informed about agriculture. On the other hand, consumers want to learn more about how their food is produced.

Among the different ideas that have caught on is the CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture). CSA was introduced to the United States in the 1980s, but has become increasingly popular in more recent years.

There are many variations on this idea, but the basics are as follows:

  1. The farmer decides how many shares of produce he will offer to the public.
  2. A subscriber buys a share, paying for all the produce that he will receive throughout the growing season at one time.
  3. At specified intervals, the subscriber picks up his box of food.

Although homegrown fruits and vegetables are the usual candidates to go into the subscription box, many small-scale farmers use this venue as an outlet for eggs, meat, cheese, baked goods, and cut flowers.

One of the outstanding characteristics of the CSA model is the rapport that develops between farmer and customer. Both often come to look forward to their scheduled meetings, and they frequently take a mutual interest in the farm. It has been noted that customers often view a CSA project as “their farm,” rooting for the success of the crops and sharing in the ups and downs of the season. When the customers are allowed to aid in caring for the produce, as is the case in some CSAs, this interest grows even stronger.

And, of course, for those who seek to eat local, a CSA provides food seasonally and at the very peak of freshness.

Helpful Resources

Community Supported Agriculture
Press “Find a Local CSA” for information about a farm near you.

The Changing Face of American Agriculture
Learn about more trends in both farming practices and customer preferences.