Definition of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

What Is Community Supported Agriculture?

A community supported agriculture (CSA) project is one that allows consumers to collectively support local farmers by committing to purchasing their farm’s food products. This type of system provides many benefits to consumers and farmers alike:

  • Support local economy: Farmers receive a consistent, guaranteed income that is normally arranged before the hard work of the growing season begins
  • Make community connections: Farmers and consumers get to know one another which fosters a sense of community on local scale
  • Eat fresh foods: Rather than eating foods shipped from thousands of miles away, consumers are able to partake in fresh, local food products
  • Learn about seasonal menus: Consumers become more aware of the types of foods grown and cultivated in their region which encourages a seasonal approach to preparing meals

There are many ways CSAs are structured, depending on the types of food provided, the number of farmers and consumers involved, and so on. Here are a few of the variations that may be found in community supported agriculture programs:

  • Consumer choices: Some CSAs allow a mix and match approach, giving consumers the choice as to which foods they buy from week to week. Others make up standard boxes of food that are the same for every member.
  • Variety of foods: What is offered to consumers can also change. Some are confined only to produce – fruits and vegetables – while others include things like meat, dairy, eggs, flowers, preserved farm products, and even locally-made artisan products. In rare cases, other packaged health foods (such as tofu or pre-made quiche) are also offered to members.
  • Number of farmers: In some instances, a CSA will be based around only one farmer and the foods they produce individually. In other cases, a community supported agriculture project will encompass several farms to provide additional variety and stability of food production.
  • Structure: The basic premise of a CSA is shared risk and reward, but the model used for this can change from CSA to CSA. Some involve a pool of money that is used to buy a farm, pay a farmer, and then all the foods are shared equally. More common today is the idea of shares – members each purchase a share at the beginning of the year and are then guaranteed that portion of the farm’s bounty as the season progresses. If the season is bad, their box is less full, but if bountiful, their box overflows.
  • Leftovers: In many cases, there are leftovers of produce and other foods. Sometimes this food is sold at a local farmer’s market, other times it is donated to local nonprofit organizations.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Articles

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