You may have heard about a growing trend in local farming and organic produce: CSAs. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a way that small family farms or local farming coops can be economically viable and ensure that they will have individuals who will buy their produce at a set market price. The benefits are many. Local CSA food is known to be superior in taste, quality and nutrition compared to conventional industrial farms where produce is picked prematurely and shipped across country or overseas to your mouth.
The CSA is a fairly new concept in the United States. Its beginnings can be traced to Massachusetts in 1986 and eventually grew to 60 CSA farms in the United States by 1990. Nowadays, CSAs are so prevalent that some family farms are operating out their backyard.
CSA allows city residents to have direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional and backyard farmers. When you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer. Generally the farmer will deliver a share fresh produce either weekly or bi-weekly during the growing season (from June until October). The farmer will deliver that share of produce to a convenient drop-off location in your neighborhood.
CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront (typically $400-$600). This early bulk payment enables your farmer to plan for the season, purchase new seed, make equipment repairs, and more.
Most CSA memberships have a variety of payment plans to enable members flexibility in paying for their shares. Some CSAs can arrange payments in installments, accept food stamps, offer sliding scale fees, and provide scholarship shares. Some CSA farmers accept labor as a form of payment or partial payment. This system of bartering allows the farmers to harvest produce with the aid of the community.
There is an inherent risk in CSAs. A CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farming operation where the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production; if the unforeseen happens and a drop or a farm is wiped out and deprived of a crop, both the farmer and the CSA members share the cost of the loss.
However, that situation is rare and most CSAs are successful ventures between individuals and farmers. It is a system that allows for regional farmers to supply urban and suburban dwellers with fair-priced (often organic) produce.