Community Supported Agriculture
What is CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture ("Publications," 2013). The basic concept of CSA is a mutualistic relationship between food producer and food consumer on a local level. In a CSA, a farmer sells shares, which are effectively boxes of farm products, that he or she expects to produce in the next growing season ("Publications," 2013). Then, consumers buy these shares and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week of that growing season ("Publications," 2013), just like someone who buys a magazine subscription and gets a new magazine each week of that subscription.
The concept of CSA originated in Japan in 1965 by a group of mothers concerned about the food their children were consuming and quickly spread to Germany and Switzerland, where mothers also had similar concerns (Schlegel, 2007). Then, in 1985, CSA finally made its way into American society (Schlegel, 2007). In the over twenty-five years that CSAs have been in the United States, there has been fairly consistent growth with an estimated 4,000 CSAs actively operating and tens of thousands of participants ("Community," 2012). Now, the future of CSA growth is in three concepts that haven't been fully developed. First of all, an area of growth is in the consumer not being an individual but rather a restaurant; in this case, the amount of local produce would increase because restaurants, which serve numerous customers, consumer larger amounts of food than an individual or their family (Smith, 2008). Additionally, a future possibility for the implementation of CSA is in the seafood industry with local fishermen fulfilling the role farmers do in a traditional CSA and consumers in turn receiving fresh, local seafood (Smith, 2008). Lastly, CSAs can start to form markets, with the consumer buying a share that is worth a certain allowance in the market, which allows consumers greater variety and producers a larger consumer base (Smith, 2008).
Variations on CSAs
Beyond the traditional share system, CSAs have adapted to meet the needs of both producers and consumers. One variation is a mix-and-match system where a consumer gets to choose what produce they receive and how much they receive (within reason) to match consumer taste and minimize waste ("Community," 2012). Furthermore, some CSAs have grouped up to form a network where each individual CSA's produce is transported to a variety of other CSA's for their consumers, which allows for greater variety and for consumers to participate in CSAs from a farther distance ("Community," 2012). Moreover, some CSAs are created where there is no distinction between producer and consumer, and individuals pay to be able to work a farm and then reap the rewards (Smith, 2008).
Benefits of CSAs
Producer- Producers benefit from being able to deal with marketing before the growing season takes away large amounts of time, receiving money on the "front-side" of the transaction, allowing them the cash flow to invest in factors of production, and getting the opportunity to know their consumers on an individual basis ("Community," 2012).
Consumer- Consumers benefit from having extremely fresh and healthy food, getting exposure to new foods and preparation techniques, being able to visit the farm where their food is grown, knowing the producer and production methods (this adds a level of security in the food supply), and having children be more receptive to a healthy eating when there is an interactive and personal aspect involved ("Community," 2012).
Environment- The environment benefits in a number of ways. To begin with, CSA require less transportation, which reduces fossil fuel emissions and the destruction of ecosystems for transportation systems (Schlegel, 2007). Also, natural agricultural landscapes are preserved, which are much more eco-friendly in terms of GM foods, pesticides, and soil depletion, than mass-scale agricultural settings (Schlegel, 2007).
Publications: community supported agriculture. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml.
Community supported agriculture. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.localharvest.org/csa/.
Schlegel, K L. (2007) The growth of community supported agriculture. Retrieved from http://newwest.net/main/article/subscription_for_local_community_supported_agriculture/.
Smith, P A. (2008). The abcs of the new csas. Retrieved from http://www.agmrc.org/markets__industries/food/community-supported-agriculture/.