Community Supported Agriculture

or simply, CSA

By Emma Matthews

What is CSA?

Community supported agriculture is a system in which a local farmer offers a limited number of "shares" of his outcome to the public. A consumer would purchase this share (which would most likely be a box of produce) and then receive their box of seasonal produce once a week throughout the year. This system creates a community of individuals who support the farm and share in the benefits and risks of the food production.

The Growth of CSA

According to the January-March 2012 issue of the University of California's California Agriculture journal, the total number of members participating in CSA increased greatly from an estimated 672 members in 1990, to 32,938 members in 2010. Also, 86% of the surveyed farms who use CSA were found to be either profitable or breaking even. Even though there is no registered amount of CSA farms, there are over 3,500 nationally. This growth could be the result of some farms taking on varied systems. For example, many farms now offer "market style" CSA. In this system, consumers would load their own boxes with various amounts of personal choice from the available produce. Some CSA farms are even offering products other than produce. These farms would give the option for a share of cheese, eggs, home-made breads, meats, and even flowers.

Benefits of CSA

For the farmers, CSA can be beneficial in many ways. First of all, the farmers are able to market their food earlier in the year, providing them with a better guarantee for a successful season. Another benefit for farmers would be that since they receive payment earlier in the season, rather than after they've already grown and marketed the food, increasing their farm's cash flow.

CSA is also very beneficial to the consumers receiving the food. One way this is so is because the food received is much fresher than most regularly bought produce and, therefore has all of its original flavor and nutrients. The consumer will also become more aware of different types of produce and more ways of preparing them. Usually, a consumer will visit their farm at least once a season, thereby even furthering the bond between the farm community and learning more about the food's actual production.


Byron, Janice. (2012, January 9). Growth of community supported agriculture. UC Newsroom of the University of California.

(2013). Community supported agriculture. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center.

(2012). Community supported agriculture. Local Harvest.