Community Supported Agriculture

What is CSA?

CSA stands for community supported agriculture(or community-shared agriculture!). Basically, this organization allows residents of a particular city to have direct access to fresh produce grown regionally by local farmers. By being a member of this group, you contribute directly to the farmer by purchasing a share of the vegetables/fruits.

What are its goals?

The CSA strives to create viable systems and preserve farmland and farming values. They are also concerned with the preservation of crop diversity and seeds. Essentially, they want to bridge together local communities with a farm and food source which is aligned to their values and laws of nature, since they view the farm as an organism which provides food and supports healthy systems. In addition, a top priority is educating the general public about facilitating a connection to the earth, which is crucial since they want to argue against the current industrialization of our food supply by arranging an alternative to industrial agriculture.

What are the benefits of an organization like the CSA?

There are several benefits to a community based agricultural organization.

  • It allows the community to come together as a whole to support agriculture
  • It guarantees a farmer the sale of his crops since residents will purchase their produce locally
  • Sustains farmers and has the potential to feed a local community
  • Preserves the tradition of farming
  • The residents are able to receive fresh produce which is in season
  • The residents know where and how the food is being produced

What are the negatives of joinig an organization like CSA?

While there are several positive aspects of CSA, lets also consider some negative ones as well-

  • Consumers are limited to that one farm only. If they cannot provide a specific vegetable or fruit, then the consumer is out of luck
  • The farmers cannot provide produce which will last longer than a week or a week and a half; its a limiting factor to those who do not appreciate cooking often or people who like to go out and eat
  • You have to spend all your money at once, since the payments are in time periods of 3 months. If you miss one pickup or one run of groceries, you cannot make up for that round and therefore have a loss of money
  • People have to be prepared to volunteer for CSA; although it is not mandatory, it helps the efficiency of the organization and lowers the administrative cost for the consumers
  • There are unexpected varieties of produce; sometimes, people aren't sure of what to make out of an extravagant vegetable and therefore are unable to utilize all of their food

Is it really worth joining?

It depends on the type of person. For people who are flexible and consume a lot of produce, it is usually a great bargain for them since they can get produce at a much lower cost and still benefit their local farmers. However, for those who like to plan out their eating schedule much ahead of time, this may not be the appropriate organization for them to join.

Statistics(from a 1999 National CSA Farm Survey)

  • The average age of Primary CSA farmers was 43.7 years; this is 10 years below the average age of all farmers in the 1997 census of agriculture
  • 39% percent of the primary CSA farm operators were female
  • 77% of the primary CSA operators had a college degree; about 25% had graduate degrees
  • CSA farms are typically new businesses; they average around 5.5 years in operation
  • Farms who participated in the survey received a median gross income of $15,000 from CSA. From all the sources(including those who did not participate in the survey originally), the median gross income ranged between $20,000 and $29,999. The CSA provided only a part of their total earnings.