Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been a viable alternative model for food production and acquisition for many years. Begun in the 1960s in Europe and Japan under the influence of Rudolf Steiner, CSAs provide consumers with ready access to farm-fresh produce and products while building strong community ties that foster shared risks and benefits.
Picture Credit-Grant Family Farms CSA
Benefits for Farmers
For farmers, the benefits of offering shares in the form of weekly produce boxes for member subscribers are multiple. With the opportunity to market the product early in the season, the farmer can focus on production during the peak season, secure in the knowledge that she has already sold the majority of her produce.
CSAs also build a strong community tie for farmers who not only become personally acquainted with the shareholders but also have the opportunity to network with other farming families to provide additional farm products such as honey, flowers, herbs, and meat to consumers who hold shares in the farm.
The community spirit fostered by the shared risk model of the CSA also means that if a farmer falls upon hard times in his personal or business life, he possesses some certainty that his consumers, who are invested in his farm and have a relationship with him, may weather an unproductive season alongside him.
Benefits for Consumers
Members of CSAs receive fresh, locally-produced, organic produce and farm products during the peak season of June through October. This allows consumers access to seasonal whole produce and the option to try unfamiliar fruits and vegetables.
Families who join a CSA may have the option to select items from the bounty themselves and develop a close relationship with their CSA, thus providing them a unique opportunity to learn firsthand how food is produced and distributed. Many families highly value this relationship between the farm and the table. In addition, at $350-550 per share, consumers receive organic local produce for at or under market value prices during the peak season. For families concerned with healthful and mindful eating, this access to food produced without pollutants, pesticides, and hormones is ideal.
Benefits for the Environment
Perhaps the foremost benefit of CSAs is not immediately felt by the humans involved but by the land itself. CSAs reduce the environmental impact of farming by decreasing carbon dioxide emissions inherent in transporting produce and encouraging organic food production practices.
CSAs also decrease farm subsidies which prevent the over-farming of cropland that can lead to soil erosion, pollution, and soil impoverishment. Many environmentally-conscious families value the opportunity to support organic farming practices and local farmers while reaping the personal benefits inherent in consuming seasonal, organic products.
How to Find a Local CSA
Finding a local CSA is often a mere internet search away. One of the premiere directories with over 4,000 CSAs to choose from is Local Harvest. Alternatively, interested families can search for CSAs specific to region.
In the words of Rudolf Steiner, upon whose economic philosophy the concept of CSA was founded, “the well-being of the community will be greater the less the individual claims for himself the proceeds of the work he has himself done.” In an increasingly global world, like-minded families and individuals can find a ready first step in building strong community and a source of fresh, organic foods in a local CSA.
Jen Carrigan writes for Pizzadelivery.org where you can find great pizza recipes for all your organic ingredients.