What is a CSA?
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) consists of a cooperative agreement between farmers and members with the latter paying a seasonal fee to the former in exchange for fresh produce, and other farm products, on a weekly basis (Lang 2010). CSA is predicated on local food production and consumption with an emphasis on organic and environmentally friendly practices, while sharing risks between producers and consumers (DeLind 1999; Dyck 1997; O’Hara and Stagl 2001; Tegtmeier and Duffy 2005).
Originally CSAs were designed to build community proximate to the farm with members collecting their goods on site, fostering community between the farmer and members. More recently CSAs have extended their reach to suburban and urban areas ensuring residents have access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers (Pole 2013).
How do CSAs work?
CSA members purchase a "share" from a regional farmer paying for an entire season of produce up front. This bulk payment enables the farmer to plan for the season, purchase new seed, make equipment repairs, and more. Additionally, members are required to volunteer for shifts during each season to assist in the smooth operation of the CSA.
On a weekly or bi-weekly basis between June and October/November the farmer delivers produce to a convenient drop off location in your neighborhood. A "share" typically include 7-10 types of vegetables for households with 2-3 individuals. Some CSAs also offer other produce from local farms such as fruit, eggs, meat, and even flowers for an additional fee.
Locally CSAs are organized by a core group of members on a volunteer basis. This rotating core group administer and manages the CSA. These task might include signing up new members, processing subscription fees, running the distribution site, coordinating member volunteers, and planning community-building or educational events. This frees the farmers to focus on growing and delivering the vegetables.
Want to learn more about CSAs? Check out Just Food.