For over 25 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.
Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket, peck) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer.
Advantages for Farmers:
- Able to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their long days in the field begin
- Receive payment early in the season, helping farmers with quicker cash flow
- Offers opportunities to develop relationships with the people who eat the food the farmers grow
Advantages for Consumers:
- Eat unequivocally-fresh food, with robust flavor and many vitamin benefits
- Exposure to new vegetables and new cooking methods
- Often able to visit the farm at least once a season
- Find that kids typically favor food from a local farm, even veggies they've never been known to eat
- Offers opportunities to develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how the food is grown
It's a simple concept, but has a profound effect on the community. Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country the demand outweighs the number of CSA farms to fill it.