Community Supported Agriculture
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is an alternative, locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. CSA also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production. CSA members or subscribers pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit, in a vegetable box scheme. Often, CSAs also include herbs, honey, eggs, dairy products and meat, in addition to conventional produce offerings.In theory a CSA can provide any product to its members, although the majority of CSA operations tend to provide produce, fruits, and various edibles. Some CSA programmes also include cut flowers and various ornamental plants as part of their weekly pickup arrangement. Some CSAs provide for contributions of labour in lieu of a portion of subscription costs.
This form of agreement between growers and consumers was developed in Japan in the 60's. Since then, it has spread globally and most countries have now established succesful CSA systems. Some of the benefits arising from these experiences are:
The environmental benefits of CSAs are straightforward. Since CSA produce is locally grown and distributed, the transportation that traditionally-grown produce is not necessary and fuel and energy costs are minimized because of this.
Because most CSAs are run organically or are certified organic, pesticide and fertilizer use is also diminished.
CSAs also benefit the community in which they are established. A large majority of CSAs organize social or educational community events. Events include potlucks, farm tours, events for children of shareholders, and educational opportunities for the community and local schools. CSAs often donate unclaimed shares, organize donations from shareholders, donate a portion of their harvest to food banks, and offer scholarships.
Many CSAs also offer work-trade programmes for low-income members of the communities.
CSAs most effectively benefit the farm/farmer. CSA farms make more money than non-CSA farms, even though they are predominantly and significantly smaller than traditional farms.