Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a popular way 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. Consumers purchase a share (aka a membership or a subscription) and in return receive a box/bag of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
Advantages for farmers:
Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm's cash flow
Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
Eat super-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking.
Your kids might actually not run and hide from leafy greens if they are involved with you.
Support your local community, local economy, and agricultural tradition.
Some shares are market style where you fill your own box or bag which tends to leave the end of the day pickups with beat up or less than perfect produce. We choose the pre made baskets with the option to switch an item if it is not something your family cares for.
There is an important concept of the CSA model that takes the arrangement beyond the usual commercial transaction. This is the notion of shared risk: in most CSAs, members pay up front for the whole season and the farmers do their best to provide an abundant box of produce each week. If things are slim, members are not typically reimbursed.
Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first. Still, it is worth noting that very occasionally things go wrong on a farm – like they do in any kind of business – and the expected is not delivered. Nature is unpredictable after all.