What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?
At their most fundamental level, CSA farms provide a weekly delivery of organically grown produce to consumers during the growing season (approximately June to October in Minnesota). Those consumers, in turn, pay a subscription fee. But CSA consumers don’t so much ”buy” food from particular farms as become ”members” of those farms. CSA operations provide more than just food; they offer ways for eaters to become involved in the ecological and human community that supports the farm.
Often the community of shareholders which supports a particular farm is from the city and appreciates the chance to connect with their source of food. The farmer also appreciates the direct contact with those for whom the food is being grown. Sometimes shareholders can participate in the planting, tending and harvesting of the food. CSA’s are about building communities; and what better, more basic element is there around which we can build community, than the food we eat!
What does CSA membership involve?
Membership arrangements vary among CSA farms. For instance, some CSA operations deliver their food to the neighborhoods where members live, while others arrange for members to come to the farm and help make deliveries. Shares are typically structured to feed a family of four. Half shares are sometimes offered. Some CSA farms expect members to work on the farm at least once during the season while others only expect members to support the farm with their membership.
Although each CSA farm makes its own arrangements with its members and has its own expectations of them, being involved with a CSA operation always means sharing the rewards as well as the risks of farming. The rewards include: enjoying the freshest produce available, often harvested the same day you receive it; knowing where, how and by whom your food is being produced; having a direct connection with the people who produce your food; and supporting stewardship that is good for the land as well as its people.
The risks include weather and pests. Though formidable for small, self-sustaining farmers, these risks are bearable when shared by a group of subscribers. By linking together through CSA operations, farmers and consumers alike can benefit from an agriculture that provides beautiful and bountiful food while preserving the ecological and social basis necessary for coming generations to be so blessed.