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Community Supported Agriculture
Farmer's Markets

Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a relatively new socio-economic model of food production, sales, and distribution aimed at increasing both the quality of food and the quality of care given to the land, plants, and animals which help to produce it. The CSA also strives to reduce financial risks for small-scale farmers.

Finally, a CSA enables small-scale commercial farmers and gardeners to create a market for their crops. A CSA establishes a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and even milk or meat products, in some cases. A variety of production and economic sub-systems are emerging worldwide.

The Challenge

The nation's best farmland is being lost to commercial and residential development at an alarming rate for decades. At the same time, the
  • retirement of older farmers,
  • increasing land and production costs,
  • low food prices,
  • competing land uses,
  • the lack of incentive for young people to enter farming,
  • as well as the fundamental restructuring of the national and global economy
have all combined to make farming and local food production in the U.S. an increasingly difficult task.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) represents a viable alternative to the prevailing situation and the long-distance relationship most of us have with the food we eat.

CSA is a partnership of mutual commitment between a farm and a community of supporters, which provides a direct link between the production and consumption of food. Supporters cover a farm's yearly operating budget by committing to purchase a share of the season's harvest. CSA members make a commitment to support the farm throughout the season, and assume the costs, risks and bounty of growing food along with the farmer or grower. Members help pay for seeds, fertilizer, water, equipment maintenance, and labor, etc. In return, the farm provides, to the best of its ability, a healthy supply of seasonal fresh produce throughout the growing season.

Becoming a member creates a responsible relationship between people and the food they eat, the land on which it is grown, and those who grow it.

CSA is not about cheap food because the consumer pays the true cost of production to directly support a local farm. The prices may indeed be higher than in the grocery store. And if a crop is poor and the amount of produce received is reduced, the consumer and farmer both share the loss. (This risk is somewhat reduced because usually a wide variety of crops are grown, and it is unlikely they will all fail). The flip side is that if a harvest is better than average, each sharer receives more produce than expected. Regardless, the direct buying strengthens your community, as the money stays to help the local economy.

In return for their investment, CSA members receive a bag of fresh, locally grown, typically organic produce once a week from late spring through early fall, and occasionally throughout the winter in northern climates and year-round in milder zones. Members prefer a wide variety of vegetables and herbs, which encourages integrated cropping and companion planting. These practices help reduce risk factors and give multiple benefits to the soil. Crops are planted in succession in order to provide a continuous weekly supply of mixed vegetables. As crops rotate throughout the season, weekly shares vary by size and types of produce, reflecting local growing seasons and conditions.
  • CSA vary considerably as they are based on farm or garden location, agricultural practices, and specific farm and community goals and needs. Memberships are known to include a variety of community members including low-income families, homeless people, senior citizens, and differently-abled individuals. If provided, an extra fee typically is charged for home delivery. Most CSA invite members to visit the farm and welcome volunteer assistance. Working shares are an option in some cases, whereby a member commits to three or four hours a week to help the farm in exchange for a discount on membership cost.
  • Apprenticeships are growing in popularity on many CSA. For some farms, they are an integral component of a successful operation. Apprenticeships offer valuable hands-on education.
  • Every CSA strives over time for a truly sustainable operation, both economically and environmentally. Many try to develop to their highest potential by expanding to provide additional food items such as honey, fruit, meats, eggs, etc. Networks of CSA have been forming to develop associative economies by growing and providing a greater range of products in a cooperative fashion.
  • Some CSA provide produce for local restaurants, roadside stands or farmers' markets while building farm membership, or in many cases, in addition to it.
While each CSA arrangement is unique in terms of finances, ownership, and distribution, all are based on a shared commitment to building a more local and equitable agricultural system, which allows farmers to focus on land stewardship and still maintain productive and profitable small farms.


More information on Community Assisted Agriculture  (CSA) can be found at this link.

Additional resources:

Community Supported Agriculture

Portland Saturday Market

Farmer's Markets

Fish Markets

Small Farm Center (UC Davis)

CSAs and Sustainable Agriculture

Find a CSA Farm Near You

This database enables you to locate CSA farms in your area.

CSA Farm Locator

Agriculture's Next Frontier
How urban farms could feed the world

This urban farm, located along the California coast 99 miles north of Los Angeles, serves as a role model for others.

Fairview Gardens

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