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What Exactly is a Community Supported Agriculture Program or CSA?

Updated on June 5, 2010
Typical CSA package.  It includes, spinach, lettuce, green onions, garlic scapes, apples, cheese, strawberries and fresh pasta.
Typical CSA package. It includes, spinach, lettuce, green onions, garlic scapes, apples, cheese, strawberries and fresh pasta.

Have you heard the term CSA? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it is becoming increasingly popular. A CSA benefits both the farmers and the general public in many ways. First introduced in the United States in the 1980's, CSAs are a great way to ensure good quality foods get in the hands of those that can't grow them themselves.

The idea of a community supported agriculture program is for the farmers and the consumers both to share the risk of growing food. Farming is one of the riskiest businesses around, in my mind, because they are so dependent on the weather (which a person has no control over) and other people (who are also hard to control). A farmer can do everything right and still produce no crop. Hail could destroy it, bugs could eat it before harvest, weeds could take over, and animals could trample it. I imagine it can be a very frustrating job to have.

In a CSA consumers who want fresh food, locally grown, with usually organic methods pay the farmer a lump sum of money at the beginning of the season for a share of the harvest. Each week the consumers drive to the farm (usually, some deliver) and pick up their harvest. Sometimes they even get to pick their own produce. Usually the consumer is required to go help out at the farm a certain number of hours each year. The consumer really has to trust the farmer for this to work, because they are paying money upfront for food for several months at a time.

CSAs can seem risky, but I feel it is worth it. Sometimes crops do fail, but in a typical CSA arrangement farmers are growing a wide variety of crops, so even though one crop might fail, there are plenty of others to take the place. For instance in our CSA this week we were supposed to get peas. Well, the peas ended up not being ready so apples were substituted. Next week I bet we will get the peas, but we might not ever get the peas. You just don't know. But because the farmer has a very diverse farm, all around failure is extremely unlikely.

The farmer benefits from a community supported agriculture program because he is guaranteed lots of local support from the community. The consumers are there to help him and give him a fair profit for all his or her hard work. The consumer benefits from a CSA because they are getting the freshest of foods directly from a local farmer. This is better for the environment and is providing much needed income from the farmer. The consumer also gets to "get back to nature" and spend some time getting their hands dirty on the farm. It can be a family affair and lots of fun too.

All around, I think CSAs are a great way to eat locally, eat healthier and support farmers. Small farms are quickly dying and something has to be done to save them or the US won't be able to feed the population. Large farms typically only produce one or two crops and are not sold directly to the public. We need to encourage more farmers to start CSAs so they will be more accessible to more people. It really is a win-win for everyone.


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    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 7 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      Great hub. I have heard of this. It is a great idea to get fresh veggies

    • John Yeoman profile image

      John Yeoman 7 years ago from Story writing land in the centre of England

      Great idea! We have a comparable notion in the UK, called the 'box scheme', usually centred on organically grown vegetables but it can include organic meat and poultry. Folk form a local co-op, pay in advance and promise to buy the farmer's produce. This can fluctuate from season to season so we hear many gripes along the lines 'not curly kale - again?'. But the concept has caught on.

      Needless to say, officialdom is trying to 'regulate' it...

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      That is a fantsctic idea and thank you for writing this hub.

    • rkhyclak profile image

      rkhyclak 7 years ago from Ohio

      Great hub, Jennifer. We currently live on a family farm and my mom does most of the gardening here so we have her fresh and canned veggies year round. We're moving to Columbus in a month or two and I've been looking into the area CSA's and I think they're a great idea!

      @Lady Guinevere: your town made a law against them??? That's nuts-I can't believe people would think a CSA a bad idea :( They're most certainly losing out!

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 7 years ago from West By God

      Thanks for diong this hub. I did one and then took it off here and then the place I put it messed with it and I couldn't get it back. These are great to get youngsters to be appreciative to the land and all it has to offer as well as getting along with other people. We need more of these. When I ws doing research for my hub on this subject and started asking around my community, I was faced with somuch negativity it amazed me. They have a law now that we can't do these because of some *safety issues.