Adapted from localharvest.org:
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) refers to a relationship-based approach to growing and distributing produce and other locally produced foods. The CSA model has become a popular way for consumers 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. Interested consumers purchase a share, or subscription, and in return receive a quantity of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer.
Advantages to farmers:
- Save time and resources on marketing, and usually concentrate marketing time in the off-season before long field hours begin
- Avoid those early farmers market mornings (and farmers market fees, tents, etc. etc.)
- Receive payment at regular, predictable intervals throughout the year, which helps with the farm's cash flow and planning
- Receive commitment from customers before plants go in the ground, maximizing efficiency of farm space and farmer effort
- Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow!
Advantages to consumers:
- Eat ultra-fresh food (usually picked day-of or day-before)
- Get exposed to new vegetables and varieties, some not found in area stores
- A CSA makes it harder to avoid incorporating healthy vegetables into your diet
- Usually receive produce at lower prices than at farmers markets
- Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
- Bonus: get weekly facetime with Yolo County's cutest farmdog, Gilly.
It's a simple enough idea, but its impact on the food system has been significant. Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country there is more demand than there are CSA farms to fill it.