What is a CSA Farm?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and a "CSA" farm is one that has a relationship of commitment between the farmers and their customers, who subscribe annually as farm members. CSA farming is also described as farm shares, veggie box schemes (in the UK), subscription farms, and farm memberships. CSA farms are grassroots, and their structures and practices come in many forms, reflecting the needs and preferences of the CSA farmers and the communities that they serve.
CSA farm members receive a periodic, usually weekly, “share” of the harvest. Members enjoy each crop in its prime, eating with the seasons. Being a CSA member means preparing and eating plenty of fresh, healthy, unprocessed foods.
CSA farm memberships typically are paid at the start of each planting season. This provides the farm with the necessary operating capital for the year's production, and helps the farmer to plan the planting amounts and harvest schedules.
CSA farm members share both the risks and rewards of the farm. In the event of a complete crop failure, such as from a hurricane or major freeze, the members agree to take the loss with the farmer. However, CSA members at most well-established CSA farms eat well every season, even with challenging weather conditions, because of the experienced farmers' careful planning and high level of skill in crop production.
While getting the freshest, most nutritious produce, CSA farm members also:
- know where, how, and by whom their food is grown
- invest their food dollars for a strong local economy
- reduce environmental impacts of food production, transportation, and packaging
- promote sustainable agriculture and food security
- preserve local farmland by keeping agriculture viable
An excellent reference book for more information about Community Supported Agriculture is:
Henderson, Elizabeth, and Robyn Van En. Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen's Guide to Community Supported Agriculture. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2009.