What Is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?
CSA is a commitment between a farm and a community of consumers. By purchasing a share of the season’s harvest, CSA members support the farm throughout the season, and assume the costs, risks and bounty of growing food along with the farmer or grower. In return, the farm provides a healthy supply of seasonal fresh produce throughout the growing season.
This mutually supportive relationship between local growers and community members helps create an economically stable farm operation in which members are assured the highest quality produce at excellent prices. And farmers are guaranteed a reliable market for a diverse selection of crops.
How does CSA work?
The farmer or grower draws up a budget reflecting the production costs for the year, including labor and distribution costs, investments for seeds and tools, and machinery and land maintenance costs. A portion of the budget is then provided for by the sale of shares of the harvest. One share is usually designed to provide the weekly vegetable needs for a family of four and may range in price from $200 to $600, depending on available products.
Community members sign up and purchase their shares, either in a lump sum in early spring, or in several installments throughout the growing season. Production expenses are thereby guaranteed and the farmer or grower starts receiving income as soon as work begins.
In return for their investment, CSA members receive a box of fresh, locally grown, typically organic produce once a week throughout the season. Typically, a wide variety of vegetables and herbs is grown, encouraging integrated cropping and companion planting, which reduces risk factors and gives multiple benefits to the soil. Crops are often 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 provide a direct marketing distribution system. Advantages to the direct marketing approach of CSA include minimal loss and waste of harvested farm produce, little or reduced need for longterm storage, and a willingness by members to accept produce with natural cosmetic imperfections.
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