CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Community supported agriculture is a new idea in farming that originated in the 1960s in Switzerland where consumers who were interested in safe, local food and farmers seeking stable markets for their crops joined together in a partnership. A CSA is a group of individuals who pledge support to a farm or operation and in return, they receive locally produced products that are seasonally appropriate as well as the satisfaction of participating directly in supporting their local farms and ranches. The CSA model insures that growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing. All CSAs have at their center a shared commitment to building a more local and equitable agricultural system, one that allows growers to focus on land stewardship and still maintain productive and profitable small farms. Most CSAs offer a diversity of vegetables, fruits, and herbs in season; some provide a full array of farm produce, eggs, meat, cheese and baked goods.
What if, instead of getting a news magazine every week, you got a big box of produce from a farmer down the road, a box of fruits and vegetables picked that very morning, bursting with flavor and nutrition? That's what you get when you subscribe to a CSA.
Community-Supported or Community-Shared Agriculture (CSA) is also known as "subscription farming." You buy a subscription from a local farmer just like you buy a subscription to Time or Newsweek. But instead of receiving a magazine each week, you receive a "share" of fresh, locally grown or raised fruit and/or vegetables. Some farmers also offer CSA subscriptions for farm-fresh eggs, and/or meats.
While new in name, Community Supported Agriculture hearkens back to an earlier time-a time when people knew where their food came from, ate in harmony with the seasons, and enjoyed a delicious, healthy diet of pure, fresh foods.
"In season" is what CSAs are all about. The grocery store knows no seasons. It is disconnected from Nature and so are the people who must shop there. Sure, you can buy tomatoes in January-but who wants to eat cardboard tomatoes? That sorry tomato was picked green 2000 miles away and weeks ago, then blasted with ethylene gas to make it turn red just before it landed in the produce section of your store. What we have gained in convenience, we have lost in flavor, freshness, nutritional value, and human connection-to each other and to the land.
When you subscribe to a CSA, however, you remake all those connections. Of course, you may not get tomatoes in May. In May, your vegetable CSA share will be full of luscious lettuce, spinach, and other spring delights. When August comes, then you will experience an explosion of true tomato flavor with your first bite of a juicy, just-picked, sun-ripened tomato- proving once again that some things are worth waiting for!
CSA subscribers don't so much "buy" food from particular farms as become "members" of those farms. CSAs provide more than just food, they offer ways for eaters to become involved in the ecological and human community that supports the farm. Join one today!