Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) originated in Japan (1960s) and Europe (1970s) and began in the United States in the 1980s. This "movement" provides a direct link between consumers and farmers. The goal of this relationship is to provide solutions to the problems of small farm survival, food quality, nutrition, community building, sustainability and quality of life. This direct marketing method can benefit both farmer and consumer in many ways.
How it Works
CSA arrangements are based on a contractual agreement between a farmer and a consumer. Every CSA arrangement operates differently and in a variety of forms. However, the concept is that the consumer, often described as a "shareholder" or "member", usually purchases a "share" or "membership" prior to the growing season. This not only provides the farmer with capital to start their business, but also ensures a guaranteed market for their product. Members can rely on fresh, local produce throughout the season. As each crop comes in throughout the growing season, members receive their share, often once or twice a week. The size of the shares vary in quantity and variety. As shareholders of the farm business, they share the risks with the farmer. In this way, the risks are spread throughout the whole membership rather than falling solely on the farmer. The produce is picked up by members at the farm or at a central location.
Another goal of a CSA arrangement is to get consumers involved in the production of their food. Some farmers may work out agreements with shareholders that reduce the cost of a share in exchange for labor, while some CSA arrangements require voluntary labor. Farmers may also encourage members to simply visit the farm to see how their food is grown and how the farm operates. Other ideas include having work-days, open-house days, picnics, or festivals on the farm.
Is It For You?
Becoming a member of a CSA arrangement may not be practical for everyone. There are several things to consider before deciding to join.
Being a member may mean reorienting your household's food habits and routines. Shares you receive from a CSA arrangement are seasonal; variety is limited to what's in season. Therefore, you will need to learn to eat in season with new varieties of produce.
It may also be important to learn different cooking, storing and preserving techniques. Members have to be prepared to deal with the food once they receive it before it spoils. This is often a new challenge for many members.
Find out how the food will be distributed. Where will you have to pick up your weekly share? Evaluate your time to determine if you can spend time volunteering or visiting the farm.
If a CSA arrangement works for you, the benefits are great. Besides enjoying, fresh, great tasting, local food, you become directly connected to your source. You will be supporting a small farm and contributing to your local economy. There is also the opportunity to see how your food is grown. Another great benefit is the chance to build community with farmers and other shareholders.
Listed below are useful web sites with
useful information on storing, preparing and preserving fresh farm products:
http://www.mountain-breeze.com A great source for canning recipes.
For seasonal recipes for local produce - see our Recipe Page
Becoming a Member
CSA membership policies and practices vary greatly. A consumer can contact a farmer with an already established CSA arrangement or a group of consumers can organize and contract a farmer to grow for them.
If you would like information about CSA arrangements in North Carolina, contact Project Green Leaf at: email@example.com
A CSA arrangement can be a valuable part of your farm operation. This method of direct marketing provides:
Like other direct marketing methods, CSA arrangements provide farmers an opportunity to sell their product locally and have direct contact with customers.
Operating a CSA arrangement presents certain challenges to many farmers. There are several things to consider before starting a CSA arrangement:
Starting a CSA
Find out if there is a demand or interest in your area for a CSA arrangement. Talk with people in the community or conduct informal surveys to determine their interests. If the interest is there, then the next step is getting the word out. Develop a brochure or flyer describing your CSA arrangement and offer details about your particular operation. Provide a list of products you plan to plant throughout the growing season. Advertise in local newspapers or distribute brochures or flyers at local health food stores, community centers, farmers markets, etc. Emphasize to consumers that CSA arrangements:
Maintain a close connection with your members throughout the season. Encourage feedback from them to help you plan for the following year. You may consider publishing a monthly newsletter containing farm news, recipes, or tips on canning and preserving. Consider having a farm work-day, an open house or pot luck dinner at your farm.
An excellent resource for those farmers interested in starting a CSA arrangement is the book, Sharing the Harvest: A Guide to Community Supported Agriculture by Elizabeth Henderson with Robin Van En.
For more information about how
to start a CSA arrangement or information about potential members, contact
Project Green Leaf at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Listed below are farms in North Carolina that operate CSA arrangements. Each CSA arrangement varies, so contact the farm for details.
Snow Creek Family Organics
Poplar Ridge Farm (Certified Organic)
Hannah Creek Farm
Timberwood Organic Farm
Full Sun Farm
Flying Cloud Farm
Green Toe Ground Farm