What is Community Supported Agriculture? (CSA)


Community Supported Agriculture is a method of food distribution that connects the food producer to the end consumer through the sharing of produce.  

Logistics of a CSA 

For every CSA, a farmer will allocate a percentage of their crops towards the CSA. Based on the size of the CSA, the farmer will designate a certain number of shares as part of the CSA. The farmer will also decide upon a price for each share in the CSA. The price of the CSA is determined by how much produce the farmer can deliver for each customer, and how often these deliveries will take place. Some farmers may choose to operate on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. After the shares and share price have been determined, the farmer will also decide what produce will be included in each box. 

Benefits for Consumers 

The benefits to customers of being part of a CSA can be noted as strong community engagement and access to fresh, local and healthy food. A CSA requires that all partners are engaged in the local production of food. The farmer of the CSA may ask members to help out around the farm during the harvest or planting season. Through these initiatives, CSA members have the opportunity to create relationships with the farmer and the other CSA members. The CSA becomes an avenue where community is created through the production of food.  

Additionally, CSA members also benefit from having access to the freshest food possible. A CSA provides an end consumer with a channel where they can access food that is grown within their community.  

Benefits for Farmers 

Year after year, farmers take large risks as they produce food (a perishable good) and hope to sell it on the market. Farmer's businesses suffer when they grow produce without selling it. A CSA can be appealing to a farmer because it offers a cash transfer at the beginning of the planting season. A CSA member is placing their trust in the farmer and counting on their ability to produce food for the growing season.  

Through a CSA, members take stress off a farmer by allowing them to secure customers before they have a product. This allows farmers to know that what they grow is already sold to a consumer.  

The majority of CSA’s take place on small family farms. By taking part in a CSA you are likely supporting a small-scale farmer within your community.  

Community Benefits  

Current food production systems are broken and local agriculture can help change this model. Since the industrial revolution, food production has changed dramatically. New technologies have allowed for commercialization and large-scale farms that boast thousands of acres of airable land. While these advancements have allowed the world to feed a growing population, they also have grave environmental consequences. For example, the large-scale production of lettuce in the Southwestern United States has allowed all parts of North America to have access to leafy greens throughout the winter. However, it must also be noted that across the globe, 60% of all lettuce ends up in the landfill. As a consumer, how many times have you opened up a package of leafy greens and found the lettuce at the bottom to be inedible? Our current food production system is broken. The majority of the lettuce that we purchase in the store never actually gets eaten due to the long transportation routes.  

On the other hand, a CSA benefits a community through ethical consumerism. Members of a CSA are supporting their local food economy by purchasing food that was grown near their home.