Community-supported agriculture

From Academic Kids

Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is the practice of farming with a greater-than-usual degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders.

In a CSA arrangement (sometimes referred to as crop-sharing, also, community-shared agriculture), a farmer sells shares in the upcoming season's harvest. Each participant contributes an equal amount, and in return receives an equal share. The share price goes toward production and distribution expenses and consumers share the natural risks with the farmer.

Typically, CSA farms are small, independent, labor intensive, family farms. By providing a guaranteed market through prepaid annual sales, consumers essentially help finance farming operations. This allows farmers to focus on growing, and somewhat levels the playing field in a food market that favors large-scale, industrialized agriculture over local food.

There are many types of CSA arrangements. Some farms are dedicated entirely to CSA, while others also sell through on-farm stands, farmers' markets, and other channels. Most CSAs are owned by the farmers, while some offer shares in the farm as well as the harvest. Consumers have organized their own CSA projects, going as far as renting land and hiring farmers. Many CSAs have a core group of members that assists with CSA administration. Some require or offer the option of members providing labor as part of the share price.

Vegetables and fruit are the most common CSA crops. Many CSAs practice organic farming, avoiding pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. The cost of a share is usually competitively priced when compared to the same amount of vegetables conventionally-grown, partly because the cost of distribution is lowered. There is no documented case of the CSA model being applied to meat production. However, related movements like Slow Food have been involved in both meat and dairy production.

Method of distribution is a distinctive feature in CSA. In the US and Canada, shares are usually provided weekly, with pick-ups on a designated day and time. CSA subscribers often live in towns and cities - local drop-off locations, convenient to a number of members, are organized, often at the homes of members. Shares are also usually available on-farm.

CSA is different from buying clubs and home delivery services, where the consumer buys a specific product at a predetermined price. CSA members are actively involved in the production process, providing a form of direct financing through advance purchase of shares, and assisting with distribution by picking up their shares.

An advantage of the close consumer-producer relationship is increased freshness of the produce, because it does not have to be shipped long distances. The close proximity of the farm to the members also helps the environment by reducing pollution caused by transporting the produce.

Costs can vary dramatically depending on area. In the Boston (Massachusetts) area, one share in a CSA costs between $450-500 for a season ranging from late to mid October. A share will generally provide enough vegetables for a family of four. Members of CSAs do not join because of signficant cost savings - buying the organic produce at a grocery store (if available) would not cost much more.


History

The history of the CSA concept is still somewhat sketchy, and not well-documented. It is pieced together from a variety of anecdotal stories, first-person accounts, magazine articles, and coverage in small-press publications. The Internet has helped to draw together various threads, and make available a number of what would otherwise be obscure sources.

It is generally agreed that the CSA concept first appeared Japan in the 1960s, where it is called teikei. CSA also has roots in subscription farming, and the food cooperative movement of the 1970s. It appeared in various forms in Europe and then the US during the 1980s. While there is a clear link between the European and North American manifestations, whether the Japanese initiatives directly inspired Europe is still unclear. Also, CSA-type activities have been noted in South America.

Coinage of the term, community-supported agriculture, is often credited to Robyn Van En, a co-founder in 1985 of the first US CSA. CSA is also referred to as community-shared agriculture, as used, for one, in Canada.

Today, millions of Japanese consumers participate in teikei systems that account for a major share of fresh produce consumption. In Europe, numbers are hard to come by, but there are CSA farms and organizations in many countries. In the US and Canada, estimates in the area of 1,000 and 500 CSA farms respectively have been reported.

External links

de:Landwirtschaftsgemeinschaftshof fr:Association pour le maintien d'une agriculture paysanne

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