So, what is a C.S.A?
Wikipedia defines Community Supported Agriculture as "An alternative, locally-based
socio-economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A C.S.A. also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production.
...Members pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; Once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of the produce."
Let's examine, for a moment, this idea of "sharing the risks and benefits" that a C.S.A. is based on.
The original concept of a C.S.A. was a little different than it is today. Originally, a group of like-minded people would get together and pool their resources to purchase a farm and hire a farmer to keep and tend it, and each 'share holder' took a part of whatever the farm produced that year. This meant that when the zucchini plants went nuts (as they have a way of doing....),
everybody froze zucchini and ate zucchini bread. If the potato bugs ruined the potatoes, everybody ate barley and rice that winter.
This arrangement itself leads to a community 'feel', a camaraderie, as the share holders all feel the loss of, say, the corn crop that year, but also all join together to cheer on the cabbage and winter squash.
For many people, this sense of belonging to a place, and to a community, all linked to their farm, can be a gratifying and life sustaining experience.
Through this design, the consumers have some unique possibilities opened up to them:
1. They have the option to have a voice in how their food is grown, processed and distributed, and in where their food budget goes.
2. They can be personally involved in a needs-based, (rather than a production-based) farm, reducing waste right where production begins.
3. They have the opportunity to express to the farmer what their food needs and desires are, and to help the farmer be aware of financial limitations.
4. They are enabled with a way to eat incredibly fresh, wholesome produce, while keeping their food dollars local.
5. They are given the opportunity to help their local farmer, by recognizing the farmers needs, (two of the major ones being (a) a market for their product, and (b) time to spend cultivating on the farm) there by freeing the farmer to better serve the overall community.
Truth be told, most present-day farmers have no real connection with the people who eat the food they grow. The C.S.A. model of an increased level of interaction between the producers and the consumers can create new possibilities for the farmers as well:
1. For the farmers to know the needs and desires of the community before they begin to work the soil.
2. Helps the farmer determine in advance what products and quantities to grow. (again, need-based, not production-based).
3. The opportunity to consciously establish an agreement directly with their local consumers that works for both parties.
....This agreement basically consists of a consumers statement that 'Yes, I want to provide you (the farmer) with my food needs and desires, and I agree to take the food you produce, and to support you and the farm.'
And the farmers statement that 'Yes, I agree to make every effort to fulfill your food needs and desires, and to actively care for and cultivate the gardens with the intention of providing you with the food you need.'
Since farming is by default, a challenging and unpredictable profession, this agreement in and of itself is a huge help to the farmer.
So, what is a C.S.A, really? Community Supported Agriculture? Yes. A way to 'buy local'? Yes.
A way to be involved in your food production and source? Yes. Is there more? I believe there is.
As a C.S.A. owner/operator, I have come to view it most as a way to know people.... the people that are our neighbors, the people that are the 'consumers' of our produce, the people who chose to seek us out; sometimes because of our locality, sometimes because of our choices in HOW we farm (no chemical input, care for the land that feeds us, heritage gardening...), sometimes because they agree with all that the name of the farm (It's the Lord's Farm) means and implies.
I have met a lot of 'kindred spirits' on this endeavor... I have loved and enjoyed community - no, fellowship in the garden, working with, laughing with, getting to know these people that, in one way or another, share a like mind.
There is a community to be found within the 'agriculture' - a garden community.