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USDA photo by Lance Cheung

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) Provides A Real-World Taste To Urbanites

Community-supported agriculture (CSA), a system in which a person gets a share of the anticipated harvest of a food commodity, is a growing trend in the U.S. In fact, the 2007 Census of Ag reports that there about 12,500 CSA programs in the U.S.

The concept began in the U.S. in the mid-1980s, with roots 20 years older in Europe. As USDA describes it: “members or share-holders of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer's salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm's bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production.

“Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.”

The CSA system encompasses a lot of plusses from a consumer perspective. For one, it embraces the local food movement, and it’s a feel-good economic model that usually supports family farmers. Plus, the product is usually marketed as natural or organic.

So, under CSA, you essentially pay upfront for a percentage of the product produced by the farm or ranch. It’s like buying a share in the operation for that giving year and, as a result, you bear both the risk and reward of the operation.

Currently, most of CSA programs are focused on little operations that mostly specialize in vegetables or produce, but there are some that provide meat as well. I have received some emails from disgruntled participants in CSA programs, and it got me to researching them a bit. The idea is intriguing. One benefit may be that otherwise “citified” folks may get a better recognition of everything that can be tenuous about the food production business. In a nation where most folks have lost touch with folks in the country, that could be a very good thing.


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