Community supported agriculture is part of the underlying idea that going green begins at home. Purchasing produce and food grown or made as close as possible to you, helps you, the local economy, and the environment, and your health.
The Roots of Community Supported Agriculture
Long before the word 'agribusiness' entered our vocabulary, farmers were selling their seasonal crops in farm stalls, and neighborhood stores across the country. It is a grand tradition, up, down, and across states, to be able to have fresh picked, in season fruit and vegetables from the farmer down the street to the neighbor across the road. Moreover, it has never gone out of style to be the beneficiary of some enthusiastic neighborhood gardener's bounty - particular when it comes to zucchini and squash left on the doorstep by the same!
Farms have always supplemented their crop sales by selling a certain percentage back to the community. Today, this practice is enjoying a revival, and more people are turning to their own local farmers to lead the way in this movement.
Using vegetables, fruits, and even meat grown and raised locally has always had a multitude of benefits, the most common being:
- Having immediate access to the freshest of foods, picked at the height of its flavor and nutritional benefits
- Having immediate access to that same food to be able to can and preserve for later use
- Using locally grown produce generally means a price savings of 50-60 percent off retail prices
- Using locally grown produce generally means you have access to how the food is grown and under what conditions, with the use of what, if any, pesticides and chemicals
- Using locally grown produce means the farmers can cut out using some pesticides and chemicals to prolong longevity, color, and taste
- You help reduced nationwide carbon emissions as the food you buy does not have to be transported across the country for sale
- Your money goes directly into the pocket of local businesses without markup, middle men, or adding on traditional retail costs
Local Harvest.org is a site rich in explanations and ideas for a new form of community supported agriculture.
In the latest of its forms, local farmers actually offer the public, a chance to purchase shares of the harvest. The number of shares equates to the number of boxes or bags of produce a family might be expected to get during growing and harvesting season.
Local Harvest.org calls the demand for CSA profound, with some areas clamoring for CSA farms. The site keeps a current database with over 2,500 farms across the country listed. The site notes that in the first two months of 2009 alone, 300 CSA farms joined the list, compared to the 557 that joined over the course of the entire year for 2008.
There are many different kinds of CSA farms appearing. In one model, produce is put out in baskets, and families have a pick and choose policy over what they want to take, others modify the choose policy with limitations (i.e. one bag of potatoes) so that all might get a fair share. Still other CSA farms take what is left of the weekly share and donate it on behalf of its membership to local food banks.
Produce, eggs, flowers, chickens, beef, and preserved fruits and vegetables are part of some CSA farm ventures.
The Risk of Community Supported Agriculture
When you join and pay for your shares, you agree to accept some of the risk, which the farmer assumes each year. If the weather and growing conditions do not cooperate, both the quality and quantity of the food produced will be smaller.
In addition to Mother Nature, if a farmer experiences a series of financial or personal setbacks, this could also affect the farm yield. It is therefore important to get to know the farm, ask questions of the farmer, and as with any investment, enter into an arrangement with as much knowledge as possible.
With the ever-rising cost of food, as well as concern over the nutritional and packaging processes of imported foods, people are looking for ways to obtain locally grown food. By doing some investigation and homework in community supported agriculture, you and your neighbors, might join your local farmers in enjoying the sweet taste of success!