While many different models of food development and distribution exist, few offer the wealth of benefits community supported agriculture (CSA) presents. In a previous article, we spoke to the benefits of buying local, organic foods to better understand your foods origin and to mitigate the environmentally disastrous cost of trans-American food transportation.
Taking these ideas one step further, why not support your local farms directly or even grow your own food? In this article we will discuss what a CSA is, the benefits of participating, how to find one, and what the future looks like for CSA’s.
What is Community Supported Agriculture?
In general terms, CSA is the growing of agriculture supported directly by the community (just as the name implies!). The idea behind community supported agriculture is to grow local food and let both the farmers and community share in the risk/reward of the growing season. There are two popular, yet different styles of CSA’s available for participation. We will go over both of these styles in more detail, but the two styles are:
Farm Membership: Typically an upfront fee paid to a farmer to help them with capital costs. In return, the farmer provides a weekly box of produce directly from the farm.
Community Garden: A small plot is rented and you are allowed to grow produce for yourself or the community.
A typical CSA program involves the consumer purchasing a membership subscription (“shares”) from the farmer. The money from these memberships helps bring stability to the farmer, as it is considered “up-front” capital money the farmer can work with throughout the season. This stability helps make sure the farm has additional guaranteed money not reliant on the bulk sales to companies, markets, etc…
In times of hardship, when crops yields are low or due to natural disasters, the community is invested and takes on part of the loss. This helps pad the farmers from losing everything. The alternative is also true, when times are good, the community receives bountiful amounts of fresh produce straight from Mother Earth.
Pros for Farmers:
- Upfront capital
- Insurance for poor yields/disasters
- Income stability
- Ability to provide quality foods to the community
Pros for Consumer:
- Lower cost foods
- Receive quality foods directly from the ground
- Actively participant in supporting local growers
- Knowing where your food is produced
The other type of CSA is the community garden. A community garden is usually a small area of land which provides rentable plots for the community to grow their own food. Sizes of plots and price ranges vary, but they are usually very reasonable.
Once you rent a plot, you are able to plant and grow your food to either consume or donate to the community. This is the perfect opportunity for people living in apartments or housing which lacks the area needed to grow.
Gardens will typically have “growing rules” you must follow to participate. These rules have to do with growing methods (i.e. organic only, types of foods allowed, and maintenance of the plot).
All members involved share a responsibility to use quality practices, maintain the garden area, and stay involved. It is an excellent opportunity to learn new skills, meet wonderful people, and grow natural, quality food products.
Pros of Community Gardens:
- Learning new skills (gardening, growing, etc…)
- Meet new people
- Quality, natural foods you know exactly where they come from (YOU did it!)
- Something you can take pride in what you're doing
- Can donate food to the community and people in need
- Perfect for people in "urban" housing situations with little to no yard space
Finding a Community Garden
Just as you found this article, community gardens can be found on the internet! Many gardens have websites, write posts on Craigslist, or have a social media page to promote their opportunity. Word of mouth is another way of finding out. People who support CSA’s love to talk and share what it is all about. It is an excellent community and we hope if you start participating you will share as well!
The Future of CSA’s
The future is bright for community supported agriculture. People are tired of paying for overpriced, chemical infused produce which lacks many of the health benefits of natural, organic foods. Buying organic foods at your local market is undeniably expensive and forces many people to pay for the lower priced, lower quality foods.
Participating in a CSA, either through a farm or growing yourself, significantly reduces these costs. Sure, you may have to put in a little more elbow grease, but the reward far outweighs the additional effort.
If you are looking for a new way to get involved with the community, save money buying organic foods, or are looking to gain new skills and start a fun, new activity, participating in a CSA is probably right for you!
Goliath Grow and CSA's
Goliath Grow is an active supporter of CSA’s and works to set up new CSA programs in the local community. We strongly believe this is an amazing opportunity for people to get involved and to make a positive change with our environment.
With an ever growing population, we cannot afford to rely on traditional, processed food manufacturing which lacks sustainability. View our CSA program to learn more about what we do and to let us know about an opportunity to help set up a new garden!
Let us know if you participate in a CSA or are interested in learning more about the process!