Community Supported Agriculture
By Gretchen Hein
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has grown in popularity since it first appeared 25 years ago. It’s an innovative way of linking consumers with growers, providing consumers an opportunity to buy local, seasonal food directly from farmers. Basically, farmers offer a number of “shares” to the public. “Shares” take the form of produce and occasionally other products like honey or fresh baked bread. Interested consumers purchase a share and receive a weekly supply of seasonal produce throughout the growing season.
This arrangement creates rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. Advantages for the farmer are that they market their produce in their down time prior to when their long days in the field begin; they receive payment early in the season, helping with cash flow; and they have an opportunity to get to know the folks who will eat their food. Advantages for consumers are that their produce is ultra-fresh—often within 24 hours of being picked—nutritious, and tasty; exposure to new vegetables; visits to the farm are usually included; and developing a relationship with the farmer who grows their food. Children have even been known to eat produce they would have never considered trying, once they visit the farm and meet the farmer! In some areas, there is more demand than there are CSA’s farms to fill the need.
There are some risks within the CSA model. Most CSA’s members pay up front for the whole season, a shared risk between producer and consumer. There are all kinds of risk factors in farming—pests, weather, and the inability to control crop yields to mention a few. There can be an overabundance of one crop and poor yield of another. Most farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their consumers and work hard to keep their consumers satisfied. As with any business, things can go wrong, expectations may not be met and disappointment can ensue. However, the idea of a shared risk can create a sense of community among CSA members.
We are fortunate to have Orchard Pond Organics and Ten Speed Greens in Tallahassee. Orchard Pond Organics not only operates within the CSA model with pick ups at the farm and various locations around town (including New Leaf Market Co-op beginning February 24), but they also sell produce locally. Meridian Community Gardens is an extension of their farms where members can lease a plot, adjacent to the organic fields and create their own garden. More about Orchard Pond Organics here.
Ten Speed Greens’ monthly CSA allows consumers to commit month-to-month rather than seasonally. Find out more about Ten Speed Greens here.
Whether you’re looking for fresh produce, farmer introductions or a like-minded community, consider joining a CSA.