What is a CSA?

Farmer's Market

Farmer’s Market

You might regularly visit the farmer’s market in your local community or even better more than once a week.  Most markets have seen substantial growth not only of new farms but also in new customers as well.  While this is great for the small family run farms who now have a larger client base in which to sell their food, it creates a lot of uncertainty for the farmer.  What if they don’t sell all their food?  What if the weather is not ideal for the customers to come out for the market?  There are costs associated with the market for the farmer as well such as booth fees and having to pay employees to run the market.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love going to the market and seeing the support from the local community of the farms, but there is another option that you may not have heard about, it’s called a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  CSA is usually made up of a group or individuals that share the risk and benefits of farming with the farmer.

Let me explain.  Usually after the last harvest of the year, a farm will decide what it wants to grow the following season along with quantities that they believe they can handle on their land with their staff.  Once that is complete they figure the costs of getting started for the year for things like equipment, labor, seeds, etc.  Now, these all cost money that most small farms don’t have when they are not selling what they have grown.  That’s where the CSA comes in.  What the farmer is able to do is open up so many shares for the public to buy, usually during the non-growing season.  In return for someone buying a share from the farmer, the farmer in return says they will provide a basket of what they produce during the season each week for however many weeks are agreed upon with the sale.

Example: I pay a farmer $500 in January.   Starting on May 1st, the farmer gives me a basket of food each week for the next 20 weeks.  Win-win!

CSA’s are a great resource for small farms to be able to raise capital needed to survive and continue to operate year round.  It takes some of the stress of having to sell and rely so heavily at the farmer’s market and provides you with a basket of different goods each week.

There are many options for CSA’s in your local community, you just need to reach out to your local farmer and find out what options they have each year.   A good place to start is at your farmer’s market!