Farm-to-Table Goodness: Get to Know the Basics of CSA

Community Supported Agriculture or CSA helps both farmers and consumers. Under a CSA model, consumers pay for their share of fresh, locally-produced farm products straight from the farmers. And farmers get to share the risks and benefits of food production with consumers.

Per the USDA’s 2015 survey, there were over 7,000 farms that sold products to consumers via CSA and that CSAs contributed $226 million or 7% of total direct-to-farm consumer sales in the U.S.

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How Does CSA Work

A CSA enables consumers to support local and regional farmers by purchasing their share of vegetables, fruits, meats, milk, eggs and other farm produce. Their share is paid before the actual delivery to help farmers with the costs of buying seeds, planting, harvesting, and attendant overhead expenses.

By paying their share, consumers become members of a particular CSA where they get to know the local and regional producers of food. CSAs can accept cash, food stamps, installments and other modes of payment depending on the arrangement.

Typically, a box of seasonal produce will be delivered to a local designated spot on a scheduled basis. Other CSAs allow their members to choose from an array of fruits or vegetables with specified limits on how much one can get, just like in a market.

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CSA Fosters Sense of Shared Community

What’s in it for consumers to join a CSA? They get first dibs of healthy and fresh farm products that are in season. More importantly, they establish a direct connection with farmers in their local communities.

CSAs serve a greater purpose of helping farmers plant these veggies that grace the tables of families and to some extent, get donated to the local food bank. The way CSAs are structured they share the risks and joys of growing food.

When farmers have it bad, this reflects in the box that members get. Similarly when they enjoy a good harvest, they can share more with the community. CSAs generally say this outright with their members so members can set their expectations.

A CSA works to support the need for the community to have healthier food and for the people who produce them at the grassroots level. Local farmers can band together and offer their produce including cheese and dairy to members of their respective CSA.

If you are a consumer interested in supporting your local farmer, you can look up databases for a CSA farm near you. You can also customize your share if you don’t really need much. If you are a farmer, being in a CSA can add to your cash flows and ensure you have a market for your products.

For other costs of maintaining your farm during growing and off seasons, you can seek out loans that are made especially for tillers of the soil. Agriculture loans can be used to buy equipment, land, and farm supplies, among other purposes.

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