Community Supported Agriculture (commonly referred to by the initials CSA) is an incredibly beneficial practice for farmers and their customers alike. Not only has it revolutionized the way consumers access fresh, locally sourced produce, but it also greatly aids farmers in obtaining significantly more reliable sources of income. By supporting local food systems, CSAs are helping communities become more self-sufficient while providing sustainable options for those looking for high-quality produce.
Here’s a look at 7 reasons CSA has been so successful, and how it can benefit you, regardless of whether you’re a farmer or a buyer.
1. Buying shares in a CSA supports small-scale family farms
Many people choose to buy their food from grocery stores, but more and more people are turning to CSAs as an alternative. CSAs give you the chance to purchase shares in a nearby farm and get a regular weekly delivery of fresh, locally sourced produce, often fastened with recipes to try out. Not only do you get access to quality food products that beat any grocer, but by buying into a CSA you’re also helping to support small-scale family farms and their efforts to sustain themselves. What’s not to love? By investing in local farmers through a CSA, we can enjoy delicious vegetables year-round while ensuring that the small-scale family farms we rely on for our food have continued economic success.
2. CSA members have access to fresh, local produce throughout the growing season
During the growing season, you can receive fresh produce, tailored to your preferences and grown locally. This means that you’ll get super fresh fruits and vegetables when they’re in season and at their best. You’ll have access to a variety of delicacies that are hard to find in your local supermarket—often picked just hours before you get them. Eating this way is not only enjoyable but healthier too since these foods haven’t been doused in preservatives or traveled far and wide to reach your plate.
3. Farmers receive financial support from community members early in the growing season, which helps them cover costs like seed and fertilizer
With the increasing cost of farming and agricultural supplies, farmers have more upfront costs than they have in the past. Having a secure financial investment from buyers before the season even starts bridges the gap between winter’s end and the first harvest, allowing farmers to pay for crucial seeds and fertilizer without compromising their family’s finances. It’s a much more comfortable and sustainable financial option for them to be paid early in the season than much later as the crops are harvested.
4. CSA members typically receive a discount on the cost of produce
For shoppers looking to save money while still eating fresh and healthy foods, a CSA membership can be an excellent option. Not only do members enjoy the convenience of having local produce delivered straight to their door, but they also get a discounted price for their purchase. CSA memberships are designed to offer equivalent or even better prices than what is available in stores, allowing customers to introduce fresher and healthier items into their diet without having to break the bank.
5. Members get to know their farmers and learn about how their food is grown
While being part of a CSA means you get fresh, sustainable food from local farmers, it also provides unique opportunities to build strong relationships with both the farmer and the land itself. As a CSA member, you will be able to gain insight into how each type of vegetable or fruit is grown and how the farm works. You may even get invited to attend special educational events to learn more about sustainable farming practices used by the farmer. This hands-on approach allows members to feel personally connected with their food and become more aware of where it comes from before making it into their meals. For families with children, this makes it more exciting for the kids to become adventurous eaters and try new vegetables they might be apprehensive about otherwise.
6. CSA farms are often diversified, meaning they grow a variety of crops and livestock, which helps protect against pests and disease
Unlike many large-scale agricultural operations, CSA farms benefit from diversified cultivation, meaning they raise a range of crops and livestock on their land. This diversity helps protect the farm from pests and diseases, since having multiple species can reduce or eliminate the prevalence of any one.
For example, a diverse plot of fruits, vegetables, and animals allows a farmer to take advantage of natural pest control without the use of pesticides. Additionally, having many different products to offer ensures that the harvest isn’t completely lost if some part of it is blighted; this careful consideration is invaluable in any long-term agricultural plan.
7. CSAs create a sense of community among members and between farmers and consumers
By connecting members directly with farmers, CSAs create a unique sense of closeness between farm producers and consumers. This creates multiple benefits for both the producer and consumer, as a CSA member gets intimate access to fresh produce without needing to go grocery shopping, which has grown increasingly difficult throughout this pandemic. In turn, the farmer receives loyalty from their community members through mutual trust built through direct communication.
CSA members sometimes volunteer to help with harvesting or other aspects of production—further strengthening community ties. Small farms gain broader access to active consumers; participants gain a better understanding of how food is produced as well as knowledge about optimum nutrition for healthy living.