Thinking these days about diversifying and localising our food sources through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) as a powerful way to help us eat healthier, build communities , support our local economy, reduce waste, and build resiliency into the fabric of our community.
Eating locally grown foods has an impact far beyond the relatively little money you pay for it.
It’s an important step for the environment since it reduces the energy needed to grow the food and get it to you. It’s good for local farmers, because it helps them stay in business and thrive.
It’s also good for you spiritually. It feels good to take a step that so clearly helps both local people and the earth. It feels good knowing that your seasonal food is fresh and was brought straight from the farm to the table.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) began in Japan in the seventies by women who were concerned about the poisoning of their food by Mercury in the water and soil. Although there are many ways to develop a CSA in essence CSA is a business transaction where a farm produces food and the community pays the farmer. The community will be involved in collective ownership of the process of producing the food. The extent of community involvement in the process will be decided collectively by the stakeholders (community and farmer).
There are many different ways that a community can go about CSA and there is no wrong or right way to go about it.
Effectively it is all about what suits the community and the farmer.
Within CSA methods of food production can be; consumer/producer driven, organic or non organic, can grow; seasonal vegetables/full diet/ single staple crop/single luxury crop. The length of the agreement (between the farmer and the community) can be for one season/a full year/ one harvest/ monthly/ multi annual. Payment can be in the form of; a full payment at the beginning of the season (better for the farmer as most of the cost is at the beginning of the season), a monthly payment, capital investment or contribution of labour.
Benefits of CSA are empowerment of communities and farmers, risk sharing and diversity in farming as opposed to the farmer shouldering serious financial burden and the risk of supplying single crops to large chains.
CSA’s can experience difficulties in managing cash flow with so many ways of payment and satisfying a whole community’s needs and wants. Possible problems with CSA’s can be deficiencies in the soil of the area where a CSA is set up, contamination issues (e.g. mad cow disease) can wipe out a whole CSA and environmental damage (floods, drought, pests).