Community Supported Agriculture
Community Supported Agriculture, also known as CSA has been around for over 20 years. Most people have heard of the concept, though few people participate. I’m sure there would be more participants if there were more CSA farmers, but presently this area has only a few small scale farmers providing the service.
The way it works is that a farmer estimates how many people their acreage can reliably feed leaving room for a little extra non CSA market crops. The farmer will then sell a predetermined number of shares to customers. These customers will invest around $250 to $500 in the farm early in the year. Some may even buy fractions of shares. This gives the farmer money to start their year purchasing seeds and contracting work that needs to be done and or fixing or adding infrastructure. Once the crops start coming in the farmer makes up a box of produce for each investor either every week or every two weeks through out the growing season. Each box will have a variety of what is grown by the farmer so one would never get an entire box of one item.
As with all investments there is risk of a major crop failure resulting in little or lesser pay-back. Cold wet summers like the one we just had was difficult on farmers, but they were still able to get their products out.
Farmers don’t just live all year on the sales of their shares. They make their income from selling at farmers markets. So it is a delicate balance to make sure the investors get their moneys worth while having enough to sell at market without over or underproducing.
Breaking down the cost of membership each box ends up costing around $20, which is just about what one would pay for a comparable volume from a supermarket. The two advantages are that you are supporting local agriculture and that your produce is fresher and has more nutrients than store bought foods. Most supermarket produce was picked long before it was naturally ripened and then it was shipped from who knows where, usually a thousand miles away and often times from South America.
If you would like more information on CSAs in your area, here is a national web site where you can search for a supplier near you. Please visit this link and do a local search. http://www.localharvest.org/csa/