Community Supported Agriculture is a response to the many health, environmental, cultural and economic problems facing food consumers and producers today. It is based on a loose partnership of mutual commitment between local farmers and local consumers, whereby people buy a "share" of the farmer's harvest. The farmer/gardener grows specifically for these members, providing each with weekly produce. The members are not expected to do any of the farming.
The cost of a share is typically paid in advance, and includes the costs of farming: seeds, soil ammendments, small equipment, distribution and administrative costs; leases of land, building and equipment; and a salary for the farmer. The sharers receive a weekly bag of a variety of local, same-day-fresh, organic vegetables and herbs.
The commitment by the consumers ensures a mutual responsibility. To the farmer, it means fair compensation and the security to produce by more labour-intensive organic methods. To the consumer it means inexpensive, nutritionally vital produce picked at the peak of ripeness. To everyone it means proper land stewardship, agricultural and environmental integrity, and enhanced local economy. It's a WIN - WIN - WIN situation!
Despite the hidden costs of conventionally (agri-business, with pesticides) grown produce, the CSA sharer typically also comes in ahead of the supermarket shopper when it comes to cost. Savings are made without the need for massive transportation, packaging, or storage, and the "middlemen" are cut out. Also, sharers learn to accommodate the bent carrots, and the 25% of good food normally lost to aesthetic judgment is not wasted. One detailed study found CSA shares to have been 37% cheaper than the conventional alternative. All this being said, it is typically for reasons other than economics that folks are motivated to support CSAs.
CSAs are a responsible way to aquire healthy food at fair prices. They offer us the opportunity to reconnect with our food, our farmers, our land. Here's a borrowed quote from points unknown:
Whereas in Agribusiness, the end (profits) justify the means (exploitation), in CSAs, the means (community) ensures the end (quality food).
CSAs have been quickly gaining popularity in North America over the past decade. Empower yourself, support your community... get involved with a CSA near you!
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