Community Supported Agriculture

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= farms that look to the urban and suburban districts to buy shares of their produce, a portion of which is often delivered each week directly to people’s homes or other central pickup location.


("This has been an amazingly successful model, to the point where many established CSA’s have a long waiting list of potential customers.") [1]

Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community-supported_agriculture ; Solecopedia article at http://en.solecopedia.org/index.php?title=Community_Supported_Agriculture

Description

1.

"-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an arrangement in which a farm sells shares of the harvest to raise capital prior to the growing season. In return, CSA members (shareholders) receive a basket of produce every week or so and often have an opportunity or requirement to work a designated number of hours on the farm or at the distribution point. This arrangement is advantageous to farmer and consumer alike. The farmer is able to raise capital during the slow season and distribute the risk of a weak harvest over a multitude of shareholders; the CSA member gains access to local, responsibly produced food at a discount and helps build a sustainable local food system in the process."


2.

"A customer commits to pay a certain amount of money every month or week for a certain amount of product every month. This system answers a critical cash flow issue for the farmer and adds stability to their sales as well as helps them determine more accurately what seeds to plant. The buyer gets a stable supply of food and can plan meals around the deliveries." (http://www.slowmoneynw.org/2010/07/rovers-restaurant-offers-gift.html)


3.

"The concept of Community Supported Agriculture emerged in the US in the 1980s, and more recently has begun to be picked up in the UK, where there are now over 100 such schemes. In essence, they are farms where members of the local community become involved in the running of the farm through buying shares or becoming members, making decisions and even helping out with the growing and harvesting of the food they eat. For farmers it is a great model because it ensures a secure market for what they produce, and also allows them to feel a sense of being supported by those around them. For the consumer it provides access to food, the opportunity to learn new growing skills, and the opportunity to have a say in where your food comes from. It is also an excellent and key tool in building local food resilience." (http://transitionculture.org/2010/12/22/ingredients-of-transition-community-supported-farms-bakeries-and-breweries/)


4. John Robb:

"Farming is increasingly becoming a service.

The reasons for this are simple.

People want the freshness, quality, and meaning they get from buying local food from people they know. It's also great for the farmer, since it enables them to directly interact with customers again.

One of the ways this service is being provided is Community Supported Agriculture, or a CSA.

A CSA is essentially a subscription to a farm's output, usually delivered weekly.


The weekly delivery system works nicely to the benefit of both the resilient customer and the farmer. The customer gets freshly picked, locally procured, high quality produce, that is grown in a way that they approve of (this is going to become very, very important when the GMO bubble pops).

The farmer benefits from a predictable income stream. Income that is paid upfront (instead of being reliant of volatile commodity markets and government subsidies) by willing customers.

To cement the bond, CSA farmers are increasingly holding harvest festivals and other programs for their subscribers to provide them with a deeper connection to the farm.

If you don't already subscribe to a CSA, do so. In addition to the factors cited above, it's a nice compliment to the food you grow in your garden and a beneficial addition to your community's resilience. How so? The more edible food (in contrast to endless acres of corn and soybeans) grown locally, the better. It's important to remember that resilience is a community effort, and the more producers there are the better. You don't have to produce everything yourself.

For help finding a CSA, here's a resource called Local Harvest." (http://www.resilientcommunities.com)


Characteristics

"According to Tamzin Pinkerton in ‘Local Food: how to make it happen in your community’, there are 4 key principles to community supported agriculture.

1. Shared Risk: the risk attached to food production is shared between farmers and consumers, meaning that rather than the farmer’s income being subject to the vagaries of the climate and of the market, it is based on trust with those around him/her

2. Transparency: this sense of trust leads to increased transparency in how the farm is organised, with members offered the opportunity to be very involved in the running of the farm. Also the levels of trust mean that as people can see how the farm is produced, some CSAs don’t feel the need for expensive organic certification, as anyone can see how they are growing the food

3. Community Benefits: such schemes tend to have greater and wider economic benefits to the community. Through farmers being able to keep their overheads low they are often able to make food available cheaper than supermarkets, which helps also to address issues around access to affordable, good quality foods for those on lower incomes

4. Building resilience: CSA schemes have the potential to support and promote community food resilience, putting in place sustainable local food production designed from the outset for the benefit of the local economy." (http://transitionculture.org/2010/12/22/ingredients-of-transition-community-supported-farms-bakeries-and-breweries/)

Details

From the Solecopedia:

"CSAs generally focus on the production of high quality foods for a local community, often using organic or biodynamic farming methods, and a shared risk membership/marketing structure. This kind of farming operates with a much greater than usual degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders — resulting in a stronger than usual consumer-producer relationship. The core design includes developing a cohesive consumer group that is willing to fund a whole season’s budget in order to get quality foods. The system has many variations on how the farm budget is supported by the consumers and how the producers then deliver the foods. By CSA theory, the more a farm embraces whole-farm, whole-budget support, the more it can focus on quality and reduce the risk of food waste or financial loss.


Structure

In its most formal and structured European and North American forms, CSAs focus on having:

a transparent, whole season budget for producing a specified wide array of products for a set number of weeks a year; a common-pricing system where producers and consumers discuss and democratically agree to pricing based on the acceptance of the budget; and a ‘shared risk and reward’ agreement, i.e. that the consumers receive what the farmers grow even with the vagaries of seasonal growing. Thus, individuals, families or groups do not pay for x pounds or kilograms of produce, but rather support the budget of the whole farm and receive weekly what is seasonally ripe. This approach eliminates the marketing risks and costs for the producer and an enormous amount of time, often manpower too, and allows producers to focus on quality care of soils, crops, animals, co-workers — and on serving the customers. There is financial stability in this system which allows for thorough planning on the part of the farmer.

Some farms are dedicated entirely to their CSA, while others also sell through on-farm stands, farmers' markets, and other channels. Most CSAs are owned by the farmers, while some offer shares in the farm as well as the harvest. Consumers have organized their own CSA projects, going as far as leasing land and hiring farmers. Many CSAs have a core group of members that assists with CSA administration. Some require or offer the option of members providing labor as part of the share price.

Some CSAs have evolved into social enterprises employing a number of local staff, improving the lot of local farmers and educating the local community about organic/ecologically responsible farming.

Typically, CSA farms are small, independent, labor-intensive, family farms. By providing a guaranteed market through prepaid annual sales, consumers essentially help finance farming operations. This allows farmers to not only focus on quality growing, it can also somewhat level the playing field in a food market that favors large-scale, industrialized agriculture over local food.

Vegetables and fruit are the most common CSA crops. Many CSAs practice ecological, organic or biodynamic agriculture, avoiding pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. The cost of a share is usually competitively priced when compared to the same amount of vegetables conventionally-grown, partly because the cost of distribution is lowered.


Distribution and Marketing Methods

A distinctive feature of CSAs is the method of distribution. In the U.S. and Canada, shares are usually provided weekly, with pick-ups or deliveries occurring on a designated day and time. CSA subscribers often live in towns and cities - local drop-off locations, convenient to a number of members, are organized, often at the homes of members. Shares are also usually available on-farm.

CSAs are different from buying clubs and home delivery services, where the consumer buys a specific product at a predetermined price. CSA members purchase only what the farm is able to successfully grow and harvest, sharing some of the growing risk with the farmer. If the strawberry crop is not successful, for example, the CSA member will share the burden of the crop failure by receiving fewer or lower quality strawberries for the season. CSA members are often more actively involved in the growing and distribution process, through shared newsletters and recipes, farm visits, farm work-days, advance purchases of shares, and picking up their shares.

Some families have enrolled in subscription CSAs in which a family pays a fixed price for each delivery, and can start or stop the service as they wish. This kind of arrangement is also referred to as crop-sharing or box schemes. In such cases, the farmer may supplement each box with produce brought in from neighboring farms for a better variety. Thus there is a distinction between the farmers selling pre-paid shares in the upcoming season's harvest or a weekly subscription that represents that week's harvest. In all cases participants purchase a portion of the farm's harvest either by the season or by the week in return for what the farm is able to successfully grow and harvest. The largest subscription CSA, with over 4,000 families, is Farm Fresh To You in Capay Valley, California.

An advantage of the close consumer-producer relationship is increased freshness of the produce, because it does not have to be shipped long distances. The close proximity of the farm to the members also helps the environment by reducing pollution caused by transporting the produce. CSAs often include recipes and farm news in each box. Tours of the farm and work days are announced. Over a period of time, consumers get to know who is producing their food, and what production methods are used.

Share prices can vary dramatically depending on location. Variables also include length of share season, and average quantity and selection of food per share. As a rough average, in North America, a basic share may be $350-550 for a season, for 14-20 weeks (June to September or October), with enough of each included crop for at least two people (perhaps 8-12 common garden vegetables). Seasonal eating is implied, as shares are usually based on the outdoor growing season, which means a smaller selection at the beginning and perhaps the end of the period, as well as a changing variety as the season progresses. Some CSA programs offer different share sizes or choices of share periods (e.g. full-season and peak season).

The film, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, documents the resurrection of a family farm through its conversion to a CSA model." (http://en.solecopedia.org/index.php?title=Community_Supported_Agriculture)


Example

"One of the best examples in the UK is Stroud Community Agriculture, which was set up in 2001 by four local residents who wanted to support a local farmer who was struggling and in danger of losing his farm. A public meeting was held which generated a lot of interest. Some seed funding was raised through pledges at that meeting, and then new members paid in advance for their produce, which also raised necessary finance. In 2002, an Industrial and Provident Society was set up for the project. The first farm did eventually go under, but fortunately a second site was found, closer to town, and SCA now has 200 members (the maximum desirable number agreed by the members) and manages 50 acres of land producing beef, lamb, pork and vegetables. Another CSA project has subsequently launched in the area too. Members pay £2 a month to be members, and £33 a month for their shares, although this can be reduced if people attend workdays and help with the food production. Produce can be collected from the farm or from two drop-offs in town." (http://transitionculture.org/2010/12/22/ingredients-of-transition-community-supported-farms-bakeries-and-breweries/)

More Information


Bibliography:

  1. Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn Van En, Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (White Rover Junction, Vt., 2007);
  2. Steven M. Schnell, “Food with a Farmer’s Face: Community-Supported Agriculture in the United States,” Geographical Review 97, no. 4 (October 2007): 550–64;
  3. Jack Kittredge, “Community Supported Agriculture: Rediscovering Community,” in Rooted in the Land: Essays on Community and Place, ed. William Vitek and Wes Jackson (New Haven, Conn., 1996), 253–60;
  4. Laura B. DeLind, “Considerably More than Vegetables, a Lot Less than Community: The Dilemma of Community Supported Agriculture,” in Fighting for the Farm: Rural America Transformed, ed. Jane Adams (Philadelphia, 2003), 192–208;
  5. Claire C. Hinrichs and Thomas A. Lyson, Remaking the North American Food System: Strategies for Sustainability (Lincoln, Neb., 2007).